Stab Magazine | How to backside tuberide in big waves, by John John Florence
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How to backside tuberide in big waves, by John John Florence

Words by John John Florence The biggest barrel you’ll ever get will be backside. You’ll be paddling in, too. Because most of the waves you paddle into backside you’d never make them frontside. You’re able to compact down to your board, grab your rail if needed, and, well, the list goes on about the benefits […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Words by John John Florence

The biggest barrel you’ll ever get will be backside. You’ll be paddling in, too. Because most of the waves you paddle into backside you’d never make them frontside. You’re able to compact down to your board, grab your rail if needed, and, well, the list goes on about the benefits of backside tuberiding over frontside. If you go back and watch the footage from Tahiti last year, Owen, Wilko and Kai Otton got bombs out there. But they were forced to air-drop into them. Whereas, backside you can really get compact, drop into the thing, drag at the bottom, then come up into it. Being backside is all about controlling your speed, and allows you to do it a lot easier than frontside. Actually, I would never wanna be frontside at a wave like Chopes. But, you don’t wanna be backside at Backdoor – that’s a long, running, unpredictable barrel.

1. Paddling
Paddling in backside, you need to be aware of your direction. I always paddle with my board facing straight in. Backside’s cool because you can be so far underneath the lip, it’s crazy and it all depends on your positioning. You don’t need to paddle with your board pointing to the channel. The challenge is to see just how under the lip you can be when you take off. A perfect wave like Restaurants will be a lot easier because it’s a mechanical wave. Pipe’s one of those unpredictable setups, so you can’t always be in the perfect spot – if it’s a good one and it’s crowded, you just wanna whip it and go. You’ve gotta figure out how late you can be, otherwise you’re gonna keep going over the falls.

2. Make the drop
Making the drop is God. Once you make the drop you’re probably going to make the barrel. If you fall in the barrel it’s not so bad, but do not fall on the drop. If you make the drop and go straight you’ll be fine. If you make the drop and go in the barrel, you’re most likely going to be okay. But if you nosedive on the drop… it’s not going to be pretty. If you’re getting into the wave late, holding onto that outside rail will give you the best chance of making it. But, the most important thing – do not hesitate. If you hesitate the tiniest bit you’re going to go over the falls. No matter what. It’s the hardest thing in the world to do. But, especially at waves like Chopes, you can go on any big waves and make the drop, as long as you are 100 percent committed to making it. One thought of, oh fuck I’m going to fall, that’s when you end up nosediving and you’ll feel yourself going over the falls.

Sequence by Ed Sloane

Sequence by Ed Sloane

3. To grab it, or not?
It’s not really a question of grab or don’t grab. It’s solely dependent on the wave. Remember the wave I had against Kelly in the Chopes semi? After the event I had a lot of people telling me, “If you’d have grabbed it, it would’ve looked like you were trying harder.” But I honestly wasn’t not-grabbing to make it look any different, that’s just the way that I surfed that wave, y’know? It’s such a big, wide-open barrel that when you pull in backside with no grab, you have a lot more room to bend your knees and manoeuvre yourself in there. When you’re grabbing your rail you can’t pump and you can’t lean back, you’re just stuck in one position. Whereas, if you’re standing up – and you have the room to stand up like that – why not do it? You can pump, you can redirect your line, you can hit the foam ball if you want. You shouldn’t grab when you’re trying to pump. When I was younger I’d always grab my rail at Pipe and Jamie O’Brien would always say to me, “What are you doing? The barrel is big and you’re grabbing your rail, you should be standing tall.” He used to rouse me super hard for it. Ever since then I practiced not grabbing my rail. But, a good time to grab is if it’s a smaller barrel to keep you compact, if you’re stalling because you can pull back on your board, or if you’re falling.

 

“When I was younger I’d always grab my rail at Pipe and Jamie O’Brien would always say to me, what are you doing? The barrel is big and you’re grabbing your rail, you should be standing tall, and he’d rouse me super hard.”

 

4. Speed Control
When I need to slow down I drag my whole thigh and ass as I drop in and then let go. You can use any part of your body, just crank those breaks because it can be the difference between a whatever tube and deep, foam ball spit. If you drag as you take off, you can let go into a pump. Letting go right on that corner gives you a big boost of speed into the section. If you feel yourself coming out of the barrel, you can drag to hold yourself deep. There’s some waves like Macaronis, where you can drag the entire barrel. It’s like a stationary wave and it keeps spinning around you and you’re just sliding along it. The wall is there to lean on. Keep your shoulders square and you’ll be balanced, and pointing out of the tube.

802_2

Dom Mosqueira, via his lens, inspects the instinctual foot placement of a future king.

5. Feet Placement
I have no idea which way my feet are facing, I just take off, feel it out and go for it.* It seems to work out a lot of the time, because I’ve tried it a lot. But, there’s a lot of trial and error and sometimes it goes wrong. I had a couple of sessions at Chopes where I went to pump and I kept going up and over the falls because my feet were wrong. *Editor’s note: Watch footage of John John, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons or any of the more boss backside tuberiders, and you’ll notice that the front foot always stays to the heelside half of the stringer. This distributes weight in all the right places. John’s lack of awareness about this, coupled with the fact he does it every time, is further (unnecessary) proof of his natural panache in this area of surfing. Learn from it.

 

“For me to slow down, I drag my whole thigh and ass as I drop in and then let go. If you drag as you take off, you can let go into a pump. Letting go right on that corner gives you a big boost of speed into the section.”

 

6. Weight distribution
Your weight distribution depends on what the wave is allowing you to do. If I’m standing up and not grabbing my rail, I’m leaning back. When you’re in a big tube, you’re leaning on your back heel edge and shifting all your weight there. Chopes is pretty crazy because you can get so high in the back corner of the barrel. You really notice when you’re there because you can almost lay-back and the wave still pulls you through, a bit like Flowrider-style. If I’m grabbing my rail I’m leaning into my thigh, and my weight is moving forward. If it’s a really small barrel and I’m trying to fit in it, it seems like I’m always leaning forward. My arms will be either behind me or very low in the barrel. And then, if it’s a bigger one, I’m leaning back hard on the back foot.

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