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Surfing Essentials: How to Snap

Want to absolutely obliterate a crispy lip? The snap is your go-to turn needed to do so, the weapon of choice for attacking steep sections and throwing some spray out the back.

If you want to know how to snap surfing, we've got a few things to keep in mind that might just help ya along the way.

What is a Snap?

A snap is a quick and explosive off-the-lip turn following a bottom turn. As a surfer reaches the lip, at an angle of anywhere from 30-60 degrees, they will pivot on their fins and 'snap' back down the face to continue riding. Because this turn is executed quickly, it is perfect for piecing together the flow of your ride, as it keeps you locked into the pocket and doesn't require a long time on rail. Visually, it looks dang nice, and functionally, it is one of the most popular possible turns in critical wave sections.

Before Learning How to Snap.

Before you learn how to snap surfing, you need to ensure that you have the other necessary fundamentals down. A snap is an excellent turn for intermediate to professional surfers alike, but it requires a few different surfing skill sets to get it right.

First of all, you need plenty of speed and wave awareness. You want to ensure you are surfing fast enough not to get caught by the whitewash before, during, and after your turn, so you can continue the momentum of your bottom turn into the snap and back down the line.

When it comes to snaps, speed is your friend. We've outlined a few tips on how to generate speed on a surfboard, so if your pumping feels slow, focus on this before turns.

And for wave awareness, you want to know where a snap is best executed. A snap is more vertical and less on rail than other turns, such as a cutback. With this, you need a steeper wave face to perform your turn in the pocket. Too far out on the shoulder, and you'll get bogged down, unable to carry your momentum down the line.

Save cutbacks for the shoulders, and snap when the wave is steep.

Oh, and speaking of bottom turns, this is critical. You've got to know how to bottom turn before performing a snap. Keep your bottom turns less on the vertical side and more on the mellow. Again, you want to aim towards the lip at about a 30-60 degree angle.

Step By Step: How to Snap

  1. Pump and Set your Line

A snap is a great turn to burn off a little speed and hit the lip while quickly continuing down the line, but you need to gain speed before you burn speed. Make sure that you get a few pumps in as you set your line, watching the wave closely as you do so, and come off the top of the wave as you enter your bottom turn for a final push of momentum—Time your snap for steep sections off the lip.

  1. Execute a Bottom Turn

Execute a shallow bottom turn once you've noticed that a snap-worthy section is approaching. The more intense the bottom turn, the more aggressive your snap, so again, shooting for a 30-60 degree angle in comparison to the waterline is a good place to start. Go for 90 degrees, and you're looking more at a vertical lip re-entry rather than a snap.

As you begin to transition your direction on the face during your bottom turn, keep your eyes locked onto the section you plan to attack. This helps keep your board headed in this direction and lets you know whether or not the section is vertical enough to snap on successfully.

Keep your body low and compressed as you transition out of your bottom turn and towards the top section of the wave.

  1. Load your Snap

Load your snap as your board begins to transition vertically on the face. Twist your body slightly by swinging your back arm around you, like loading up for a big ol' punch. By loading this trailing arm behind, you are giving your body some torque that will propel you right through the snap and back down the line.

For a backside snap, however, you will instead load your front arm, twisting it and your shoulder towards the tail of your board.

  1. Extend your Legs and Turn

Once you reach the lip of the wave, you want to take the torque built up from loading your snap and release it during your turn.

Once at the lip, begin twisting that trailing arm back around to be in front of you. As you do so, twist your body, leading the turn with your front shoulder, and follow this direction with your eyes and head as your legs extend out through the turn. Although your legs will extend through the turn, keep the body overall low and compressed.

  1. Weight Transition

When learning how to snap, you want to work on equalizing your weight as you come out of the turn.

During the turn, you should place a little more weight on the back foot, using your tail pad to drive the fins and the back of the board in the direction of the turn. Most of the turn is driven by your body motions, but your back foot does have some control over the board's movements, so use it!

As you come out of your snap, compress your front leg low and place more weight over the front foot to regain weight equalization over the rails and keep your momentum going down the line.

  1. Continue Pumping

The best snaps are those that piece together the rest of the wave with speed, power, and flow. As soon as you come out of a snap, regain your balance over the board and immediately continue pumping down the line. When completed, don't ride your snap straight towards the beach, and keep the board angled down the line as soon as your body comes out of its twist.

Other Tips on How to Snap Successfully

That covers the broad how-to, but here are a few other tips to bring with ya to the beach when you're feeling ready to work on your snap.

  • Don't try too hard- in your beginning stages, you don't need to snap like a pro. Think small, subtle turns and low angles out of your bottom turn as you work on building the foundation of your snap. Don't try to throw buckets yet; and instead, surf with the wave and to your abilities to build proper muscle memory.
  • Don't watch your spray- a bad habit a lot of surfers build is literally watching their spray as they snap. I know it's exciting, but your head must follow the twist of your body, or else you will be completely off balance. Don't watch the spray you throw; instead, feel it, and keep that head moving with your front shoulder.
  • Don't snap too early or late- a snap that is done too early in the pocket will have you thrown off by a crashing lip. You want a vertical face, but you also want to beat the wave and snap before it breaks. Too late, and you'll find yourself on the shoulder, unable to go vertical. Snapping just as the lip curls is the perfect timing and results in the most spray.
  • Leaning back- It's common to lean your body backward as you come out of a bottom turn. Instead, really focus on keeping your body over your surfboard by compressing it low as you ride towards the lip.
  • The right waves- snaps are best for waves with a steeper face. If it's a mushy day, don't try and force a snap, and instead, focus on your other maneuvers like your cutbacks.
  • The right board- you need the right surfboard to snap well. As you begin to learn how to snap, you'll want to say goodbye to the longboards and fun shapes. Work on getting comfortable on a higher performance shortboard, and then begin working on your snap. Check out our Board Engine to find the perfect dimensions based on your body type, riding style, and average wave conditions, and work on getting used to a higher performance shape.