Turning around a surfboard: the faster you do it, the quicker you'll get into your wave | Photo: Shutterstock

Have you ever missed a very good-looking wave after losing precious time spinning your surfboard to start paddling?

Waves don't wait for surfers. They're on a mission to crash near the shoreline, whether we ride them or not.

The time between sets is often spent talking to fellow surfboarders, observing the surroundings, contemplating the sky, or meditating.

Only a fraction of these waiting minutes is spent carefully looking at the horizon and the potentially incoming corduroy lines.

The better surfers read the ocean, the better the waves they'll catch and ride.

There's a lot of information we can extract from a swell moving 100 yards from where we sit in the lineup.

From a distance, an advanced surfer will know if it's a wave with an interesting riding potential or if they should skip it.

So, when that moving slope of seawater is about to reach surfers, they should already be in a perpendicular - or slightly angular - position and paddling toward the beach.

The trick of catching a wave is matching its speed as much as possible.

However, for that to happen, a surfer needs to start paddling earlier, i.e., a few seconds before the wave arrives in the lineup.

The thing is, it can take time to swing, turn, spin, or pivot the surfboard -whatever you want to call it.

And, due to their length, width, thickness, and extra volume, it's harder and more time-consuming to swing a longboard around 180 degrees.

In other words, shortboards are easier to swing.

Spinning a Surfboard to Catch a Wave 101

Most beginner surfers struggle transitioning from waiting to paddling for the desired wave.

One of the most common reactions is using the hands as a paddle to pivot their boards or to actually lay on the board and paddle around to turn.

Although technically doable, it's not practical and surely not the right way to do it.

The problem with swinging the surfboard while sitting on it is that your legs underwater act as an anchor, preventing the board from moving much.

Here's how to spin your surfboard fast before paddling into a wave:

  1. Identify the wave you wish to catch as soon as possible;
  2. While still sitting, shift your weight back on the board toward the tail;
  3. To keep the surfboard balanced, grab the rails if needed;
  4. Find the optimal balance and keep an eye on your wave;
  5. The board's nose should be sticking out and pointing up at a 45-degree angle to the water's surface;
  6. Swivel the hips alternately and start moving your legs in an uneven circular motion;
  7. If turning right, focus on the right foot swirling counterclockwise. If turning left, focus on the left foot swirling clockwise;
  8. The non-leading leg could be giving an extra boost by doing the same circular motion yet alternately;
  9. The board will move to one side, left or right;
  10. If you need to turn the board to the opposite side, twirl your legs using the reverse twirling technique;

By repeating and practicing this twirling leg exercise, you'll gain muscle memory and learn which pattern turns your board to the left and which one swings the board to the right.

If you feel that the swiveling speed is not quick enough, push off against the water using one of your hands.

Moving back on the board could take time to get acquainted with, as it will feel like you're not stable and wobbly, but it's really only a matter of practice.

The more you exercise this leg technique, the faster it becomes second nature.

Lastly, beware of offshore wind or strong gusts, as they could hit the board's deck and bottom and make you lose balance and fall in the water.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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