July 4, 2022
teahupoo wave

How to learn backside riding on Teahupoo tides

Today we are taking apart a board with a very simple design, but that does not mean that it is bad. It works very well in medium to heavy conditions.

You can ride it using only 3 or all 5 fins. You can also choose a specific type of tail section: round or square.

The equipment performs best in medium difficulty conditions, but it also copes well with the height of the tides overhead.

For surfers, surfing is a very entertaining sport because we know how much work it takes to do a particular trick. When a person who is not familiar with the ocean watches the competition, he can shrug his shoulders and say: “somehow boring.”

But only until he sees Teahupoo, then no one’s heart can stay in place and not go to heels.

Why? Because it is one of the most powerful tides in surfing. And today we will tell you what makes it unique.

Teahupoc, Tahiti,

In fact, the Teahupoo tide, or Chupu, as surfers affectionately call it, is not that big.

While world records are set on Nazar and the score goes to more than three dozen meters, Teahupoo does not give tides higher than 10 meters even in the most serious swing.

And nevertheless, to look at it is even worse, it seems that it is not a tide, but the whole ocean heaves its chest and falls into shallow water. However, it does not seem that it is so.

Let’s remember how tides are formed in general.

The energy of the swell moves towards the coast and bumping into shallow water raises the water upward, forming a hillock, which, in turn, grows as the bottom approaches, reaches a critical size and collapses.

If the depth difference is smooth, then the sea turns out to be flat, and if it is sharp, then the sea is sharp and can trumpet.

The difference in depths on Teahupoo is huge. Approaching the island, the swell rests against an almost vertical wall of the reef, so the water has no choice but to rise sharply upward and spit out the excess mass forward.

Chupu always trumpets, and sometimes the trumpet is twice the height of a human being.

Its linden is extremely thick, in fact, the sea simply does not have a back wall, and a whole ton of water falls on a super-shallow reef, which makes Teahupoo very dangerous.


Actually, the fact that the reef in front of the sea is almost bare (a meter depth, this is, for a minute, waist-high to a man!) Is another unique feature of the sea, formed due to a coincidence of circumstances.

The island of Tahiti, like Hawaii and Bali, is of volcanic origin, but by chance the landscape here turned out to be such that several rivers carrying rainwater from the tops of volcanoes flow into the same place.

The satellite image shows that it was in the place in the reef that a deep channel was formed.

The fact is that corals need a certain level of salinity for their growth, and in the common mouth of several rivers at once the water turned out to be too “diluted”.

Normally, all spots have a channel through which part of the water goes back to the ocean, but some is still sucked back under the collapse zone.

The channel at Chupu is so deep and powerful that all the water goes through it, leaving a zone of collapse with a minimum depth.

Moreover, water from the canal is also sucked into the newly formed sea, making it even thicker.

Bodyboarders were the first to ride the Tiahupa in 1986, and in the early 90s they were joined by some of the most fearless surfers.

The world community found out about Chupu only in 1999, when the stage of the Billabong Pro Tahiti World Tour began there, and to this day is considered the most dangerous in the competition.

Some athletes are seriously injured, but think, they have no way out, if you want to compete for the title of champion – go, put your life in danger. Although such incidents did not happen at the competitions themselves, 5 surfers have died on Tiahupu since 2000.

Keala Kennelly, the first woman to be driven to Chupu from a jet, cleaned her face on the reef so that she had terrible scars for life.

This, however, only spurred her to take revenge, two years ago she tried again, but fell again, this time, however, escaping with cuts on her arms and legs.

A year ago she came for surfing in Java and my friend was filming her photographer, he asked her how long Chupu keeps under water, to which Keala replied: “I don’t know how long, but two more [tides] pass over you.”

Keala Kennelly
Keala Kennelly

Interestingly, in recent years, Tiahupu has unwittingly become a gaming arena for the eccentric antics of outrageous surfers. It is always not enough for a person, there is always someone who wants to make it “even cooler”.

So, Jamie O’Brien took a ride in Chupu’s pipe in a diving suit set on fire. She was kite-ridden, and DC sponsored the assembly of a motocross jet ski bike that Robbie Madison rode on the tide.

One gets the impression that people have forgotten how to respect the elements, but we must not forget that the ocean only allows us to play with ourselves, but one day it may change our mind.

So if tides like Tiahupu thrill you – it should be so, let’s tremble and be amazed at what nature is a wonderful engineer!

Backside in surfing, if you didn’t know, is moving along the tide with your back to it. Left for regulars and right for goofies.

Backside surfing can feel a little more (or more!) Uncomfortable compared to frontside. And that’s why backside surfing is the Achilles heel of so many beginner and intermediate surfers.

