There’s a lyric in a Queen song where Freddie Mercury sings:
One golden glance of what should be, it’s a kind of magic, one shaft of light that shows the way
Okay, Freddie wasn’t a surfer, but you could easily apply those words to the cutback. The cutback just feels really good. It’s like drive-through ayahuasca (I have never done ayahuasca but that’s what I imagine it feels like). You’re flying through the air on a moving body of water, it’s a psychedelic experience without the vomiting. I sometimes think that the surfing experience can be distilled down to a few moments. In one surf session you might get a rush of euphoria and adrenaline just 2 or 3 times. But those glimpses are enough to keep you coming back for more.
The cutback is the first real manoeuvre we teach our students. In this video I run through the 4 stages to having the best cutback on the beach. The learning process usually starts with progression drills and dryland practice. Start small and before you know it you’ll be doing 180 degree cutbacks…
Teaching the cutback sometimes starts in the whitewater. We’ll get students to do an angled take off in one direction and then they have to try to do a carving turn in the opposite direction. When they can do that frontside and backside, it’s time to move to the unbroken waves. Initially the goal in the unbroken waves is just to get students to trim along the wave face at the mid height level. The next skill is to take off and go right, but at the end of the wave do a big turn to the left. Or take off and go left, and at the end of the wave do a big turn to the right.
Students soon start to develop the confidence and ability to make the change of direction turns on the wave face. When you’re learning to cutback you have to practice on mellow, gentle breaking waves. In Santa Teresa there are some great spots for learning the cutback. Playa Carmen, particularly at the south end of the beach, Playa Hermosa, at mid to high tide, Cabuya, and Mar Azul – all these surf spots have slow breaking waves. Even if you get it wrong and eat shit at these spots it doesn’t matter because they are so mellow.
The cutback is my favorite surf manoeuvre. Without sounding too ning nang nong about it, it feels as though you are connecting with the ocean. I often worry that my body is starting to mold itself around my laptop, so I like the cutback because it makes me move myself through different shapes and dimensions. As Freddie Mercury would sing “it’s magic”.