How to barrel ride with more panache, by Jack Robinson
Interview by Lucas Townsend | Photo: Quinn Mathews Paddling Make sure you’re always under the lip. Any waves that sucks up like Backdoor or The Box, you need to be paddling hard to be far enough inside to swing in under the lip. It’ll give you the best chance of making the takeoff and put […]
Interview by Lucas Townsend | Photo: Quinn Mathews
Make sure you’re always under the lip. Any waves that sucks up like Backdoor or The Box, you need to be paddling hard to be far enough inside to swing in under the lip. It’ll give you the best chance of making the takeoff and put you in perfect position to set your line. If you’re getting in late, make sure your last stroke is with your arm that’s furthest back once you stand up. It’ll give you the last squirt of power and lock your closest shoulder into the wall, almost like a pivot point. Whatever you do, don’t half-cook your paddle in. Getting hung up in the lip is worse than any position you can get into inside the barrel.
Corking is when you rock back on the tail of your board with your body weight and shoot forward to get a chip-in to your paddle. I sometimes do the corking takeoff at waves like North Point where it’s a roll-in takeoff. It doesn’t work at real sucky waves like Chopes because you have to start paddling well before the wave actually comes in. Like I said earlier, being under the lip is priority. Get speed up first. Don’t turn and wait too long. You want to be flying just before take off.
A late takeoff is easier backside than it is frontside. You’ve got more control. You’ve got hold of the rail and you’ve got the wall there to really lean on. Plus, once you get to the bottom you can drag your ass. Frontside isn’t forgiving, but it’s way more critical. It’s gnarly. Don’t takeoff sideways because you’re more likely to catch a rail. Takeoff straight, and use your arm in the wall for stability. The best waves for frontside takeoffs are really sucky, fast running ones. Why? Because when you takeoff, you can almost fall forward on your front foot and knife with the rail. Really lean over and get right into it. You’ll get a lot of speed straight away.
The kickstall is a tricky one because your biggest obstacles are making it look neat and not getting sucked over because you’ve lost all your speed. Do a little check turn, kick that back foot into the face and lean back on the kick of the tailpad. It’ll stop your board dead in the water.
I don’t usually do them that much, I’ll go for a double-hand drag instead. When you’re doing an air, kickstalls are great to line you up to the next section, but they’re not ideal for the barrel.
Even with the entire CT and the accompanying entourage, the constant hum around each session at North Point was about this young gent. Jack Robinson’s frontside barrel riding was a topic of constant disbelief.
Once you get in and set your line on your frontside you can do bigger pumps in the barrel and get more speed than you can backside. When you’re backside you can pump as well but you’re restricted by the way you’re positioned. There’s a lot more flexibility frontside. Bend at the knees, not at the waist. Keep most of your weight on the front foot as you really drive forward. Keep your arms low. Look like you’re not even trying. Keep it neat. That’s good style.
Timing the Sections
Barrel riding all depends on speeding up and slowing down at the right times. Once I set my line and I’m in there I’ve learned the right times to slow down. You will too, it just comes from experience and being familiar with the break. I grab the wall mainly. It’s a makeshift brake. I’m a one-handed stall kind of guy and I keep my left hand just sitting there by my side. Sometimes I’ll use the double-handed stall if I need to really slow-up quickly.
Never be Blind
When I’m in the barrel I never close my eyes. Even if it’s chandeliering and crumbling down I always try and keep them open. If there’s a lot of water in the barrel I’ll roll my head down and look towards my feet, but I’ll never lose them. Sometime you just have to feel your way out when it’s real tight. When it’s a clear vision keep looking at the lip line because your body is going to follow wherever your eyes are looking.
Guys like Andy Irons were never too front-footed when they were pumping down the line on waves. They kept a close stance. If I go wider with my stance I catch a lot of rail and fall off more. There’s less control. I’ve got more control manoeuvring in the barrel deep when my feet are a little bit closer together. My back foot comes off the tail kick just that little bit to control right around the fins, roughly the top of the tail pad area. But I don’t move it really far up towards my front foot.
Good forehand barrel style is being calm. Don’t get excited, just cruise. Keep your arms out of the way, and by your sides. Keep it neat so it doesn’t look like too much is going on. My favourite styles are Bruce, Andy, John John, Slater and Joel.
Head High, Shoulders Back
The best time to stand tall is when you drop down, the barrel slows a little and you know exactly how fast you’re going, and how much room there is. It’s sick to stand there when you’ve got all the room you need. Even if you need to put your hand in the wall for stability, that’s fine, you can gauge your speed and straighten your legs a little. Make sure you’re in the barrel though. You don’t want to be the guy standing tall outside the tube.
For your own improvement, always surround yourself with people better than you. Want to be a better tube rider? Get Jack Robbo on your team. Photo: Ryan Miller
The Clean Exit
If you’re surfing a mechanical wave like a reef break, look to exit the barrel out of the bottom of the opening. Kelly Slater and Owen Wright were doing it in Fiji. They angle towards the reef, not the channel on their way out. When you come out of the bottom of the barrel at a wave like that it saves you time rather than coming out mid-way up the face and having to fade to set up your next move. If you come out low you can go straight into a turn off the bottom, which is stage one for either a full face turn, or getting barrelled again.
The Escape Route
When the wave is racing off and you’re in the barrel you need to be looking for the doggy door always. You need to know how fast you’re going. You need to be thinking about getting to exactly where you need to be. If it’s a heavy wave, like solid Backdoor, that’s what’s going to set you out from the rest. It’s easier to stand up in a closeout. But risking it for a doggy door exit all comes down to bravery. Andy was the man at this. He wanted to kill the waves, he would do whatever he wanted out there.
If you exit the barrel clean then chances are there’s an opportunity for another manoeuvre. Never have an expectation about what’s going to happen, but I’ll visualise my options before I get to the section. Once you can see your opportunity, you’ll know what the wave will allow and you need to adjust your weight accordingly. It might just be shifting your weight onto your back foot. It’ll all happen really quick but you’ve got the best view of what’s going on with the wave from inside the barrel.
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