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Surf 101: How to Tail Slide

Learning how to tail slide will earn you some serious respect in the water. It's a flashy, progressive, and fun maneuver that adds a ton of flair to your surfing, and here we will provide you with tips and advice on how to get it done.

What is a Tail Slide?

A tail slide surfing is essentially an extension of a carve/top turn. As the surfer attacks the top of the lip, they will continue the execution of the turn until the fins free themselves from the wave, the tail of their surfboard sliding around, up to 180 degrees, as it glides down the face. The surfer will then pivot on their tail, transitioning their surfboard back in the given direction to continue the ride.

Step by Step: How to Tail Slide

A tail slide is a turn reserved for intermediate to advanced surfers. If you can consistently hit the lip and are comfortable with top turns, carves, and snaps, then this is the ideal maneuver to begin working towards next. Here's a step by step rundown on how to tail slide while surfing:

  1. Know the Section

Tail slides are aggressive maneuvers, and with this, they require a high-performance shortboard and the right wave/section. Generally, tail slides are best performed on slightly larger, steeper waves. Think at least chest high and a semi-crumbly to steep section. Mushy waves make it far more difficult to push the tail around, as the wave's power helps to propel the fins out of the face.

When riding down the line, eyeball an open section ahead of you with a soon-to-break lip, and prepare to initiate your attack. A tail slide may be performed just before the lip breaks or on a small portion of foam just after the initial break.

  1. Gain Speed

In an effort to ensure you have the power needed to fully slide the tail, you'll need plenty of speed. As the ideal section ahead begins to appear, do your best to get a few final pumps in. Before setting up your bottom turn on your final pump, trim from the top of the wave towards the bottom, placing more weight on your front foot to give your board a final speed boost.

Visit our guide, "How to Generate Speed on a Surfboard," for helpful advice on this necessary surfing skill set.

  1. A Deep, Steep Bottom Turn

Learning how to tail slide will require a solid, aggressive, and deep bottom turn to direct your board vertically towards the top of the lip with plenty of speed. As you reach the trough, really dig into that inside rail while keeping your eyes targeted on the lip. Compress your body, keeping it compact with knees bent as you begin the transition from the bottom towards the top. Angle your board at least 75 degrees (up to 90 degrees) as you come out of the trough.

For advice on a solid bottom turn, check out our guide on “How to Bottom Turn”.

  1. Initiate your Top Turn

As you ride towards the top of the wave, keep your weight on your toeside rail for a front-side tail slide and heelside rail for a back-side tail slide. Begin to transition this weight onto the opposite rail to initiate the top turn once past the halfway mark of the face.

Lean into the tail of your board as you twist your body aggressively into your turn. Direct and lead this top turn with your front shoulder, twisting your head so that your eyes are looking towards the direction of your turn while wrapping your back arm around. Do this quickly and powerfully with the intention of fully executing the turn on the top of the lip, engaging in the turn when the nose of your board reaches past the lip.

Take this standard top turn and exaggerate its movement so that you may continue this turning motion as your fins begin to briefly exit the water.

  1. Continue Your Top Turn into a Tail Slide

Upon engaging your rotation at the top of the lip, you need to continue this twisting motion further to free the fins so they may slide into your tail slide. Keep some pressure on your tail, and extend your back leg as you work towards pushing the tail around while your chest opens. Again, use your body to control this movement, and don't let your board get away from you. Go from a heavy back foot to a light one once the board has switched direction to avoid spinning into a full rotation and catching a rail.

Once you've slid around, your back leg should remain extended as your foot rests on the traction pad with your front leg centered and bent.

Once here, begin to look down the wave face to eye your transition back onto a forward direction with your surfboard.

  1. Transition Back Onto the Open Face

The completion of your turn is the keystone element in learning how to tail slide. Drop that back shoulder, so it sits above your back leg, and stay low as your fins slide freely. Your goal here is to now follow your board's nose with your front shoulder as your fins catch the water to pivot your board back around.

As you press your back foot onto the surfboard tail pad to engage your surfing fins, be ready to now twist your body back around with your surfboard. You'll feel the fins engaging at the tail of your board, and allow them and the power of the wave to spin you back around. Eye your target and move your front shoulder/head with the nose of the board, keeping your weight centered along the stringer during this pivot.

When the board has fully come around, begin pumping down the line to avoid the whitewash and to set yourself up for the following section.

How to Tail Slide: The Summary

Do know that a tail slide isn't easy, and it will take some time truly mastering this rad and stylish maneuver. Don't let yourself become frustrated at any failures, and instead, try your best to learn from your mistakes. If you have trouble bringing the board around to free the fins, be more aggressive with that back foot and your body rotation while attempting to execute this turn in one fluid motion, and make sure you initiate this turn on the top of the lip.

Furthermore, if you're accustomed to larger fins, experimenting with smaller ones, like twin fins, 3 fins, quad fins, quad trailer fins, or even five fins, could infuse your board with a looser feel, enabling you to whip it around more effortlessly.

Steeper waves will make this turn easier once you've got it down, but for the sake of practice, you can also attempt to subtly slide the fins on a softer shoulder with more of an extended carve versus an aggressive top turn.

The key is to remain above your board as soon as you rotate past the initial turn and to both lead the motion with your body while also learning to let the board do some of the work, following it back around without leaning too far into one rail.

Have fun with it, and remember to always keep the stoke alive. Reach out to us if you have any questions about a tail slide, another maneuver, or anything surfboard-related. We're always here to help.