Many people who take up the sport of surfing and take the necessary time to learn how to ride waves will eventually begin to feel confident enough to try and start turning the surfboard on the wave face. One of the most natural feeling surfing manuevers is known as a “Cutback”, this surfing maneuver is generally one of the first types of turns that surfers will learn because it is performed on the wave face. It does not require a sharp bottom turn, a surfer does not have to perform this turn in the lip and surfers will generally not have a steep drop back down the wave face after performing a cutback. There are several variations of the cutback, you will often hear the term “slash” or “slash back”, “round house cut back” or “roundy” for short and it can sometimes be referred to as a “cutty” and once in a while simply called by its proper name “Cutback” – while the maneuver itself has various subtleties between when it should be a cutback or a round house, the general idea is that the surfer is maneuvering the board into an arching, carving or pivoting change of direction.
The most natural feeling cutback turn will be to drive along the wave face and begin to shift your weight back and onto your inside rail, this transfer of weight will allow your board to begin channeling the water out and away, as you apply pressure in this fashion the wave energy will continue to push back allowing the surfer to maintane speed, power and flow through the cutback, once the proper amount of weight has been applied the board will feel as if it is doing the turn for you and you will always need to have some type of exit strategy for your maneuver. A surfer cannot simply apply pressure to the inside rail and hope that the cutback completes itself, you must understand that at some point, normally within about 1 second, your maneuver will be finished and it will be time to transfer your weight to the opposite side of the board to bring the surfboard back around parallel to the wave face so you can regain any speed you may have burned off performing the maneuver.
Many skilled surfers will take their cut back 1 step further and perform a “round house cut back” this is begun, and executed the same as a normal cutback but the surfer will draw the turn out a little bit longer and then bank the surfboard into the white water that was chasing him from behind, this type of “rebounding” manuever can produce lots of speed as the surfer bounces off the whitewater back onto the wave face. The roundhouse cutback is often times executed as a way to stay near the pocket of the wave and it is a very valuable tool when surfing small to head high waves. When the waves become larger and much more powerful you will notice that surfers generally will perform this type of round house rebound much less often for two main reasons 1) the white water is much to powerful and unstable which makes it a very high risk to reward maneuver and 2) bigger waves already have the necessary power to push the surfer at great speeds so there is less of a need to perform more technical surfing tricks to gain additional speed.
The cut back surfing turn can be performed in both a “front side” and “back side” wave ride, similar techniques will be necessary to perform the cutback weather or not the surfer is riding front side or backside. It is very simple to remember that when you are going to attempt a cut back a series of events must occur in order for the maneuver to be completed with a flowing style. The proper weight transfer must happen with the back foot / inside rail, the surfer should always keep the upper body centered over the surfboard, and finally always look were you want to go. Generally because surfing requires great muscle memory once you train your body to go where you are looking, your body, mind and muscles will remember what they have to do in order to complete the maneuver. Now get out there and practice those cutbacks. Remember: The more time you spend in the water, the faster you will master your maneuvers.