The Jardin d'Acclimatation ain't the place you'd expect to be delivered one of the master keys for performance surfing. It's a 150-year-old theme park in the guts of Paris, a mecca for French kids on their annual vay-cay.
And, there, a few hundred yards from the front gate, is La Chaise, a delicately painted, 50-foot high ride where kids, and adults as you'll see, hang from swings chained to a spinning wheel.
A couple of euros and I was secure in the tiny seat.The great motor started. We began to hit peak speed. Suddenly, I realised if I swung my shoulders and head I could get the swing to spin backwards. And, then, with practise, I could spin my head shoulders back around a little more and complete the move (before the tangle of chains threw me back with a jolt). But for a second there, I'd nailed a frontside reverse! The manoeuvre that'd' eluded me my entire surfing career!
It's a strange fact of surfing, and sports in general, that you become habitually accustomed to repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I interview a lot of pro's in this game, Kolohe, Jordy, John John, Josh Kerr, and they'd all say the same thing when I asked for the master key to spins – if you wanna spin, move your shoulders and throw your head.
Remember the first time you went snowboarding and the instructor had you point your hands? Where your shoulders and eyes go, your body follows. And it works.
But, in surfing, there's so many factors that come into the game before you even catch the wave that simple lessons, simple keys are forgotten.
A week later I was in Hossegor and I remembered my epiphany. But to break a lifetime habit of straight closeout re-entries I had to consciously think through the turn. Throw head! Throw shoulders! When backwards, twist head and shoulders again.
And, wouldn't y'know. A miracle. After 20-something years of surfing I sailed through my first frontside reverses. It was that…easy.
Throw your head, turn your shoulders. Master key number one!
Next month: the master key to backside tube riding with Jordy Smith.