The pivot turn is the most efficient way to turn your board 180 degrees, and with practice, you can learn to do so with little effort and even a single stroke. It’s a great technique in the flats alone, and especially in the surf when you need to turn the board quickly to catch a wave. So grip it and flip it. The crucial move is also a great technique to hone your balance and to better know your board. — Rob Casey
Stagger your stance: Step back toward the tail of the board in surfer’s (staggered) stance and make sure you have your feet on both sides of the center line. (If your feet are on the same side, you’ll fall in.) Notice as you move back, your nose begins to rise. Start turning the board and see how much easier it moves with less board in the water. Move farther back until half the board is out of the water. As the board angles up, lean forward to counter the angle. Squat slightly to lower your center of gravity, which also extends your paddle out for further support. Try to turn the board again with a long, sweep stroke in either direction, rotating the board 180 degrees with one to three sweep strokes. Then work to spin the board 360 degrees in both directions.
Feel the brace: Brace strokes are crucial to keeping you on board. Use a low-brace where the paddle blade is slapped or held just on the surface of the water to keep your torso neural over the board—hint: lower your upper hand, on the paddle T-grip, toward your waistline to keep the blade as flat as possible on the water. Or use the sculling brace, where the blade power face is swept in a horizontal movement back and fourth (concentrate on rolling your wrist to apply paddle pressure downward as you sweep) over the surface of the water to add support.
One-stroke wonder: In surf, try the pivot turn on an incoming wave. Facing away from the beach, begin the pivot turn as the wave begins to pick you up. See if you can turn the board on the face of the wave in one stroke. Remember to squat low, which adds stability and will you turn quicker. You’ll be ready for the next wave facing in the right direction.
Know the nose: Take it one step further: When you get comfortable pivoting from the tail, try walking to the nose. Raise the tail and try to turn the board behind you while facing the nose with your feet under water. Move back to the middle of the board, and jump-spin around so you’re now facing the tail. Finally, move backward to the nose to turn with you fins raising out of the water. Now you’re ready to run a big river rapid—whitewater standup paddler Dan Gavere uses this technique while going over some waterfalls to keep his fins from catching rocks during on the drop.
CHECK OUT A QUICK VIDEO DEMONSTRATION OF THE ONE-STROKE PIVOT TURN: