How Do I Steer A Surfboard? (Tips and tricks)

Riding the waves is an exhilarating experience, but I truly felt the exhilaration of surfing when I first realised that I was in control and could steer my board through the waves.

Steering a surfboard can feel tricky at first, but you can quickly navigate the waves with some practice. 

To steer a surfboard, shift your weight and lean in the direction you want to go. Use your arms for balance and to help guide the board. You can also use your feet to apply pressure on different board parts to change direction. 

Practice and experience are key to mastering steering while surfing.

In this article, I will explain the fundamental techniques required to steer a surfboard, including beginner tips for turning, strategies for increasing speed, and the basics of performing a simple trick. Drawing on my experience, I will also dive into the ongoing debate of longboard versus shortboard for executing surfing tricks. 

a female surfer steers her board

How Do I Steer A Surfboard? 

Steering a surfboard primarily involves body positioning and weight distribution. Here’s a basic rundown:

  1. Lean Into Your Turns: You steer a surfboard by leaning in the direction you want to go. For example, if you want to turn right, lean your body to the right side. This shift in your weight causes the board to tilt and turn.
  2. Use Your Arms for Balance: As you lean, extend your arms out to help maintain balance. Your arms can also be used to subtly influence the direction in which you’re steering.
  3. Apply Pressure With Your Feet: Your back foot acts like the rudder of a ship. You can execute sharper turns by applying pressure with your back foot on the side of the board you want to turn towards.

Here is a detailed, first-person view video on how to do this:

A Video Showing How To Turn A Surfboard

Remember, practice is key. The more time you spend in the water, the more intuitive steering will become. In the next sections, we’ll discuss more advanced techniques to turn a surfboard, increase speed, and perform simple tricks.

How Do You Turn A Surfboard For Beginners?

For beginners, turning a surfboard is all about gradual, controlled movements. Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Start on a Flat Surface: Before you hit the waves, practice the movement on a flat surface first. Lay on your board and practice shifting your weight and leaning to one side, then to the other. This will help you understand how your weight shifts the board.
  2. Start Small: Start by catching small waves once you’re in the water. These waves are less powerful and give you more time to manoeuvre.
  3. Position Yourself at the Center: Position yourself at the centre of the board. This gives you maximum control over the board.
  4. Shift Your Weight: To turn, you’ll need to shift your weight towards the direction you want to go. Lean your body and press down with the corresponding hand. For instance, lean to your left and press down with your left hand if you want to turn left.
  5. Use Your Feet: Once you’re comfortable with using your weight, you can start to use your feet to help steer. Apply pressure with your back foot on the side you want to turn. 
  6. Practice: The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Over time, these movements will start to feel more natural, and you’ll be able to make sharper turns.

Remember, surfing is as much about patience as it is about skill. It takes time to feel comfortable on the water, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Just keep practising, and you’ll be carving up waves in no time.

How Do I Make A Surfboard Go Faster?

Increasing the speed of your surfboard largely comes down to wave selection, board positioning, and body movement. Here’s how to harness these elements:

  1. Choose the Right Wave: Speed in surfing starts with the power of the wave. Larger, steeper waves provide more power, but even smaller waves can give you speed if they’re breaking correctly. It’s all about timing your launch with the peak of the wave’s power.
  2. Position Your Board Correctly: Your board should be positioned so that it’s perfectly aligned with the wave. Any angle away from this alignment will cause the wave’s energy to be lost, slowing you down.
  3. Use Your Body: Lean forward to gain speed. The forward position reduces the surfboard’s drag and allows the surfboard to plane faster on the water’s surface. Be careful, though, as leaning too far forward can cause you to nose-dive.
  4. Pump for Speed: “Pumping” is a technique where you generate speed by shifting your weight back and forth along the board in a fluid motion. This creates forward momentum even when the wave’s power begins to drop.
  5. Trim the Board: This involves moving up and down the board to find the ‘sweet spot’ where the board planes on the water reduce drag and increase speed.

Remember, speed isn’t everything in surfing. Control and safety should always be your number one priority. As with all things surfing, practice makes perfect. The more time you spend in the water, the more you’ll understand how to harness a wave’s power and use it to your advantage.

How Can I Slow Down A Surfboard?

Slowing down a surfboard can be critical in maintaining control while riding a wave. Here are some strategies to help you decelerate when needed:

  1. Shift Your Weight Backward: Moving your weight towards the tail of the board will cause it to slow down. This is because the tail sinks slightly, increasing water resistance.
  2. Drag Your Hand: You can also slow down by dragging one hand in the water, effectively acting as a brake. Be sure to do this gradually to prevent losing balance and falling off the board.
  3. Angle Your Board: Angling your board so that you are surfing across the wave rather than directly down its face can also reduce your speed.
  4. Use a ‘Cutback’ Maneuver: A cutback is a surfing manoeuvre where you change your direction on a wave to go back towards where the wave is breaking. This typically reduces your speed as you are moving against the wave’s power.

Remember, the ability to control your speed is crucial for safe and successful surfing. Practice these techniques during your surfing sessions to get a feel for how they impact your speed and control on the board.

