How to SUP: The Pivot Turn
EVER MISSED A WAVE BECAUSE YOU COULDN’T TURN QUICK ENOUGH? Had a hard time rounding that buoy during training runs? By adding the pivot turn to your arsenal, you can turn any length board on a dime. The pivot turn is based on stepping back on the tail of your ride to lift the nose clear of the water, which makes it easier to rotate. Mastering the pivot turn also increases balance. Each board will turn differently: A short board with ample rocker pivots easily while a race board with minimal rocker requires more effort. Here’s how to spin.
— Rob Casey
START IN AT LEAST 4 FEET OF WATER so the fins won’t touch the bottom. Stand in the middle of your board in a normal parallel paddling stance facing the nose. Step one foot back into a surf stance toward the tail and see how the nose rises out of the water. If you’re new to paddling an SUP, walking on the board may be difficult, so practice with small steps until you can move around on the deck comfortably.
GO EASY. You don’t have to go all the way back; even one step back, into a quasi-surf stance, is enough to try the turn. In a pivot turn, you’ll rotate toward your “back” side. To go left, place the blade on your right side with your left foot forward and use small, sweeping strokes to turn the board. If you feel tippy, slap the paddle face on the water with your extended arm to brace. Paddling increases stability by anchoring you to the board—when in doubt, paddle forward. Take a few strokes to see if the board turns easier and bend your knees to lower your center of gravity.
GET COMFORTABLE, then move a few steps farther back and settle into an offset “surf stance,” making sure one foot is on either side of the center line of the board. As the board’s nose begins to rise farther out of the water, bend your knees more and lean forward toward the board to increase your balance. Take a few more strokes on your “toe” side and notice how much easier the board turns.
WORK TO TWO. With more practice you’ll be able to step one foot on the tail of the board, lifting 90 percent of it out of the water and be able to turn the board 360 degrees with two strokes. The trick to lifting the board out of the water is then returning to a parallel paddling stance in the middle of the board without falling.
REPETITION RULES. To use the pivot turn effectively in surf, practice in rough water. If you’re using a surf-style board, test your balance by trying the turn on the nose, using the same technique. In surf you can turn the board very quickly on the crest of a wave, which will set you up for the next one.
CHANGE IT UP. To avoid losing speed when rounding a buoy, maintain forward momentum by paddling aggressively on the toe side. Again, keep your knees bent and stay low as you return to a parallel stance. Start practicing the pivot turn on both sides. And wear your leash when learning. If you fall off the tail, the board will shoot forward and out of your reach quickly or might endanger others in a crowded area.
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