Trimming your board

Trimming your board – a vital and very underrated skill.

Words: Scott Warren. Pics: P3T Photography

Trimming your board is a vital skill set to maximise your stability and control in various conditions. By correctly trimming your board, you can gain speed, keep the board from tipping over, catch waves easier and even turn corners quicker. 

All too often, the skill of trimming your board is not taught beyond the basics of foot steering to beginners, but there are techniques you can do with your paddle as well. It’s only when you get to more focused and specialised coaching that you see Trimming skills being taught, leaving the recreational paddler to carry on fighting for balance and control in anything but flat calm conditions. Welcome to the school of less is more.

What is trimming?
Trimming your board can be defined as controlling your board to best react to your paddling conditions. There are three ways you can Trim your board by moving forwards and backwards, side to side pressure, and using the paddle. If we extend that, the ways or skills of trimming your board are almost endless and will become second nature with practice and time.

A practical example
One of the best examples of someone trimming their board is watching a good SUP Surfer. They will be trimming their board almost constantly as they manage the conditions and the waves they ride. If we follow a surfer along their ride right from catching the wave to when they finish, it will show us just how many times they trim their board.

Catching a wave
As the surfer gets into position, they will control the board with their feet and paddle, which might be choppy from the previous wave or the conditions. As they begin to paddle, they might adjust their feet to keep the board stablised, and just before take-off, they will have made further adjustments, potentially even weighting the front foot to push the board into the wave.

Take off
As they pick up speed, a surfer will want to angle their take off more often than not. They are usually done with the feet placing pressure on their heels or toes to set their line, which keeps them in the right place to start manoeuvres.

The first turn
The paddle now comes into play as they lean on it or even drag it to control the board better. While this also has stability elements, the paddle is an effective tool to help control a board’s speed and angle. As they begin their first turn, the surfer will have already trimmed the board up and down the wave to set their line, and now they are set to turn as they need. 

Finishing the ride
Once all the turns are done, the paddler will try to exit cleanly, staying on the board. Again the paddle and foot pressure will help control the board with shifts in weight to help guide the board out of the wave. As the momentum stalls, the surfer will again trim the board to begin paddling back out, which may include going over broken waves. This will also need trimming skills to set the board up to climb the wave, and the surfer can continue paddling out before starting all over again.

Summing it up
As you can see, a surfer is constantly trimming the board to set their line, make turns and control the board as they catch, ride and finish their wave. Trimming, though, isn’t just limited to the extremes such as surfing, so next, we will explore other areas where trimming can help you. 

Choppy conditions
Paddling in chop, be it boat wake, wind chop, or just messy water, can be a real challenge, especially if you plough on through it and remain standing in the same place on your board. What you can do here is stand slightly further back than normal to lift the board’s nose slightly; this is especially effective with flatwater boards. This only needs to be six inches or so, and you will find a sweet spot for your board where it almost starts to skim over the bumps rather than bash into them. As the bumps get bigger, standing a little further back still or even adopting a split stance with one foot slightly further back than the other will help you trim the board as it moves up and down. 

Catching waves or bumps downwind
Once you’re comfortable in chop, catching bumps becomes a breeze. As you can see, you stand a little further back initially to stop the board’s nose catching, and this works especially well when the bumps or waves are steep. If they are flatter and you want to catch them sooner, then you can move forwards slightly using the split stance, perhaps even opening it up a little, allowing you to push the board down into the bump or wave. 

Buoy turns
If you have ever tried doing a step back turn and found them wobbly, a simple trick with trimming the board could be all you need. All too often, you’re told to adopt a full surf stance to do a step back turn where each foot is placed right down the board’s centreline. Whilst this makes moving back and forwards easy when you try to turn, your weight will typically be either on one side or the other, with the result usually being a big wobble or even a swim. Instead, just before you make your turn, place your feet slightly wider off the centreline, with your front foot being towards its heel and the back towards its toes. This way, you spread your weight to both sides of the board, allowing you to trim and control its balance.

Steering your board
Whilst you might be familiar with foot steering to help you turn your board without moving back on your board, the same techniques can be used to control your board when coming into a pontoon or avoiding objects. Using the paddle and adding pressure to one foot or the other will tilt the board to that side, making it turn that way. It’s an effective way to bring your board to a controlled stop and works a treat when doing cross-bow turns around buoys. 

How to practice your trimming techniques
The best way to learn about trimming is to head out on your board and play. Move your feet about, change what you’re doing with the paddle and see what happens. If you want to try something specific like moving on your board, practice the routine on land first so when you get out on the water, it’s already familiar. 

Another great way is to jump out on the biggest board you can find. Using an oversized board should give you loads of confidence to try new skills out, and anything you learn on this big board will translate to your regular board. 

Finally, don’t forget the power of vision. If you spend time watching good paddlers across various disciplines, you will see similar techniques in use. If you’re watching videos online, try muting the audio and focus on all the small details, where the paddler is placing their feet, what the paddle is doing, what’s their body position and so on. An even bigger insight can be gained by watching videos beck in slow motion of yourself and good paddlers doing similar skills.

Trimming your board – a vital and very underrated skill.

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