The frontside cutback is a timeless maneuver that really allows you to use the full rail of your board. Done with commitment, it looks spectacular, as well as being a very functional move since it slingshots the rider back into the steep part of the wave, meaning they can build up speed for their next big hit.
This photo shows North Shore luminary John-John Florence mid-way through a fully engaged cutback at Backdoor. You can see that JJ doesn’t aim to throw the cutback in too steep a section of the wave, nor does he wait till he is too far ahead of the pocket, rather he has initiated the turn just at the part of the wave where the lip is forming.
The cutback is a profound, parabolic move rather than a flashy snap. As you exit your top turn, you need extend your leading arm and head in the direction you want to go (back to the steep part), and transfer your weight from the toeside rail onto the heelside rail. Shift your weight to the back foot a little, and be mindful of your board’s nose as you start coming back on yourself.
Keep the momentum up the whole way through the turn, you want to be facing back towards the breaking wave, ready to come out of the turn and drop back in with loads of speed so you can carry on down the line.
At this point, you have options:
1. Go high and hit the oncoming lip to turn your cutback into a re-entry. This is a good move in fast, hollower recreational-sized surf.
2. Aim for the mid-way point and rebound off the incoming white water. This is good fun, keeps the speed up and usually what most of us will be doing in typical UK waves!
3. In bigger waves, exit the cutback at lower point on the wave face. This will keep you out of harm’s way from a cascading lip or roaring foamball. Beware not to go too low as you may lose too much speed.
Remember that a good cutback starts with plenty of board speed, as early as when you come out of your bottom turn. This is a power move and one that is unique to each surfer – start thinking about putting your stamp on the cutback in your next session.