The modern longboard has really evolved from its ancestral counterparts from the 1950’s and 1960’s. With today’s modern foam blanks, epoxy pop-outs and lightweight glass jobs, surfing today on a longboard has attracted a huge part of the surfing population. From kids to aging baby boomers, more and more surfers are grabbing a longboard and paddling out to have some fun. Longboarding has created an avenue for anyone to get out in the water and really enjoy themselves. Even when the surf is small and uncooperative, the glide and the extra flotation provided by a longboard kicks the fun factor up a notch.
Beginning in the 1970’s, longboards began to take a back seat to the more high performance shortboards. Lighter, faster and more maneuverable, shortboarding has taken the sport of surfing to an unbelievably high level of performance. With this progressive evolution of high speed and carving turns, learning curves increased, youth began to athletically dominate, and the need for bigger and more powerful waves became a prerequisite for having fun.
But the classic longboard soon began its own renaissance of sorts and today it is the weapon of choice for millions of surfers around the world. With its emergence we have also seen many of the old tricks performed by the classic hodads of the 60’s. Cross stepping, nose riding, head stands and spinners were all favorite maneuvers and were commonly referred to as hot dogging. One really fun hot dogging maneuver was the fin first take-off and in this article, we are going to break this move down, step by step and show you how it’s done.
The fin first take-off on a longboard is particularly eye-catching to watch. With its nine plus feet of length, watching one of these floating behemoths take off backwards, fin first, and swing 180 degrees around is a pretty cool thing to see. Especially if it is done with smoothness, purpose and style.
So, in an effort to make this fairly easy to grasp, let’s break it down into three simple steps.
Catching The Wave
Even though we are taking off on this wave backwards, or tail first, we still have to paddle into the wave and catch it just as we would if we were surfing in the normal, nose first position. Swing the board around, so that the tail is now the front. That was easy enough wasn’t it?
Now you will probably notice that in order to keep the tail fin, which is now positioned in the front, from digging into the water you will need to abnormally slide yourself back closer to the nose of the board, behind you. This way, with the fin sitting high out of the water, you can paddle for the next wave without it catching the water and prematurely spinning you around too early. Be sure to employ this technique by keeping the fin dry and out of the water even as you paddle for and catch the wave.
The Fin First Take-Off
At this point, the tail of the board is in front of you and you have paddled for, caught a wave,but you have not yet jumped to your feet or taken off. As you are perched at the lip, just before the wave has begun to break, the face of the wave will be beneath you. Keep the fin high and out of the water during this split second take-off. Keeping your weight back and towards the nose will take care of this just fine.
Now that it is time to hop to your feet, you’ll need to do this switch foot. Yes that’s right… If you were a goofy foot you will need to stand up regular foot. If you are a regular foot, you will need to stand up goofy foot. By forcing yourself to jump up in a switch foot position, once the longboard swings its 180 degrees you’ll be cruising down the face in your normal, comfortable stance.
I know that some surfers insist on standing up normal and switching stance after the whip around, but to me that method is flawed. First it just looks awkward. It’s one of those after the fact moves that often times just doesn’t look that smooth.
Secondly, if you find yourself taking off in a more critical, pitching part of the wave you’ll be much better prepared to handle the drop because once your board has turned around you’re already in your natural stance.
Putting it all Together
The initial hop up in the switch stance position, for some, is a bit awkward at first, but is the preferred technique. Once you’ve done it a couple of times it will come as second nature to you and you’ll be quite comfortable with it. Another key take away for this trick is to practice planting your weight bearing foot on the nose when you first get to your feet. This really helps with keeping the fin out of the water and avoids a premature and disastrous early spin around. However, once you get to your feet with your weight towards the nose, immediately adjust your weight to your front foot which will push the tail down, causing the fin to catch and the board will spin like a tongue depressor on ball bearings.
Fin first take-offs are a lot of fun on those small mushy days when you want to mix it up a bit. Hot dogging from the old days may not be what it used to be… but there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of the old school tricks in your arsenal of maneuvers.