Cutback 101: Improve Your Surfing Maneuvers

The cutback is a classic surfing maneuver, an essential skill that every surfer should strive to master. It’s a turn made at the top of the wave that allows the surfer to change direction and return to the wave’s power source. A well-executed cutback not only showcases a surfer’s control and style but also keeps them in the wave’s critical section, offering an opportunity to perform additional maneuvers. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to the cutback, offering insightful tips and techniques to refine your surfing skills.

Understanding the Cutback in Surfing

A cutback is a maneuver that involves changing direction on the wave to return to its most powerful part, often referred to as the “pocket” or the “critical section.” It’s performed by turning up towards the crest of the wave and then carving a sweeping turn back down.

The Importance of a Cutback

A cutback is vital in surfing as it allows surfers to maintain their position on the wave. When a surfer rides down the line and the wave starts to lose its power, performing a cutback can help the surfer get back to the power source and continue their ride.

Steps to Perform a Cutback

Positioning on the Wave

Start by riding down the face of the wave to gain speed. As you reach the bottom, look over your shoulder towards the direction you want to go and begin to shift your weight to the tail of the surfboard.

The Turn at the Top

As you approach the top of the wave, shift your back foot’s weight and use your upper body to initiate the turn. Bend your knees and lean into the turn, keeping your eyes on the section of the wave you’re aiming for.

The Roundhouse Cutback

The roundhouse cutback is a more advanced version of the cutback, which involves a sweeping turn back towards the whitewater, followed by a rebound off the foam. This maneuver requires practice to perfect, as timing is essential for the rebound.

Tips for Improving Your Cutback

  1. Practice on Flat Water: Before taking it to the waves, practice the motion of a cutback on flat water or even on land. This can help you understand the mechanics of the maneuver.
  2. Focus on Your Turns: Work on improving your bottom turn and top turn, as both are integral parts of a good cutback.
  3. Watch and Learn: Watch other surfers or instructional videos to understand the timing and execution of a perfect cutback.


Mastering the cutback is a significant step in advancing your surfing skills. It adds versatility to your wave riding and allows you to make the most of every wave you catch. Remember, like any surfing maneuver, performing a cutback requires practice and patience. Start by understanding the mechanics, then take it slow, and gradually you’ll find your rhythm. With time, you’ll be carving your cutbacks with style and grace, truly embracing the art of surfing.

The cutback is not merely a maneuver; it’s a testament to your ability to read the wave and respond accordingly. It showcases your understanding of the wave’s dynamics, your board control, and your style. Every cutback you perform is unique, just like every wave you ride.

Remember, surfing is a journey, and learning a new maneuver like the cutback is just one of many exciting milestones along the way. So, don’t rush the process. Enjoy every moment of it – the triumphs, the wipeouts, and everything in between. The ocean is your playground, and the cutback is another fun move in your surfing repertoire.

In the world of surfing, learning never stops, and the cutback is one step in your continuous journey of growth and improvement. So grab your board, hit the waves, and carve your path one cutback at a time. Happy surfing!

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