For most, surfing on the frontside is much easier and more interesting than surfing on the backside. Therefore, most often, if there is a choice, the intermediate-beginner surfer will ride facing the sea.

Thanks to this choice, the skill of surfing in the frontside will grow, and in the backside it will remain in place.

And at some point, the surfer will find himself in a situation where he surfs very, very well on the frontside, and, to put it mildly, will screw up on the backside.

To prevent it from happening, every surfer should take the time to learn how to backside as early as possible.

In fact, it is not as difficult as it sounds! Many advanced surfers like to ride in the backside, because it is more interesting to make turns in this position, because the backside allows you to make real vertical maneuvers!

Here are the pros of being able to surf backside:

  • surfing twice as many seas;
  • surfing where other surfers do not ride;
  • the ability not to break off when friends from another counter go to the front-side spot for them, and the backside for you;
  • the ability to make maneuvers that cannot be done in the frontside;
  • the choice of spots becomes much wider with such surfing ability;
  • your surfing will become cooler!

Tips for backside surfing

Start at an angle to the sea

backhand surfing

This is one of the most important tips for surfing to help you unlock backside.

Thanks to the start on the sea at an angle, you will spend less time on the first turn, and, accordingly, you will be able to go faster onto the sea wall.

And if the wave is very sharp, then you can immediately start almost parallel to the sea and go along it without turning.

At first, you can do without the bottom of the turn at all in order to get used to feeling more comfortable with your back to the sea.

Watch the sea

backside tailslide in surfing

It is imperative to look along the wave, precisely at the wave wall itself, at the place where you want to come. By turning the head and looking, we control where the board goes.

If you look down at the start, you will arrive there, thereby finding yourself in the foam and losing the wave. So, already during the teikoff, look along the sea and do it throughout the entire journey.

Straight legs are the enemy of all beginner and intermediate surfers. Especially backside.

Often, due to the lack of compression, in the backside there are strong losses of speed and, as a result, seas.

Therefore, already at the start, as soon as you got to your feet, stay closer to the board. Just do it not bending at the lower back, but bending your knees.

In this case, it is very important that the back knee bends inward towards the board, and the weight is transferred closer to the front leg. This will give you the opportunity to gain more speed.

If the wave is sharp, and the start is vigorous, you can grab the front rail with your back hand (this is called a grab), sitting as much as possible on your front leg, so that your back knee is between your back hand and your body.

It will give you stability and more balance to your surfing.

Look at the pro-surfers of the regulars who start into the pipe on the Pipeline sea – they start with a grab, this is what prevents them from falling during a fierce late drop.

Many people don’t like backside surfing because they ride completely with their backs to the wave and have to look over their shoulder at the wave, which is damn inconvenient.

To expand your view, you need to turn your shoulders in the direction where you want to go – along the sea. The following tip will help you with this – turn your back foot in the direction of the board movement, up to 45 degrees in relation to the stringer.

This will make it easier to unfold the hips, and with them the shoulders and head.

Shift your weight to your heels while surfing


Immediately after the takeoff, place your weight on your heels. This will immerse the inside rail in the wave wall and allow the board to quickly turn in the direction of movement along the wave.

Make a little pump

backside surfing technique

The key point that will allow you to gain more speed in the base side and skip even very fast sections: immediately after the start, make a small pump to get on the wave as high as possible.

The higher you are, the greater the speed. Your task is to stay in the upper third of the wave – this is where the maximum energy is (provided that the wave is quite fast and powerful).

The more you practice surfing, the more familiar this movement will become, and will open up the opportunity for you to pump further along the wave, gaining speed.

Point your front hand where you want to go

front hand

The front hand, like the direction of your gaze, is your steering wheel.

Direct this hand along the wave and you will go where you want yourself, and not where the board leads you.

Watch the section

Backside Snap

Once you’ve picked up the initial speed, watch the section of the wave to figure out what to do next – keep picking up speed to get past the fast section, or get out on the bottom turn for further wall maneuver.

Rearrange your legs

backside surfer

If the section allows you to turn, then remember that the position of your feet is extremely important for successful maneuvers.

So, in order to pick up speed, your feet should be moved a little closer to the nose, but if you are going to make a turn, you should move a little back on the board, while your back foot should stand in the space above the fins.

This will make the board much more agile.

One last tip

 backside wavekiter

To help you get out of the bottom of the turn in the backside for further wall / linden maneuver, use the following advice: Instead of bringing your front hand down on the bottom of the turn, instead, raise your front hand and your front shoulder up.

This will allow you to swing your body toward the wave for a sharper turn with less effort, allowing you to better see the wave and the correct section to turn.

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