Backhand Barrel Riding

Backhand barrels are tricky little suckers. You need agility and flexibility, and there’s a definite knack to riding long tubes.

Words: Matt Capel

Your first backhand pit is going to blow you away, so be ready for it! You have to fit inside that barrel somehow, and the standard way these days is the ‘pig-dog’ – twisting your body, dropping your back knee and grabbing your rail. It’s a pretty stable stance if you get it right. Success comes in assuming the position as soon as possible (just make sure the wave is actually going to barrel, otherwise you’ll look a bit weird). Good pig-doggers can slide down the face, stall at the bottom and get spat out. You can practice the stance at home, in the pub or in the bedroom. In St Agnes it’s actually a ritual mating dance. True!

Okay, so it’s going to barrel. The idea is to open your shoulders to provide a good stance and view of what’s coming. As with all surfing manoeuvres, where you look is where you will go. So what you need to do is drop your back knee while twisting and getting your shoulders facing forward. Stretch your leading arm back as far as you can reach on the wave face, and crouch over your front foot while grabbing the rail with your trailing arm. Your front foot should be facing more forward than usual, and sometimes even out on the rail. By pulling your leading arm back you are pulling your shoulders as square as you can comfortably get them.

The key to making barrels is weight distribution. Too much front foot and the tail will slip, too much back foot and you’ll get sucked up the wave. Remember to enjoy the view and stay in there as long as possible. There’s no substitute for experience, or tube time, however you get it. Once you get the hang of the basic stance you can try pushing your front knee towards the wave, put your front foot on its edge to increase your working space, or put your front foot facing forward down the stringer and lean over it to get square on. Once you have this mastered and the tube is big enough, try it with no hands. You need balance, but basically you just let go, keep those shoulders twisted and feet planted to reach guru status!

Top Backhand Barrel Riding Tips:

• Shoulders as square as you can get them.

• Eyes focussed on the exit.

• Inside arm pulled back and trailin g on the wave to open the shoulders.

• Arse and arm can be used as a brake to get deeper. The more you shove them in the wave, or the fatter your arse, the deeper you’ll get!

• Leg pushed out to give room, front foot on rail and on outside edge.

• Look out for shockies as the waves bounces back up the face.