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How to Kickflip a Surfboard

Kickflips are generally reserved for the concrete jungle and four wheels, but as we know, surfing and skateboarding maintain quite the working relationship. Kickflipping a surfboard is not easy, but it is possible, as has been proven by a few technical surfing pioneers. Maybe we can thank Volcom for initiating their $10,000 kickflip contest, or maybe we should have just known that someone out there was going to claim the first surfing kickflip, but regardless, it's been proven it can be done.

Want to know how to kickflip a surfboard? Here are a few tips.

  1. The Wave Matters

Save the kickflips for those mushy, soft, and slower days. This isn't an off the lip maneuver (well, it's not even a turn at all), and with this, you aren't looking for steep, vertical sections and hefty lips.

Waist to chest high and crumbly is the kickflip recipe.

  1. Stick to the Shoulder

Before paddling out for your kickflip practice section, know that this trick is best performed on the shoulder. Eye out your line a few feet ahead of the lip when targeting the right section. The steeper and more aggressive the wave, the further out on the shoulder you'll want to ride for this trick.

  1. The Board Matters

You need the right board when learning how to kickflip a surfboard. We suggest utilizing a board with enough volume to keep up your speed on mushy waves but small enough to respond to a technical trick. Because mushy waves are ideal, think your performance hybrid surfboard or a floaty fish. Fun Shapes are too much foam.

  1. Some Chop is Okay

A little wind and chop on the face is actually okay. A bumpy face is ideal for the initial chop hop that leads to the surfing kickflip, as this gives you a little 'ramp' to bounce off. Sure, too much wind will rip your board out right from under your feet, but a subtle breeze on the face is perfect.

  1. Get Cozy with a Chop Hop

I suggest focusing specifically on different variations of the chop hop before progressing into the kickflip. Get comfortable being able to create lift off of a flatter face, learning what body movements are required to essentially ollie your board.

Many chop hops are combined with board rotations, like small 180s or full rotations. However, when learning how to kickflip, try to practice non-rotation chop hops that look like an ollie. Bend your knees to load your energy into your lower body as you reach a bump on the shoulder or from the backwash.

Focus some extra pressure onto your back leg. When your board reaches the chop, think of this as an ollie. Take that pressure on your back foot and use it to lift your board. Push down with the back leg until it straightens.

As your board lifts out of the water, begin to release your weight from the tail of your board once your back leg is fully extended, 'jumping' your body off the wave while keeping your front foot bent.

Gently slide the side of your front foot toward the nose as your ankle bends. Keep your front leg bent here as well as you use it to horizontally even the board out over the face and lift the fins from the water. Wallah, nice ollie.

Step by Step: How to Kickflip a Surfboard

Soft waves, on the shoulder, chop hops dialed in. Now you're ready to kickflip.

  1. Generate Speed

Kickflips are done on soft sections, and you need speed to keep speed through this trick, or else you'll get totally bogged down. Generate as much speed as possible as you surf toward the shoulder section by digging deep into your pumping.

Need tips on how to generate speed on a surfboard? As always, we've got you covered.

  1. A Slight Bottom Turn

A kickflip while surfing is actually best performed while riding somewhat vertically up the face. With this, you want to initiate an ever-so-slight bottom turn.

Don't dig deep down the trough, and keep it higher up on the face. Aim for 10 O'clock as you position yourself out of the turn. You're not looking to go completely vertical, but some upwards momentum is helpful.

As you ride up the face, position your front foot slightly closer to your heelside rail, just off the stringer, as this is where you will flip the board.

  1. Initiate the Chop Hop

Just as you come out of the slight bottom turn, eye your section. Look for a piece of chop to hop off of and use any bump on the face to your advantage, as bumps act as miniature ramps.

Initiate the initial chop hop on the top ¾ of the wave.

  1. Pop The Board

As you reach the top of the wave, start to pop your board off of the piece of chop. This can also be done on a flat section, but it's definitely easier with a little bump.

Slightly compress your body, and push down with your back leg until it straightens, pulling the board horizontal with your front foot. Jump your weight off the board when the nose lifts out of the water so it may free itself from the face, now bending your back leg again as the board straightens out in the air. Keep your front leg lifted above the board, and it should remain bent up to this point.

  1. Push, Don't Flick

The key in learning how to kickflip a surfboard is to push the board down with your front foot on your heel rail. You aren't sliding your ankle/foot along the deck to flick the board as you do in skateboarding.

As soon as your board lifts out of the chop hop, and when it is positioned horizontally and evenly over the face, it's time to flip it around. Take your front foot, which should be positioned slightly closer to this heel rail, and lift it just two or three inches above the rail during your chop hop.

When lifted above the rail, now push your front leg down, hitting the rail of the surfboard with the top half of your foot, continuing this motion until the board begins to flip. In one motion, as soon as the board begins to flip and your front leg is straight, bring your front foot back over the board to position your landing. Be quick with this, and don't hit the board during its flip.

  1. Land It!

Bend your knees and absorb your impact as you place your feet evenly back onto the surfboard. Watch your board closely to time your landing as soon as it has fully flipped around. Once your feet are back on the deck, start pumping again to continue down the line and eye a possible next turn.

How To Kickflip: The Summary

Getting this down as one fluid motion is critical to your kickflip success. As you chop hop, think of it like this: Your back leg straightens first as you begin the ollie with your front leg bent. As the board lifts, you will then do the opposite, bending the back leg to stay above your board as you straighten the front leg during the flip. Finally, bend both knees to an even level as you come down on your landing.

Give it time and plenty of practice. This trick has only been done by a few people, so don't expect too much until you've spent plenty of time failing. However, whether you're attempting kickflips or mastering other surf moves, having the right gear can make a world of difference. Consider starting with beginner surfboards or soft top surfboards that provide stability and forgiveness, perfect for honing your skills. To achieve those technical tricks, the right surf fins and surfboard grip pads are essential for control and traction. Don't forget the basics - a reliable surf leash and quality surf wax can't be underestimated. With the right equipment, you'll be on your way to nailing those tricks in no time.

So, will you be the next to land it? Get out there and find out!