What Is The Easiest Trick On A Surfboard?

One of the easiest tricks to learn on a surfboard, especially for beginners, is the “Noseride”. The noseride involves moving your weight forward on the board to ride with your toes on the nose of the board. This is best done on a longboard.

Here are the steps to execute this trick:

  1. Catch a Wave: Start by catching a manageable wave. The wave should be stable with a long break, which will give you plenty of time to attempt the trick.
  2. Stand Up and Balance: Once you’ve caught the wave, stand up and balance yourself in the middle of the board.
  3. Walk Towards the Nose: Gradually walk towards the nose of the board. Keep your weight centred and your knees slightly bent to maintain balance.
  4. Position Your Feet: Once you reach the nose, position your feet so your toes are hanging off the edge. This is called “hanging ten”.
  5. Return to Center: After a few moments, carefully walk back to the centre of the board.

Remember, like all surfboard tricks, the noseride requires practice to master. Start with smaller waves and gradually work your way up to larger ones as you gain confidence and improve your balance.

Is It Hard To Steer A Longboard?

Steering a longboard surfboard can be challenging for beginners, but with practice, it becomes more manageable. 

The size and weight of a longboard make it less responsive to weight shifts compared to a shorter board. This means that to change direction, you’ll have to make more exaggerated movements or take a slightly different approach. 

For example, walking up and down the board, known as ‘cross-stepping’, is a common method used to turn a longboard. This technique involves moving your weight forward to gain speed and backward to slow down or make sharper turns. 

However, the larger size also makes longboards more stable and easier to balance, which may be beneficial for beginners. 

Whether a longboard or shortboard is better for you depends on your personal preferences, skill level, and surfing goals.

Is A Shortboard Or Longboard Better For Tricks?

When it comes to performing tricks on a surfboard, both shortboards and longboards have their advantages and challenges. Shortboards, due to their lighter weight and smaller size, allow for quick manoeuvres and sharp turns, making them suitable for advanced tricks like cutbacks, snaps, and aerials. They’re ideally suited for powerful, fast-breaking waves where these manoeuvres can shine.

On the other hand, longboards, due to their larger size and stability, are excellent for classic tricks like cross-stepping and nose-riding. They’re best suited for smaller, slower-breaking waves where there’s time to perform these tricks. Longboards offer a smooth ride and allow for graceful, stylish movements, which can be a joy to execute and watch.

So, whether a shortboard or longboard is better for tricks really depends on the type of tricks you want to perform, your skill level, and the wave conditions. For beginners wanting to start with tricks, a longboard might be a better choice due to its stability and ease of ride. As you become more advanced and your style evolves, you might want to try performing more dynamic tricks on a shortboard.

11 Tips & Tricks To Help Steer A Surfboard

  1. Master the Basics: Before attempting any tricky manoeuvres, make sure you’re comfortable with the fundamentals of surfing, such as paddling, standing up, and maintaining balance on the board.
  2. Use Your Eyes: Steering often starts with your gaze. Look in the direction you want to go, and your body will naturally follow.
  3. Shift Your Weight: Shifting your weight back slows you down while moving forward accelerates your speed. Use these movements to control your speed and direction.
  4. Use Your Rails: Leaning on the rail (edge) of your surfboard can help you turn. If you want to turn right, lean on your right rail and vice versa.
  5. Pivot Your Back Foot: Your back foot serves as the pivot point for turns. Push down on your toes to go right and on your heel to go left.
  6. Bend Your Knees: Keep your knees bent and flexible to maintain your balance during turns. The lower your centre of gravity, the more control you’ll have over the board.
  7. Cross-Step for Longboards: If you’re on a longboard, cross-stepping can help you steer. Move towards the nose to go faster and towards the tail to slow down and turn.
  8. Paddle Smart: Use your paddling power to help turn, especially while catching a wave. If you want to go right, paddle harder with your left hand and vice versa.
  9. Practice on Land: Dry land practice, known as ‘sand surfing’, can help you get comfortable with the movements needed to steer a surfboard. Practice your footwork and weight shifting on the safety of the sand before hitting the waves.
  10. Watch and Learn: Watching more experienced surfers can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to their technique and try to implement what you learn in your own practice.
  11. Take a Lesson: If you’re struggling to improve your steering, consider taking a surfing lesson. An experienced instructor can provide personalized feedback and help you master the technique faster.

Remember, steering a surfboard effectively requires practice and patience. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away. With time and practice, you’ll find yourself navigating the waves with ease.

Final Thoughts

Steering a surfboard is a skill that involves mastering the basics, understanding your board, and continual practice. While the type of board you choose, be it a shortboard or a longboard, can impact the tricks and manoeuvres you perform, it ultimately boils down to personal preference, skill level, and your surfing goals. 

Regardless of the board you select, remember that surfing is a journey. Embrace the learning process, celebrate your progress, and, most importantly, enjoy the ride. 

Remember, the sea is a vast playground, and with patience and practice, you’ll be carving your path through the waves in no time.

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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