How to do a rodeo flip on a surfboard

August 30, 2021 | Surfing
Rodeo flip: an aerial surfing maneuver that involves horizontal and vertical rotations | Photo: Red Bull

The rodeo flip is a fast and complex aerial surfing trick that involves grabbing, spinning, and flipping the surfboard in the air.

It's one of the most spectacular and striking maneuvers in surfing, and it requires a solid wave, practice, and advanced skills.

The rodeo flip blends elements of skateboarding and snowboarding, and it's definitely an acrobatic movement.

The trick starts with a horizontal axis of rotation and ends with a vertical axis of rotation as if combining a backflip with a 360.

However, Jordy Smith, one of its most outstanding performers, compares the rodeo flip to bodyboarding's aerial roll spin (ARS).

One thing is certain: while executing the move, and for a brief moment, the surfer will be upside down.

Kelly Slater was the first to do a rodeo flip at the 1999 Pipeline Masters.

However, the Floridian world champion failed to complete it on a 6'10'' surfboard when everyone on the beach thought he had nailed it.

Slater fell in the bottom of the wave just as he was about to land it.

He called it a rodeo clown, an homage to one of his friends, Jack Johnson, who had a song named "Rodeo Clowns."

Jordy Smith: one of surfing's finest rode flip specialists | Photo: Red Bull

Rodeo Flip 101

Learn how to do a backside rodeo flip. Here's a detailed step-by-step guide to the flying sky-high:

1. Take off on a wave with a good-looking open face;

2. Perform a competent, hard bottom turn that generates a lot of speed;

3. Drive the surfboard up the wave at a diagonal-to-near-vertical angle;

4. Hit the top of the wave where the lip is coming out and about to bend, pulling the weight with your head;

5. Let the lip of the wave project you into the air;

6. As you get airborne, immediately grab the rails with both hands;

7. As you get to the air, bend your knees and keep a low stance;

8. Look over your inside shoulder, and the natural motion of the trick will help you rotate your body and board;

9. Eye a landing zone high on the wave;

10. Keep your knees bent as you land, spin out smoothly, and resume surfing;

Extra Tips

There are several variations to the original 540-degree rodeo flip, including 720 and 900-degree rotations.

The bigger the wave, the more extravagant and glorious the rodeo flip will be. For instance, you can try it coming out of a barrel.

Also, interestingly, a light onshore wind can help you land the trick because it will blow the surfboard to you, keeping it glued to your feet.

You'll be coming to the lip almost as if you're going to do a 360, but as you grab the board, you project out, upside down, and stay with your board.

Remember that the later you release your hands from the board, the more control you'll have of your landing.

Ideally, you should land the rodeo flip on the lip of the waves or slightly below, on the open wave face.

Landing on the flats or shallow water will sometimes result in eye-catching wipeouts and potential injuries.

Finally, avoid spinning out of the rotation too quickly - try to do it as smoothly and softly as you can.

The frontside rodeo clown is often considered harder than the backside version, even though some will say the opposite.