30 Mar TSS Journal 1701/ Don’t Kook Out, Kick Out
In this day and age of modern surfing there are two distinct groups of surfers. The ones that grew up wearing a leash and the ones that didn’t. Non-leashed surfers take a much different approach to riding waves. This is what a non-leashed surfer does when they approach a new break. They first assess the size, shape and quality of waves and conditions. They look for dangers like rip tides, rocks, reef, hungry sharks, and mad locals. A non-leashed surfer needs to know where to paddle out, where to come in, and who to respect and fear. This is all because they don’t want to fall and swim to a destroyed board or a pissed off local who was hit by a run away board.
Non-leash surfing makes you try harder thus the end result is surfing better. It creates greater judgment and wave selection, more successfully completed rides, confidence, less injuries, more friends, less dings, and in the end a better time. Surfers, who have learned with a leash, have a gnawing disability of not knowing how to escape the wave cleanly. They also have never experienced the constant worry of impending board destruction waiting in the form of giant rocks or cliffs from a lost board. Leashes cause over confidence in surfers. One of the biggest setbacks from leash surfing is not mastering the art of the kick-out. Back in the day, the kick-out was a must know move for all surfers.
I have to admit I currently use a leash but I grew up before they came along. Ironically I was in the very first, surf leash advertisement in Surfing Magazine in 1972. The introduction of the leash has had the single biggest impact on surfing to date. Before leashes, learning to surf was way more complicated because every move you made had a grave impact. The kick-out is a past move that developed because you had no leash. You could not just jump off your board in some awkward manor, or bail your board because of a close out on the head. Exiting the wave had to be done with style grace and perfection. It was and still is, in my book, a dead giveaway of how good a surfer is. How clean and efficient was their pull out? When you kick-out at the end of of wave this indicates you made the wave to its final ending; demonstrating good judgement, execution, timing, maneuvering, and vision.
What I try to do is spot my exit, adjust my feet back (because I’m going up hill), use my arms to point the way out, lean back over my fins, pulling my board with my front foot up hill and my back leg is pushing down and carving towards the shoulder. Once my direction, stance, and timing are correct, I then glide out onto the shoulder throw a little extra style as I point my board directly back to the outside and simultaneously laying back down on my board in the proper place to go from gliding to laying and paddling in one smooth transition.
So why would you just jump off your board? Because you can. This is exactly the problem with the cord, you kook because you can. You don’t have to earn it. There is no bad consequence until your leash wraps around your hand or neck, or snaps leaving you with a long swim that could be potentially dangerous in big surf. I’m writing this in hopes that some people might see this need in their surfing and will take this classic move and integrate it into their everyday surfing. My point is, yes, you can wear a leash, but learn to surf like you’re not wearing one. Never take anything for granted like your leash will save you. It will hurt you just as quick as it can help you. Never jump off, get knocked off!
The back side kick-out is a very difficult move, it takes years of practice. Turning up hill with your back to the wave is 70% about keeping your front foot unweighted while your power leg or back leg helps guide the board up and over the back side of wave. Of course speed and foot placement are critical too, just not as much as the front foot, and always the arms should pull your body in the direction you want to go.
As you watch people surf you will start to see the ones who can and the ones that can’t. Where’s the kick-out? It is the essential missing move of today’s new surfers. If you want to surf better put this move on the top of your list. It is fun, functional and soulful. You should never forget that surfing’s roots lie in classic style, soul and dignity. Show surfing, your fore-fathers and yourself some respect, master the art of the kick-out.
Gerry Lopez demonstrating a very vertical back side pull-out.