The Plain Truth About Backside Tuberiding, with Bruce Irons
Your shoulder is god. The single most important thing about backside tuberiding is your shoulder (the shoulder closest to the wave, that is. Not the one that attaches your arm to the rail). Your shoulder is everything. Think of a good pig-dog as a really good stretch across your chest. Open that thing up. Your shoulders square you to the wave. If you’re square to the wave, you have control. Control is everything in the tube. You can change your speed, your direction and deal with what the tube’s got to throw at you. If you’re squared up, you’re automatically aimed at making the tube. Your board will point to the exit of the tube. If you’re square you’re not getting sucked up the face or falling down into the trough. The squared-up shoulder. God.
The best tuberiders know how to fall. If you can get yourself out of dangerous situations, you get less hurt, catch more waves and surf with confidence. The best surfers deal with bad situations with confidence. That diffuses frightening positions. There’s a technique to falling off. Unfortunately, I think falling off comes naturally. You either have it or don’t. Mark Healey, Jamie Sterling – no offence, boys – but you guys manage to get yourself in the worst positions, ever. Have you ever seen Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian or Joel Parkinson in an awkward wipeout? Nor have I. Some people fall like cats, others like mice. I started getting pounded from an early age. I can’t speak for others and I’m not saying I’m the best faller but I feel like I get myself out of situations that look a lot worse than they are. I grew up boogie-boarding the shorepound and I got used to being comfortable pulling into closeouts and getting comfortable inside the barrel. You learn about explosions and what happens in there. You learn when to hold and when to fold. What I like about the experience on a boogie-board is that it teaches you to ride the barrel. If you’re boogieboarding you’re always riding backside. You always have your shoulder to the wave because you change your arms whether you’re going left or right. You learn to use your shoulder to punch through the back (we call this the dolphin arch. I’ll be telling you all about this).
Backside tubes are so much easier than dealing with tunnels frontside (and learning the dolphin arch). It’s all about getting deep in tubes. The deeper, the better. That means you’re not making a lot of tubes. You’re going to be falling and that’s not fun. You think about your shoulder on for backhand? It’s facing the wall already. Your body is already twisted and ready to press eject. You’re already half facing the deeper ocean. I’m not saying you’re going to get out every time but all you want to do is steer clear of the lip. The lip is the enemy and causes the most pain. When you pig dog and square up, you’re leaning the way your body is bending and that’s into the wave. When you’re riding frontside, you’re in the open. It’s awkward to get out. Frontside, my chest is there, it’s different. Frontside, if you jump, everything feels open, backside you’re already half ready. You can’t bend frontside. If you try to lean your shoulder into the wave you’re gonna be sucked over the falls. Try to pull your body to the wave here and you’re kinda decapitated. Like I was saying earlier, some guys can fall off in the weirdest positions ever but they know how to penetrate the water. It’s all about this little dolphin arch when you’re backside. Backside situations are almost more positive if you stay square. You need to know when to jump. If I’m pulling into a big closeout one, I’ll pull up, let go of the rail and as soon as the lip goes over me and everyone thinks I’m just holding on, I jump. I fucken jump. I do a little sideways bend. I arch my body like a fish. Head curved to your feet laterally and not forward. If you do that bend you should be able to get enough penetration so when you get sucked over – you’re almost always gonna get sucked over – you’re not gonna be in the lip. It’s not as bad. Trust me, it doesn’t always work. And mother nature rules.
Speeding up (and riding almond tubes). We could look into three-to-four-foot tubes and then bigger tubes and what you should do. It doesn’t really matter. There are two things we’re trying to do when we’re backside tuberiding. We’re either trying to slow down to get deeper or speed up. We’re always squared up. I like to compare going fast and trying to speed up with riding almond-shaped barrels. If you’re riding almond barrels, things are tight. Here you’re trying to make yourself as streamlined as you possibly can. Your limbs are friction and you’re trying to keep everything out of the water and fit the contour of the wave. You mould to the shape of the barrel. The arm holding the rail (not the one with the squared shoulder) needs to be tucked in. It needs to steer clear of the falling lip. This is tighter to your body. If you’re deep and the wave is almondy, you can bend that elbow closer to your face and this makes you smaller. It also lifts the nose of the board over the shockwaves coming up from the inside of the tube. The smaller the tube doesn’t mean your shoulder ain’t squared up. It means your arm and your shoulder ride lower in the tube. Your shoulder and trailing arm are no longer above your head. They’re somewhere down beside the height of your lower back. You’re compact and you’re trying not to drag that arm at all. You’re crazy aerodynamic. Everything is tucked, everything is compressed and you’re taking all parts of drag out of the water. You’ll be surprised how small you can make your body. How do you get speed in tubes in any size? Get rid of the drag. Get all of your limbs from the water. Just like this here. Shuffling your front foot forward just a little helps, too. The more forward you lean and the more weight on your front foot the faster you’ll go. That front foot is an accelerator!
Slowing down. This is the good part. How do you slow down? Put whatever you can into the water. Once you work out the buoyancy of the wall and how your body reacts, you can really start getting creeeeeeepy with it. You have your thigh, your knee, your ass, your balls, your shoulders, you can drag everything. And, I’m not talking bout one ass cheek, get them both in the water. You wanna squat and get both butt cheeks in the water, that’s the secret, two legs. I think that all sucky backside takeoffs should be while grabbing your rail. You set your nose down the face and you grab that outside rail and lean into the wave. Like, really lean. It’s way easier to take a big late backside drop grabbing your rail than not. In my opinion, you standup right away and stay low with your hand on the rail, it doesn’t matter how big or steep or whatever the wave does. Even if your fins release, you can still slide down the wave before your fins catch. Remember that one wave my brother got in Tahiti? The fins fell out yet he made the drop before his fins grabbed. On all of the heaviest drops your fins come out. You need to lean into it and trust it. Your body is weird like a little ball. It’s weird, yeah? You contort yourself to the wave. To lay your ass in the water with your thigh, you need to angle your front foot kinda flat on the deck of your board. Your foot is your accelerator. Lean your foot over and you’re both taking your foot off the gas and slowing down once that drag takes place. From here, it’s all about the feeling. Lean too far and you’ll slow up too much and you’ll get overtaken. Don’t lean enough and you’ll exit the tube sooner than you thought. Remember, the wave is like a wall. You can lean on it. Drag everything till your balls hurt.
Riding bluetooth (hands-free). The main reason you should ride no hands is so you can pump in the tube. It’s very hard to pump in the tube, to negotiate shockies and bumps and gather speed when you’re grabbing rail. You ever see that wave I caught at Cloudbreak? This is the prime example of why you need to pump. I was riding a 10-foot board and I couldn’t do anything but set my line and hold that line for as long as I possibly could. Also, I didn’t let go because I was scared shitless. Thing is, if I wasn’t on the board I would never have caught that wave. That’s why I try to ride smaller boards when I’m in backside barrels. I like the control. How about that? You got a lil fever for backside toob riding now? As for me, I ain’t never touching that blindfold… again! Y’shoulda seen how changed up I got chasing the cover of this freakin’ magazine! Damn you Stab! Love, Uncle Bruce