SUP Skills | How to Pivot Turn

Photo by Aaron Black Schmidt
Kai Lenny knows a thing or two about pivot turns. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

To take your paddling to the next level, mastering the pivot turn is a must. Whether whipping your board around to catch a juicy peak, executing a tight buoy turn during a race, or showing off to a few friends, pivot turns are the answer.

The maneuver is performed by stepping back on the tail of the board to lift the nose clear of the water, which makes it easier to rotate. Not only will you be able to turn on a dime, but mastering the pivot turn also increases balance.

Of course, not all boards are made the same. SUP shortboards with ample rocker pivot easily, while a raceboard or longboard with minimal rocker requires a bit more effort. Regardless of your ride, these six steps will help get you pointed in the right direction.

Keeping your knees bent and a low center of gravity is key for pivot turning. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Practice in Deeper Water

You’ll want to practice in at least four feet of water so the fins don’t hit the bottom. Stand in the middle of your board in a parallel paddling stance. Step one foot back into a surf stance toward the tail and watch how the nose rises out of the water. If you’re new to paddling, walking on the board may be difficult, so practice with small steps until you can move up and down the deck more comfortably.

Start Slow

You don’t have to go all the way back; even one step back is enough to try the turn. When turning, you’ll generally rotate toward your back side. To go left, place the blade on your right side with your left foot forward and use small, sweeping strokes to turn the board.

If you feel tippy, take a brace stroke by slapping the paddle face on the water with your extended arm. Remember, paddling increases stability by anchoring you to the board—when in doubt, paddle forward. It also helps to bend your knees, which lowers your center of gravity.

Complete the Turn

Next, you will move a few steps farther back and settle into an offset surf stance, meaning one foot is on either side of the stringer–the center line of the board. As the board’s nose begins to rise further out of the water, bend your knees more and lean forward toward the board to increase your balance. Take a few more strokes on your front or “toe” side and notice how much easier the board turns.

Get Back to the Center

The trick to pivot turns is being able to return to a parallel paddling stance in the middle of the board without falling. Once the turn is complete, paddle forward and step back towards the center. The forward stroke should help maintain your momentum and in turn, create greater stability to finish your maneuver.

Pivot Turns for Surfing and Racing

To use the pivot turn effectively in surf, practice in rough water. If you find yourself having trouble, bend your knees more and keep paddling so you don’t stall and lose your balance. Pivoting will allow you to quickly turn the board on the crest of a wave, which will set you up for a fun drop and long ride down the face.

During a technical race such as #PPG2018, pivot turning around buoys is essential. To avoid losing speed when rounding a buoy, maintain forward momentum by paddling aggressively through your turn. Complete the turn by taking a quick step back to the center of the board and then a few hard strokes leaving the buoy.

Wear a Leash

Start practicing the pivot turn on both sides and wear your leash when learning. If you fall off the tail, the board will shoot forward and out of your reach. This could endanger both yourself or others around you. Plus, paddlers should always wear a leash and PFD to ensure their safety on the water.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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