Surfing Better Series: How to do a Cutback

February 21, 2024

How to do a cutback surfing

The cutback is a timeless maneuver that every surfer needs to know! The best surfers in the world are constantly doing cutbacks to maintain speed and harness all the energy within the pocket of the wave.  It is actually easier than you think once you have the basics down.  This blog will help you learn how to perform and perfect your cutbacks. 

What is the goal of a cutback? 

The purpose of performing a cutback is to get you back to the power source of the wave. If you don't cutback, you may miss the rest of the wave. For this reason, learning to cutback is not optional, but essential if you want to optimize performance on each wave. 

When to cutback? 

Like any maneuver in surfing, a cutback needs to be performed in the correct section of the wave. The optimal time to cutback is when you see the wave diminishing toward the shoulder. This slow section will not allow you to carry speed, so you will need to cutback to the whitewater/pocket of the wave.

Note: if you do not have a general understanding of how to read waves, check out our blog, "How to Read Waves" before proceeding.

How to Cutback

Now that we understand when and why to cutback, we will get into technique. 

Step 1: Eye the Section 

Before initiating a cutback, have awareness of what the wave is doing. Ask yourself whether the wave is diminishing or growing in front of you. If diminishing, this is the time to anticipate your cutback.

A sign that you may have misread the section is if you feel the board sink beneath you as your speed decreases on the open face. You've waited too long.

Step 2: Shallow Bottom Turn 

You do not need a pronounced bottom turn when cutting back. Rather, bend your knees slightly and look towards the open face of the wave. Where you are looking, your body will follow. 

Step 3: Bend you knees to prepare for the turn 

The shallow bottom turn will propel you to the shoulder of the wave. Once you get there, bend your knees and widen your stance. If you do not get low, you will likely fall backwards as you lean for your turn. Also, make sure your back foot is over the fins to allow you to turn the board quickly. 

Step 4: Turn hips, weight on heels, look to the whitewater 

Once you get lower, transition your weight to your heels if you are frontside or toes if you are backside. As you transition your weight, rotate your hips toward the whitewater. To do this effectively, make sure you are looking back at the whitewater. If you are not looking to the whitewater, your turn will be cut short. 

Step 5: Keep turning all the way to the whitewater 

Turn all the way to the power section of the wave. Not only will this functionally help you to gain speed, but it will look smoother and more powerful as your drive through your turn. 

Step 6: Turn back to the open face 

Once you reach the power section, turn back again to the open face. Do this in the same way to started your cutback: eyes forward, knees bent, and hips rotated. 

Step 7: Prepare for the next section 

Once you've completed your cutback, make sure you are ready for the next section. It is easy to perform a great turn, feel good about it, but neglect the next turn... so stay ready. 

Last things, the performance of your cutback is largely dependent on whether or not you are riding the right board for you. To assist you in finding your magic board, give us a call at 800-920-2363 or email me directly at

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