In this instalment of his comprehensive series examining every aspect of wavesailing, Jem Hall continues his fully frontside series as he gets you carving sweetly through your bottom turns…
So, you’re now gaining knowledge of the art of positioning. You know where to be in the wave arena, and you’re able to get speed down-the-line. Now it’s time to use that knowledge.
Frontside riding, which has you facing towards the wave and is also called ‘down-the-line (DTL), is the name of this month’s game. Cross-shore and cross-off winds are the easiest for frontside, so this is what we’ll look at as we examine the basics of frontside waveriding with the gateway to it all, the bottom turn. This is a turn initiated at the bottom of the wave in which the wave’s energy and your speed are used to get you back up the wave so you can kiss the lip with a tasty top turn. This is where you should be salivating about all the spray you’re going to be throwing around.
Many waveriders can have a good top turn, but you’re most respected for your prowess, technique and style at the bottom. As maestro Levi Siver says, “You may spend your whole life improving this”. If you have speed and style in the bottom turn then you can get back up the wave faster and steeper to accept all the energy from the wave in your top turn. You can then smack the wave as opposed to it smacking you.
As some of you may know I go on and on about carve ‘step’ gybes, the reason being that there are many similarities between it and your bottom turn technique. Most importantly the straight front arm and back hand down the boom. Make the back of the boom your new best mate and your gybes, bottom turns and forwards (amongst many moves) will flourish.
By failing to prepare you’re preparing to fail, so you’d best get fully tuned up and ready for some fast turns. Your footstraps should be big so you can get over your toeside rail and carve hard. It’s damn near impossible to carve hard if your straps are tight, so if your straps are like tourniquets then you’re better off getting into S&M instead. The mastfoot should be moved around to find its sweet spot – a good starting point is 135cm from tail. Moving it back loosens the board, forward controls the board. Position your lines relatively far back so you can get your rig forward. Yep, that’s right – lines back will get your hands back, which in turn gets the rig forward (and across you in the middle of the bottom turn and the forward). When you use long lines it’s for easier unhooking; you can get low to improve wind range and you can sail with your front hand back to reap huge rewards.
You can loosen up your FSW by putting in a smaller (22-25cm fin). Overhand is the grip of choice so you can create downforce, just like in front crawl or surfing.
Your wave selection is based on experience and judgement, so you must keep reflecting on this throughout. By preparing your equipment you’re ahead of the game, but to be even more ready for performing in the waves we strongly suggest you embrace becoming a waterperson by surfing / SUPing. This allows you to catch waves and practice turning through different body positions, foot-weighting and moving your head and hands – exactly like wavesailing.
Just as we have a Loop Club (check the boards.co.uk forums) we also have a Waveriding Club, and these are the rules:
1. There is no Waveriding Club.
2. Get out the back efficiently, consider your route and technique.
3. Turn around and wait or catch a wave at the bus stop. Right time, right place and all that jazz.
4. Get speed along the wave.
5. Drop down the wave and make shallow bottom and top turns, focusing on head and hand movements.
6. Go more vertical as you bottom turn faster and harder and then turn back up the wave steeper and more aggressively.
7. Smack it, aerial it – just do what you can to send it back out there.
8. Enjoy both your successes and failures.
9. Always smile while swimming back to your kit.
At first you will be making turns along the easier / less steep / greener sections of the wave to groove into the general flow of your frontside turns. As you progress you can position yourself upwind / upwave of a peak (a steeper section) so you can time your bottom turn to meet the lip in your top turn. Yet again, this is all about our very dear friends: judgement and experience.
The absolute key to frontside is that you have to follow its namesake and turn off the front foot like a surfer and push the whole downwind / toeside rail into the water. This will require you to lean forward, pull down on the boom, bend your ankles and extend your front arm. Let’s examine the basic bottom turn technique…