How to Improve Your Cutbacks

Not only is surfing an exhilarating sport to pursue, but it is also full of a great variety of manoeuvres that can add to your flow and finesse. Surfing tricks and moves are essential for all skill levels; as you advance, you'll start to notice that they can become more complex.

In this article, we are going to be looking at cutbacks. Although cutbacks are a beginner manoeuvre, they are an essential move. Cutbacks allow you to reduce your speed and reposition yourself in the fastest area of the wave.

What is a Cutback?

A cutback is a surfing manoeuvre. The move takes the surfer back to the shoulder of the wave, allowing them to generate more speed for the next hit.

What is a Roundhouse Cutback?

A roundhouse is a more advanced surfing move. A roundhouse cutback continues around and through the arc at 180-200 degrees, often creating a ‘figure 8’ path. It is used to bring yourself around and back to an oncoming wave, repositioning you in the shoulder of the wave.

Unlike a cutback, which focuses on the change in direction, a roundhouse cutback rebounds off the white water and generates more speed.

A man surfing

When Should You Do a Cutback?

Although cutbacks aren't technical, they still require techniques such as weight distribution and rail-to-rail surfing.

You will need to use a cutback for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • To reduce speed
  • To cut back to the power source
  • Staying on the wave
  • Setting yourself up for another manoeuvre
  • Surfing through flat water

Cutting back to the power source is an important technique within surfing; it can help you to maintain speed and generate more if needed. Without speed, you won't be able to pull off tricks, manoeuvres, or even stay on the wave.

If you don't surf near the power source of the wave, your rides will most likely be short-lived, which can heavily interfere with your progression.

How Do Cutbacks Improve Your Surfing?

Cutbacks are used to increase your momentum to help support the surfer to stay on the wave. Suppose your speed starts to increase, causing you to be positioned out in the front of the breaking wave, where the water is much flatter. This can result in you slowing down, which will require you to reposition yourself so that you can regain momentum.

To regain momentum, you'll need to situate yourself on the steeper part of the wave, near the breaking curl. However, this won't be necessary if the wave is forming in front of you; you won't need to cut back as you'll have continual momentum to work with.

A man about to wipeout

How to Complete a Cutback

Below, we'll demonstrate step by step how to complete a cutback manoeuvre.

  1. Generate speed and create a visual path.
  2. Get on top of the wave and compress down to drive yourself out and away from the curl. This way, you can begin a shallow bottom turn. Your weight should be transferred to your back foot and positioned near the tail kicker; this will engage the fins and help you to pivot toward the curl.
  3. Lean your left hand down the wave, opening your shoulders and chest toward the breaking part of the wave before digging your heal side rail into the water.
  4. As you extend your body into the turn, rotate your hips, open your leading arm and turn your head toward the curl.
  5. Maintain light pressure on your front foot. As you start to approach white water, turn your head over your outside shoulder while still holding the rail.
  6. Let your leading arm guide you and control your cutback.

Cutback Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that are worth being aware of when trying to refine your cutbacks.

  • Try not to lean out too hard into your turn if you don't have enough speed; this can result in you falling off your board.
  • Going too far out in front of the wave can cause you to drift into flat water. Flatwater will reduce your speed, which can result in you falling off.
  • If you lean over the turn, the rail can catch in the water and track, which can stop you from completing the arc of your turn and wipe you out.

How to Complete a Roundhouse Cutback

Cutbacks and roundhouse cutbacks start largely the same way, but they differ slightly at the end. Some surfers find roundhouse cutbacks much easier to perform.

  1. Generate speed and create a visual path.
  2. Get on top of the wave and compress down to drive yourself out and away from the curl. This way, you can begin a shallow bottom turn. Your weight should be transferred to your back foot and positioned near the tail kicker; this will engage the fins and help you to pivot toward the curl.
  3. Lean your left hand down the wave, opening your shoulders and chest toward the breaking part of the wave. Dig your heal side rail into the water.
  4. As you extend your body into the turn, rotate your hips, open your leading arm and turn your head toward the curl.
  5. Maintain light pressure on your front foot. As you start to approach white water, turn your head over your outside shoulder while still holding the rail.
  6. Let your leading arm guide you and control your cutback.
  7. Lower your leading hand; this will keep your weight forward and bring your board around.
  8. Extend your body out of the turn.
  9. Maintain a weighted back leg and press into the toes of your back foot, aiding your recovery.

Roundhouse Cutback Mistakes

  • If your leading arm is brought across your body, it will leave your position unstable.
  • You won't be able to engage the rail if you attempt to rotate your hips while standing tall.
  • The fins are engaged by stomping at the back of the tail pad; if your back foot is too far up the board, the fins will not engage.
  • It's also worth noting that picking the right wave does make a difference; a bad wave will lead to poor execution.

And there you have it, how to complete the perfect cutback. The only thing that's left is to grab your wetsuit and surfboard so you can get practising.

For more information and advice about surfing, have a browse through our regularly updated blog. We share everything you need to know about surfing, including how to size the perfect wetsuit!

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