A fully rotated backflip can be a fun view and usually requires a specific type of wave section.
Drawing down the line from the start you are going to want to identify that the wave section is right for a backflip (from this point on I’m calling the maneuver a “backflip” for short). You want to know it is the right section early on because this will give you enough time to line yourself up, time it right, and anticipate the lip section to execute correctly.
Timing is crucial, with experience you’ll get a feel for the right timing. When you’re starting to go down the face and bottom turn towards the section, look down the line and pay attention to line up right to hit the lip at the perfect time.
The Section - The two most common sections for a backflip are the following. In both sections, you rarely land back into the wave that you launch from (but you’re amped if you do!) and the section of the wave that you hit is going to be smaller than the section you’re taking off and gathering speed from. It is a lot more difficult to do a backflip on a section that is bigger and higher than the part of the wave your coming from.
That is because a backflip needs a lot of speed and more importantly, projection upward. You can get away with hitting a section that is equal to or bigger that the section that you’re coming from with a move like a roll, invert, ARS, backflip etc. because once you’ve begun the move you can complete the rotation in a downward manner A.K.A once you get up to the lip you can complete the move falling downward.
Type A Side Wave
A side wave (hyperlink) is a perfect type of wave to start doing your backflips. It is an extreme example of a wave that you are coming from a bigger section into a smaller section. You are able to generate a lot of speed and approach a section to hit the lip that you can project upwards and have a clean landing area. A side wave is formed from a wedge.
Type B Regular Wave
You are still coming from a higher part of the wave and airing off the smaller section on a regular wave, just not as drastic as a side wave.
The trick to drawing a good line into the lip is to look down the line at the lip and know if you need to stall at the top of the wave or speed down the face. This depends on the lip section. If the lip is just starting to form up and it needs time, stall at the top of the wave to let the lip get to a steep enough angle to launch up and out.
Conversely, if the lip is about to reach a vertical (90 degree) angle you want to rush down the face and get to the lip as soon as possible. In either case, when you are riding down the face of the wave to the lip, to maximize speed, keep your board as flat as possible and move up/ lean forward on your board as you bottom turn and ride (when not trimming).
The usual process as you draw down the line is to trim once you get on the wave as you assess the lip and then flatten your board on the surface and lean forward to max speed towards the lip.
Hitting The Lip
Now you are approaching the lip and you have identified that section is smaller enough to generate enough speed to launch straight up and rotate a backflip.
The perfect time (A) to hit the lip for a backflip is right before the lip hits a vertical angle and launch up with the lip as it hits a vertical angle. Too early (C) and you won’t leave the ground, too late (B) and you will come to a screeching halt!
A secret tip, usually for a side wave, is to hit the lip right where the whitewater and face meet. For whatever reason it gives you the needed boost and just works!
When you’re driving down the line your body is positioned all the way up on the board but when you hit the lip you’re body is going to shift. Shift your stomach back (toward the tail), this will transition you nicely into your backflip rotation.
When you’re hitting the lip your mindset needs to be in the “project through” state. You know when you punch something you’re suppose to see through the object that your punching or when your finishing a race and you see the finishing line you’re suppose to look past that as if the finishing line is 50 feet further when finishing.
Well, it’s so you fully complete the action to the best of your ability and so that you don’t focus on the ending point and stop short or half-assed. Same concept applies here. See through it and complete the move in your head before you do it.
After hitting the lip you basically want to go straight up, leading the rotation with your head. Where your head is going and your eyes are looking is where your body will follow. Basic aerodynamics to maximize your rotation is to keep your board to your stomach, arch your head back, curl legs back and cross if possible.
Once your torso is vertical (half way through the rotation) your legs will naturally hang in a half circle looking position like in the pictures above in the Type A: Sidewave section. It’s normal and looks pretty cool, the only other option is to pull your legs in and cross them. If you do this, you will be more compact and pull the move tighter. Either works.
A common failure is to start the rotation and then bail and throw your board. Hold onto your board and see it through, it’s only water!
Keep a solid flow with the rotation/ see the rotation through and, with practice, that should set you up for the landing. 95% of the time you are hitting a sidewave or non-hollow ramp and landing out the back of the wave, but see in the side note below how you can land back in the wave.
A common failure before you start sticking the landing is to do everything fine but then not fully complete the rotation and dive head first into the water. The best thing to do is keep pushing; pull the rotation harder, faster, higher, make your body more compact etc.
As a side: you see some pro bodyboarders like Jeff Hubbard or Ben Player performing a loop-like rotation air reverse where they land back in the wave. This is basically a variation of a backflip that you have learned here. It is a different lip and set-up but many of the concepts apply from here. This will be covered soon!