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SUPboarder video breakdown / Leco Salazar – the vertical turn master

SUPboarder video breakdown / Leco Salazar – the vertical turn master

Brazilan Leco Salazar has one of the smoothest surfing styles in the business. Well known for his vertical and aggressive top turns when riding both frontside and backside waves, these vertical turns helped him take the 2012 Stand Up World Tour surf title. And still to this day he has one of the best back side vertical top turns in the world. 

So what makes this World Champs top turn so good and so vertical? SUPboarder is going to give you a video breakdown of Leco Salazar’s vertical top turns, identifying some of the basic components involved… 

But before we get into the technical side of the manoeuvre. What is a vertical top turn? And why are they harder to do than a normal top turn?

A vertical top turn, whether it’s on a frontside or backside wave involves the same board angles. The more vertical your board is at the top of the wave before you go into the turn, the higher scoring the turn will be to the judges and the more impressive it will look from the beach. This is because from this vertical angle at the top of the wave you then have to force the board almost 180° to complete the turn and get back down the wave. Also if you do turns like Leco when half your board is off the top of the wave before you start the turn, it gives you a very small amount of wave face to turn the board back down the wave, without falling off the back of the wave!

Leco’s backside vertical top turn. showing him at the top of the turn before he starts to redirect the board.

So how does he do it? There is no doubt that Leco is a master at this and has been banging out vertical turns for years to get it perfected. But there are a few basic things that we can learn by watching Leco, to help us get our top turns more vertical and make them more impressive for our buddies on the beach!

Set up the turn

To help you get to the top of the wave with the board as vertical as possible it’s important you set up the turn properly first. By doing a good deep bottom turn, away from and almost out in front of the wave it will allow you to have more time and space to get the board more vertical as it comes back up the wave. If you do a shallower bottom turn halfway up the wave you will have to carry out a tighter bottom turn making it harder to get the board vertical by the time you are at the top of the wave.
Tip: Give yourself as much space as possible before you go into the bottom turn before the top turn.

Back foot is key
Setting up for the top turn. Leco may even place his foot even farther back again for the final whip on the top turn.

To be able to carve the board up to the very top of the wave and whip it around 180°, you must have your foot at the very back of the board, over the centre line. A vertical top turn is a full on turning manoeuvre that requires full commitment to the tail of the board to achieve maximum pivot from the board and fins. Placing your back foot anywhere other than here will slow the whip part of the turn down and make it impossible to get the board back around and down the wave face.
Tip: Get a tail kick pad and push your back foot right up against it.

Leco’s paddle push

You can tell when Leco is going for a full on backside vertical top turn because he surfs with his paddle out away from the wave face. Doing this allows him to put the paddle in near to the top of the turn and to force the board further up the face with a little paddle push. Holding the paddle on the other side he’s unable to do this. You can see this really clearly on the video at 2:20 on a small backside wave.
Tip: Try out the backside top turn with the paddle on both sides.

 Commitment at the top
You can tell by Leco’s face that this wave is about to be ripped apart. Fully committed!

To finish off the turn you have to commit yourself 100% to it. Forcing the board around using all parts of your body, from your head to your toes, will help the rotation part of the turn. Your back foot will be doing most of the work to bring the board back around and down the wave. But your front foot will be controlling the board by bending at the knee. The further up the wave you put the board at the start of the turn, the hard and faster you are going to have to push the board back around. It’s got to happen quickly too! Check out the SB ‘How to Videos’ for more turning tips.
Tip: Get aggressive aaahhhh… and go for it!

From the set up, to the full on commitment at the top of the vertical turn, the vertical top turn is one sick looking and feeling manouever. Even if you don’t look like Leco at first when you try it, these basic movements and tips will definitely help all your turns improve, and after some practice you will soon be climbing over the lip and forcing spray off the back. This is a manoeuvre that is going to be easier to do on a smaller board, but it’s not impossible to do on a big board too. Have fun and go for it!

Video and stills : Sebastian Rojas

Visit Leco Salazar’s website here : www.lecosalazar.com.br

Feature image from lecosalazar.com

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