Jettygirl School of Sick Tricks: Fin First Takeoffs with Jennifer Smith
(2009) It’s time for a new edition of JettyGirl’s School of Sick Tricks and who better to provide a lesson than 2007 ASP Women’s World Longboard Champion, Jennifer Smith. It’s no surprise why Jen has achieved so much in her surfing career. Not only is she driven, but she is a masterful technician. Look at any sequence of Jen and examine how her head, shoulders and arms never move from a balanced position. In this “Sick Tricks” segment, Jen shares the secrets of the fin-first takeoff. Enjoy! Check the video too! –Chris Grant
Fin-first takeoffs are one of my favorite “tricks” to do on a longboard. It’s the ideal move to try on a crummy day when you need a little something to stoke you out and/or just want to challenge yourself. At first this trick may seem impossible. You may be sent flying a few (or few hundred) times before you stick it. Once this maneuver is in your bag of tricks though, it will be there forever. When you are learning this move it’s best to try it on smaller, less steep faces.
The first step is getting into the wave. You want to have your fins in front, slightly out of the water …so scoot back just a bit while paddling. Once you have caught the wave and are riding with your fins out in front, you need to lean slightly in the direction you want the board to spin. As soon as the water catches the fins the board will automatically start to turn under you. I usually get pretty low and sometimes drag my hand for extra control.
When you feel the board start to spin you are basically just guiding it with your feet and body. I use my back leg to push the nose end around under me. It is a similar motion to a pop shuv-it on a skateboard. Letting the board spin under you until the nose end is facing forward, you want to adjust your stance midway through and “catch” the board with your feet. There will be a split second where only one foot is touching your board. Sometimes you come off completely as the board swings under you. As you adjust your stance and are getting ready to stick this maneuver, think about finishing with a stance you can ride away in. I usually set my front foot first then make sure my back foot plants itself far enough back to be stable and in control.
At first the main goal is to get the board around under your feet and ride away any way possible. Once you can pull the fin-first take off you can start thinking about coming out of it and riding down the line. When you are in this stage you basically just have to catch your board under your feet and set your line before the wave passes you by.
One more tip for this sick trick …the best way to be in control of this move is to keep your body positioned above your board and fully commit to pulling the maneuver. Don’t lean too far back and don’t hesitate. if anything, lean forward so your momentum will be moving forward.
Need more Jen Smith info? Check out her interview on Liquid Salt.