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How to Do a Surfing Re-Entry

The basic re-entry goes by many names: the reo, hitting or smacking the lip, going vertical. These all constitute the act of going from the bottom (or trough) of a wave, projecting up towards the high point of the wave, or the lip, and then redirecting back down the wave face.

After you’ve mastered the rudimentary components of surfing – dropping cleanly into a wave, executing a bottom turn, and generating speed – you’re ready to take on one of the more aggressive and exciting maneuvers in surfing.

Eyeing the Prize


As with any surfing maneuver, you’re going to need a specific type of section to execute a re-entry. Your primary concern here is speed; without enough momentum driving you forward, you’re not going to be able to pull off a re-entry in its entirety.

Once you’re presented with a section that will allow you to pick up a decent amount of speed, head down the line as fast as possible. Begin to scan the upcoming section, looking for an appropriate place to execute a re-entry. As the lip begins to take on a more vertical geometry, eye a place that looks vulnerable to attack: not too soft, but not pitching with so much force that you’ll be ejected violently towards the trough.

After you’ve eyed an ideal lip section, perform a bottom turn that will direct your board towards the lip while maintaining as much speed as possible. To start with, do your best to perform a nice, sharp bottom turn. As you get more comfortable with your turns, you can begin angling hard and going as vertical as possible.

The Turn

There’s a ton of variation with the re-entry, and many of today’s top pro surfers are continually pushing the envelope, pulling off faster, more technical re-entry tweaks than anyone ever thought possible. But the basic off-the-lip consists of a short, quick turn performed at the top of the wave.

Front Side Reo

As you come off your front-side bottom turn and head up the wave face, keep your eyes on the part of the wave you want to hit. Stay low, bend your knees, and approach the lip. Start the turn by opening up your shoulders to direct your body’s movement. Your arms should be aimed at your desired path. Place most of your weight on your back foot, and pivot around your hips to redirect the board back down the wave face.

Timing is crucial as you come out of your re-entry; even out your weight too soon and you’ll dig the nose of your board. Stay loose and absorb your descent down the wave. Come out of the turn cleanly and resume riding the wave.

Hot Tip: Fins Free

Taking a basic re-entry to its radical progression entails breaking the fins out the back of the wave. While Kelly Slater and the rest of the world's best seem to have no problem wafting their fins over the lip, in reality, it's a very difficult maneuver to pull off. First, you're going to need a ton of speed. Once you're flying down the line, execute a re-entry, but instead of simply pivot-turning, go through the lip and push hard on your back foot, driving the board's tail through the breaking wave crest.


Backside Variation

Like most backside maneuvers, the backside re-entry is decidedly more difficult than its front-side counterpart. Being able to execute the requisite backside bottom turn takes at least a few years of experience to master, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to attack the lip on your backhand. Remember, all the same keys apply: stay low, come hard off the bottom, un-weight the back foot and swivel back down the wave face.

Re-Entry Fees

The basic front-side re-entry isn’t a terribly difficult maneuver; however, it will pose a few challenges and result in some nice wipe-outs during the learning process. The most obvious difficulty you’ll come across is the timing- poor timing will cause you to either get axed by the lip or get ejected off your board out into the flats. Take the beatings in stride- it’s all part of the fun. Once you pull off a successful re-entry, you’ll get that ever-satisfying feeling of taming the chaos that is a breaking wave.

From the bottom turn approach to the snap and descent down the wave face, this surfing guide teaches you all the components of executing a successful re-entry.
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