Surf Maneuvers Series PART 7: Layback Snap
Surf Maneuver Tip 7: Layback Snap
“Dropping the wallet.” The “Larry Layback.” Layback snaps have been called a lot of things over the years, but regardless of the name you give it, this maneuver is pure aggression—with a little bit of function thrown in.
The layback snap is exactly what it sounds like—a sharp, radical snap that breaks all of the rules of technique we have discussed in this series and ends with the surfer lying on their back on the face of the wave, all speed and momentum lost. So why would anyone do it, you might ask? First of all, because there are simply times when no other maneuver will fit in the section. And secondly—and more importantly—because they are a heck of a lot of fun.
The layback snap is performed when surfing on your forehand, and hearkens back to the radical, punk-infused surfing of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Names like Matt Archibald and Christian Fletcher come to mind when you think of laybacks—but the reality is, just about every good surfer has a layback in their arsenal. Australian Mikey Wright (known affectionately as “The Mongrel”) has a vicious layback, and it served him well when he was on tour.
To learn how to do laybacks correctly, it is necessary to tap into the mongrel attitude that Mikey is known for. There’s nothing smooth or beautiful about the layback. It’s just a ton of speed, power, and aggression bottled up into one enormous turn. The best time to do a layback snap is when you are approaching a steep section that is somewhat short and abbreviated—lacking enough lip to throw the tail out, but also not allowing enough time for a drawn out bottom turn or a nice, flowing carve. As you drive down the line, you only need to do a small bottom turn to set up the maneuver (or sometimes no bottom turn at all), because the point of this maneuver is to intentionally break the board out of the water on the lateral plane. You are literally doing the one thing that all of the other maneuvers we have learned avoid—but that’s exactly why a layback can fit into such tight, tricky sections.
As you initiate the hack, lean back and drop the back arm behind you, rather than aligning it with the rail and pushing through the turn. This will cause your body to fall backwards away from the board, rather than following through with it—which is normally a disaster. But because you intend to do this, you will be prepared to lay back onto the face of the wave as your lower body does all of the work, growling through a savage, leg-burning, knee-stressing hack. You are literally putting all of your built up kinetic energy into this turn, so it will likely be one of the most powerful maneuvers you ever do—so make sure you are prepared for the torque. As the board redirects back toward the pocket, use your legs to pull it back under you, then use your core to get back up into a standing position.
One you are back over your board, you will need to start from scratch when it comes to speed, so make sure you quickly and efficiently get the nose back around and start pumping into the next section. And try to avoid the temptation to check your massive spray (even though the layback is the only maneuver where you’d actually be excused for doing so!).
A few years back, guys like John John Florence and Dave Rastovich revolutionized the layback snap by extending it into a layback carve—essentially a hybrid between a layback snap and a normal power carve. The turn is initiated the same as a normal layback snap, but instead of pushing the board out of the face once the body is laid back, the rail is kept in the water and carves back toward the pocket in a more fluid motion. Halfway through the turn, the back arm releases from the layback in the face and finds its normal position in a carve, aligned with the inside rail. As the turn progresses, the surfer’s head and shoulders suddenly change tact, adjusting from the layback position to the follow-through position that is typically used in a roundhouse cutback or a down carve. The result is a super stylish, super powerful layback carve that punctuates a ride and sets a surfer apart from the crowd.
Whether you decide to go with a standard layback snap or a more advanced layback carve, there isn’t much that feels better than the pure, unbridled power and aggression of “dropping the wallet.” That being said, it is important not to get into the habit of always doing laybacks. While an intentional, well-timed layback is an A+ maneuver, a lot of people accidentally do laybacks on all of their snaps because they have not learned the proper technique for carves and snaps (that is, leading with the head and upper body, aligning the back arm with the inside rail, pushing through the turn with the trailing hand, and following through until the carve is completed). While it’s great fun doing a layback on purpose, it’s no fun at all being the only guy in your group who can’t do a proper turn, so they just end up doing laybacks all day long and getting left behind by sections they should be flowing through.
Read The Other Part of The Surf Maneuvers Series
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 1: Taking Off on a Shortboard
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 2: Pumping Down the Line
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 3: Bottom Turn/Top Turn Combo
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 4: Floaters and Foam Climbs
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 5: Roundhouse Cutback
Surf Maneuvers Series PART 6: The Down Carve