tofino surfing - the layback snap

Tofino surf school: The Layback Snap

by Pete Devries, Tofino


Laybacks are one of my favourite moves because they are so unpredictable.

You never know what will happen. You could kick your tail out the back and fall right away; or you could hang on with one foot and pull the best move of your life. There are a few keys, but you just have to go with the flow, and trust yourself and the wave on your recovery.

Approach the section on your forehand with speed. You can either do laybacks on steep sections or on closeouts that are bowling too much.

You want about as much speed as you would for a little frontside air. Start your bottom turn earlier than you would if you were going to hit the lip to get to the lip before it breaks. A 50 to 70 degree angle is what you want.

Stay low, focus on the section, and get ready to push your back leg out.

You want to start laybacks early so you don’t kick your fins out the back, and loose control. Half way up the wave is a good place to initiate the turn. Initialize the layback by leaning back, sticking your back arm in the water and pushing as hard as you can on your back leg. You want this to be a smooth motion. Your arm will serve as a pivot point and give you stability through the turn. Don’t just kick you tail out of the water with all the power you can because you will loose control. Push hard through the turn with your back foot to throw buckets out the back while still in control. You wo be able to see to much once your tail has kicked out and you’re laying back in the wash so you just have to go on feeling. Hold on!

Do give up at this point because sometimes miracles can happen. Even if you’re hanging on with one toe try to make it. Once your board has turned as far as possible try to pull it back towards you and under your body. If you choose the right section to do a layback on the wave will help you get back up, but having a strong core and stomach muscles will help. The longer you wait to get up the harder it will be. Getting your board close to you by pulling with your feet and bending your knees combined with using the wave against your back will get you to your feet. Ride out of the wash with style and look for the next section.

Layback snaps are a tricky move. A lot of trial and error goes into learning them, but when you finally get lucky and land one it will all be worth it. Slater and AI are the best in the game at laybacks, so watch them for inspiration. Do your sit-ups too.

  1. Start your bottom turn early to get to the section before it breaks.
  2. Start the turn by leaning back, sticking your trailing arm in the water, and pushing hard on your back leg.
  3. Hold on once your laying back in the wash.
  4. Pull your board towards you with your feet and use the wave against your back to get to your feet.
  5. Ride away clean.

Pete Devries grew up in Tofino and has been in surf competitions since he was 14.

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Tofino surfing: Tofino surfer Peter Devries exlains the Layback Snap, his favourite surf move.

tofino time june 2004

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