How To Do Aerial Maneuver In Surfing

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Surfing has evolved into a dynamic and exhilarating sport where surfers continuously push the boundaries of what is possible on a wave. Aerial maneuvers, also known as airs, are gravity-defying moves that allow surfers to launch themselves above the lip of the wave, showcasing their skills and style. Performing aerial maneuvers requires a combination of technique, practice, and a deep understanding of wave dynamics. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the captivating world of aerial maneuvers in surfing, breaking down the process step-by-step. Whether you’re a beginner looking to start exploring airs or an intermediate surfer aiming to improve your technique, this article will provide you with valuable insights to master aerial maneuvers and take your surfing to new heights.


What are aerial maneuvers in surfing?

Aerial maneuvers refer to the acrobatic moves performed by surfers, allowing them to become temporarily airborne while riding a wave. These maneuvers have become increasingly popular in modern surfing due to the excitement and creativity they bring to the sport. Surfers utilize the wave’s energy and their own momentum to launch themselves above the lip of the wave and execute various tricks and rotations. Some examples of popular aerial maneuvers include the 360, the alley-oop, and the backflip. These maneuvers not only display the athleticism and skill of the surfer but also add an element of artistry and individuality to their surfing style.


How to choose the right wave for performing aerial maneuvers?

Choosing the right wave is crucial for executing successful aerial maneuvers. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a wave:

a. Wave Characteristics: Look for waves with steep sections that offer a good launch pad for aerials. Waves with a clean and open face, good shape, and adequate power are ideal for performing aerial maneuvers.

b. Wave Size: Start with smaller waves when practicing aerial maneuvers, as they are easier to control and provide a safer learning environment. As you progress, gradually move on to larger waves that offer more amplitude and airtime.

c. Wave Quality: Opt for waves with a predictable and consistent shape, as it allows you to anticipate the sections where you can perform aerials. Waves with a well-defined lip and a pronounced peak are advantageous for launching into the air.

d. Wave Power: Waves with sufficient power provide the speed necessary to generate momentum for aerial maneuvers. Look for waves with a decent amount of energy to ensure you have enough speed and height for your desired maneuver.

e. Wave Conditions: Assess the wind and tide conditions, as they can significantly affect the wave’s shape and performance. Cross-shore or offshore winds can create cleaner and more organized waves, making it easier to execute aerial maneuvers.

By understanding these wave characteristics and reading the conditions in real-time, you can position yourself correctly and increase your chances of successfully performing aerial maneuvers.


Mastering the fundamental skills for aerial maneuvers

To execute aerial maneuvers successfully, it is essential to develop and master certain fundamental skills. Here are some key skills to focus on:

a. Speed Generation: Generating speed is crucial for launching into the air. Learn to generate speed through techniques such as bottom turns, pumping, and compressing. Bottom turns involve driving down the wave face and utilizing the energy generated to propel yourself upwards.

b. Timing and Positioning: Timing and positioning are critical elements for aerial maneuvers. Understanding the wave’s rhythm, anticipating the section where you want to launch, and positioning yourself in the critical part of the wave are vital for executing successful aerials.

c. Bottom Turn Technique: A strong bottom turn is the foundation for aerial maneuvers. It allows you to gain speed, control, and power before launching into the air. Practice generating speed through a deep and powerful bottom turn to maximize your launch.

d. Compressing and Extending: Master the technique of compressing (bending your knees) and extending (springing up) to create the upward momentum required for aerial maneuvers. Proper timing and synchronization of these movements are crucial for generating maximum lift.

e. Body Positioning and Control: Learn to maintain control of your body while in the air. Position yourself over the board, keeping your center of gravity balanced. Use your arms and body to control rotation, maintain stability, and prepare for the landing.

f. Practice on Smaller Waves: Begin by practicing aerial maneuvers on smaller waves to gain confidence and refine your technique. Smaller waves offer a safer environment and allow you to focus on mastering the fundamental skills before progressing to larger, more challenging waves.

By honing these fundamental skills, you will develop a solid foundation for executing aerial maneuvers with precision and style.


Breaking down the steps of executing an aerial maneuver

Executing an aerial maneuver involves a series of steps that require coordination, timing, and confidence. Let’s break down the process:

a. Preparing for the Maneuver: Before launching into the air, choose your approach and position yourself correctly on the wave. Identify the section that offers the best launch pad and align yourself accordingly.

b. Initiating the Bottom Turn: Generate speed by executing a powerful bottom turn. As you approach the critical section of the wave, drive your board down the face, compress, and redirect your energy towards the lip.

c. Setting up for the Launch: Just before reaching the lip, start extending your body and compressing your legs to generate upward momentum. Focus on timing your movements precisely to harness the wave’s energy and maximize your launch.

d. Airborne Techniques: As you leave the lip and become airborne, focus on body positioning and control. Keep your eyes on the landing spot and adjust your body weight accordingly. Use your arms to maintain stability and control the rotation if desired.

e. Spotting the Landing: Spotting the landing is crucial for a successful aerial maneuver. As you descend, identify the landing spot and prepare to adjust your body weight to ensure a smooth touchdown. Anticipate the impact and be ready to absorb it with your legs.

f. Recovery and Follow-through: After landing, maintain control and recover your balance quickly. Continue riding the wave with style and confidence.

Remember, executing aerial maneuvers takes practice, patience, and perseverance. It is essential to break down the process into these individual steps, practice each one separately, and gradually integrate them to achieve fluidity and consistency in your maneuvers.


Common mistakes to avoid when attempting aerial maneuvers

While learning and attempting aerial maneuvers, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that can hinder your progress. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

a. Lack of Speed or Momentum: Insufficient speed can prevent you from getting enough lift for your maneuvers. Focus on generating speed through bottom turns, pumping, and compressing.

b. Incorrect Timing and Positioning: Mistiming your launch or being in the wrong position on the wave can lead to unsuccessful maneuvers. Learn to read the wave and position yourself correctly to maximize your chances of success.

c. Insufficient Compression or Extension: Proper timing and coordination between compressing and extending your body are crucial for generating upward momentum. Failing to compress or extend adequately can limit your airtime and height.

d. Over-rotation or Under-rotation: Controlling the rotation of your body during the maneuver is essential for landing successfully. Over-rotating or under-rotating can cause loss of balance and difficulty in landing smoothly.

e. Failure to Spot the Landing: Not focusing on the landing spot can lead to improper body positioning and a lack of preparedness for the impact. Always keep your eyes on the landing spot to adjust your body weight accordingly.

By being aware of these common mistakes and actively working on overcoming them, you can refine your technique and improve the consistency of your aerial maneuvers.



Aerial maneuvers in surfing embody the artistry, athleticism, and technicality of the sport. By understanding the fundamental skills, choosing the right wave, and breaking down the execution process, you can progress from basic aerials to more complex maneuvers. Avoiding common mistakes, seeking guidance, and continuously practicing will help you refine your technique and improve your consistency. Embrace innovation, creativity, and a willingness to push your limits as you develop your own style in aerial surfing. So, gear up, paddle out, and prepare to soar to new heights on your surfboard. With dedication and passion, you can master the art of aerial maneuvers and experience the exhilaration of defying gravity on the waves.

Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell

"I live and breath boardriding"

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