Improve Your Surfing: The Perfect Carve

How to carve turn your surfboard with speed and style

There’s only a few ways to really turn a board and the carve is probably the most pure. It’s the turn that holds its speed the best and is suitable for the vast majority of wave type.

It is the opposite of a jamming snap or lip hit where there is a quick change of pace. All good ‘carvers’ have a good presence on the wave and surfers with a good one are often described as being ‘solid’.

Pete Mendia is known for having one of the finest forehand carves ever. Do you think he was born with it? Of course not – Pete has devoted many hours of water time to honing his most manly of turns.

The basics of a ‘correct technique’ carve are founded on the fundamentals of a subtle control of rotation, the accurate placement of the turn and the precise timing of pressure movements. Sounds easy huh?

The key ingredient for a good carve is speed

The key ingredient for a good carve is speed, so make sure you are setting things up with a decent amount of down the line speed. Top pros such as Parko, Jordy and Dane will actually start their carve and engage their ‘new’ rail whilst heading up the face.

This is the measure of a high quality carve and relies on having a decent enough bottom turn to send you up the face with speed. But wherever you start your carve and cross over from your toes to heels, from there on in it’s about controlling the rotation and turn radius.

Too much rotation and you’ll bring the board around too quickly and it may skid out. Too slow and you’re likely to bog over that front foot. You want to be halfway between where you would hit the lip and where you would do a full blown cutback. It depends upon wave face but as a rough guide think about turning around the radius of a beach umbrella rather than a dustbin lid.


You need to end up looking back at the whitewater behind your leading shoulder. The key though is in not looking and pulling the board around too early. Set your rotation and edge angle gently (look down into the wave trough first and then around) and then sit it out, only tightening up your turn (through more rotation / twist) if you need to at the end of the turn.

Centered stance

You are wanting as much of the board to connect with the water as possible and a balanced stance in between both feet will help with this. This will also help in controlling the pressure of the board. Pressure is controlled by your movements up and down (extension and flexion). This wants to be steady throughout the carve. Look at Pete and you’ll see an even amount of spray from start to finish. Often you’ll see guys finish the turn by either rolling back onto the toe-side rail and into a bottom turn or applying more pressure and firing out a squirty, snappy finish, giving the move its own exclamation mark. Pete could do either right here.


As you are basically pushing water off your rails through the whole of the turn it’s crucial that you have enough edge tilt. Think about lifting up those toes and flexing the ankles. You can be doing everything right but if there’s not enough edge angle it’s going to be a fat, skiddy turn. Give yourself something to hold and push off.

As with all manoeuvres the carve relies on a blend of movements, but get them right and you’re left with a very important, pure turn that not only feels amazing but looks rad too.

Five Key Points

  • You need plenty of down the line speed for your carve
  • Don’t pull your board around too quickly and too tight
  • Keep your stance balanced and central on your board
  • Lift your toes and flex your ankles, digging your rail in
  • Push off the rail edge that you are tilting into the water

Words Joel Gray Photo Chris Burkard

Joel Gray has been at the forefront of advanced performance surf coaching for a decade, working in Australia, Hawaii, Indonesia and throughout Europe. Through his Surf Solutions program his work continues to focus on intelligent input surf coaching for both the weekend warrior as well as those hoping to be Britain’s next World Tour surfer.

This article originally appeared in issue 215 of Wavelength Magazine