How to Master the Cutback

by Erika Togashi May 17, 2023 3 min read

We sat down with coaching extraordinaire Jessie Carnes, aka Surf Simply Head Coach aka SEPTEMBER Ambassador to hear her thoughts and tips on developing perhaps the most useful and most used maneuver at the typical surf breaks we tend to frequent…the cutback. 

Jessie has been product testing our swimsuits since 2020 and is an accomplished high-performance surfer; winning the Women's East Coast Championship in 2008. Jessie helps to give us feedback on the mobility and performance of our swimsuits particularly when under pressure through surf maneuvers. Living on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we also gather the long-term durability data of the luxury Italian #Econyl material, to ensure resistance from day-to-day and long-term salt and UV exposure.

Woman doing a top turn on shortboard wearing a black surf bikini


Hi Jessie, thanks for letting our readers pick your brain today. So if you don’t mind, let's set the scene and give us your take on what a cutback is, and why we might use them so often…

JESSIE: So we use the cutback in both longboarding and shortboarding and the whole purpose of doing a cutback is so you can stay on the wave longer by ‘cutting back’ or redirecting the board back into the pocket and power of the wave. This leads you into surfing the rest of the wave a lot longer with more speed and more opportunity for later maneuvers.

Ok, so now we know why and when let's talk preparation and the setup of the cutback…

JESSIE: To prepare for the cutback first you want to pick a wave that is going to allow you the opportunity to cutback. What I mean by this is don't pick a close-out or fast-breaking wave. Choose a wave that's going to have more of a softer, slower shoulder on the side of the peak.

So we’ve got our wave, what's next?

JESSIE: A tip I like to give is to start high and end high. So start the cutback at the top of the wave, and as you move through the turn, aim to finish at the top of the wave also. You're trying to achieve a 180-degree direction change, and the higher you stay on the wave the more speed you will maintain through the turn.

Woman doing a cutback on shortboard wearing a black surf bikini


Is there anything you would have wanted to know when you were developing this maneuver? Any secret tips you wish you knew?

JESSIE: I’d say the biggest common error I see when I'm surf coaching is that surfers don't hold the turn all the way back to the whitewater. A big tip when you're thinking about cutting back is to make sure you're cutting all the way back towards the power source at the whitewater, and not turning before then on the open face. This will help to maintain more speed. You're going to get stuck in the whitewater a couple of times and it might feel a little frustrating but it's going to help in the long run when you finally get projected back down the line with loads of speed. 

Woman doing a cutback on shortboard wearing a black surf bikini


Thank you Jessie and before we sign off, do you have a favorite SEPTEMBER swimsuit?

My favorite SEPTEMBER swimsuit for shortboarding has to be the Grace top and Elise bottoms. They have an elastic band under the bust and the waist and they never come down or move around, especially in big surf. Plus I like that they’re simple black and not flashy and just let me surf without thinking about them.

Jessie is surfing in the Grace top and Elise bottom in the above serious of her performing a cutback. 

SEPTEMBER: Designed by women, for women.

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