When it comes to learning new tricks, I don’t know if there is any more asked about or googled trick.  Let’s be honest.  It’s probably what lead you here.   That Trick is……  [cue drum roll] The Elusive 360!!!

It’s the trick we get asked about most.   New student at the school – I want to learn a 360.  Out on a friend’s boat – Can you teach me a 360.  Your Brother in-law – 360… Teach it to me.  

It’s the trick everyone seems to gauge their abilities, measure themselves against their peers or for a select few find their self-worth.  We won’t name names and we aren’t here to debate the merits and importance of the 360 or where you should place it in your learning progression.  For that, check out 8 things you should learn before the 360>.  

We are here to explain that there are a few different types, styles or methods that you can do and help you pick which one is right for you.  They both have their own benefits and please feel free to challenge yourself and learn them all but we suggest learning the easiest way for the board you are riding and your physical size.  Yes, we understand there are exceptions to any rule.  These are intended as guidelines.

1: Using the top of the wave or the rise up method. [All styles of board, Good for any size person] 

This is probably the most popular one when people figure out how to do it correctly but the one where we see the most mistakes.  It can be learned on either a surfstyle board, Hybrid or skim.  People tend to think they are doing more than what is actually going on.   It’s a weird phenome but its true.  Have you ever seen yourself get Air or jump off something?  Feels huge.   Have you reviewed the video or seen a picture?   Bit of a letdown isn’t it…  The same thing happens with the 360.  We get a lot of, “I almost made it”.  Just because you rotated 270 degrees doesn’t mean you came anywhere near landing a 360.  There are a lot of factors involved in landing it and no better one as to being in an athletic position.  If you are bent in half and complete a 360 degree rotation there is a good chance you will not recover and ride away as being bent in half isn’t the most athletic of stances outside of your countries Olympic gymnastics program.  The same goes for completing a 360 degree rotation up and over the back of the wave.   You completed the rotation but are nowhere near where you are wanting to be.  There is no physical way you can come back from it.     But we digress, back to the 360 you came here to read about.  

For this method you will use the base, wave face and a small portion of the top of the wave.   You will want to start at the base of the wave, edge slightly up the face and allow the tip of your board go over the lip.  *You don’t need a ton of speed or forward momentum.  Both of those more often than not result in a speed check and an aggressive edge up the wave.  

As the tip of your board goes over the top of the wave you are now 180 degrees around and half way there.  This is the critical step in this trick.  If you are edge too aggressively up the wave you will go over the top of the wave.  The easiest way we combat this is to have our edge turn into more of a slide. A rise up the wave if you will.  The flatter you keep your board in relation to the wave the further towards completion you will be.   This can be confusing while explaining this to people.   When they think about keeping the board flat they are only thinking about it in relation to the X axis or the axis that is parallel to the water.   This is where the confusion often lies between methods and restricts success.   If you are trying to keep your board flat on the x axis you might want to try the next method.   But for now forge on.   

We want the board to run flat in relation to the face of the wave.  This is why you should think of it more of a slide rather than a hard edge.  If you are edging your board it will do what is designed to do.  Move forward.  The problem is the direction you have your board pointed is now up the wave.  Therefore, you are edging up the wave and will eventually go over the top.   Does that seem like a familiar outcome?  Think of it more as a lipslide.  You don’t edge in the process of a lipslide and in a 360 you shouldn’t be either. 

So, let’s recap:

  • Stand at the bottom of the wave.
  • Start the slide up the face of the wave. Notice we said “SLIDE”!!  Please don’t confuse with edging.  Edging will propel you over the top.   
  • Allow the tip of your board to go over the lip of the wave.

If you get these steps down, you are 75% of the way to completing your first 360.  

Once the tip of the board crests the top of the wave bend your knees.   We aren’t talking about squatting down but rather what we refer to as having soft knees [Relaxed, slight bend].  All too often we see people initiate the trick and hold that position in all its ridged glory until the bitter end leading to failure.  It’s an athletic maneuver and if you didn’t know by now we will fill you in on a secret.   When in doubt, BEND YOUR KNEES!  If you get wobbly, BEND YOUR KNEES! If you feel out of control, BEND YOUR KNEES!  Don’t know what to order at a restaurant? Well we can’t really help you there.

At this point in the trick you will now be 180 degrees around, at the top of the wave and have your KNEES BENT.  You slid or have risin up the wave, got to the top, completed a 180 while bending your knees and it’s time to put the icing on the cake.  

While at the top of the wave, facing backwards, with your knees bent turn your head towards the boat.   That’s it.   Don’t crank your body around.  Turn your head and look where you want to go. [Where you want to go is towards the boat.  Some people find it helpful to look at the back-corner, others beside the boat where the white wash is coming off, others pick a surf side tower speaker.  Your choice, play with it.] 

Seems simple enough….    We understand it’s not as easy as it sounds.  However, if you take it slow, rotate slowly, and maintain control [bent knees] you will be landing the 360 with this method in no time.  

If you find yourself nose diving on the second half of the trick this means you are not high enough on the wave.   The most common misconception is because people nose dive and realize they are on the wave face they try to get off of it and correct to the bottom of the wave.  This doesn’t work.  Finishing the 360 in the flats or the base of the wave is reserved for the second method.      A great self-correction method is to set up exactly the same and exaggerated the slide.  When exaggerating the slide be conscious to rise to the top of the wave.  This will usually feel like you are doing the trick slower.   Remember you are trying to get higher on the wave which means you are covering more distance on the wave.  A slower initiated 360 will allow you to cover that ground and get you into the position you are looking for on the wave.  That position is near the top.

Pro tip:  Any time the front edge of the board catches and you fall forwards is a result of you being on the face of the wave.  Common sense would be to try and finish the trick lower on the wave as we usually associate the flatter part of the wave at or near the bottom of it.  Not the case with this style 360.  You will want to complete your rotation at or near the top of the wave, so you ride back down towards the boat.    If you complete the rotation in the flats you will have lost your momentum and it is extremely difficult to gain or move back towards the boat.

2: In the flats/base of the wave method. [Predominantly skim style wakesurfboards. Good for the smallest of people up to 175lbs]

This is an interesting one.  It is possible on any style of board but is way easier to learn on and more commonly associated with a skim board.   In the first method the most common mistakes are people riding too high and up and over the wave they go, or vice versa too low on the wave, catch their front edge as they are completing the rotation on the face of the wave and faceplant.    On this method we will want to stay at the base of the wave.  If you have ever snowboarded and spun around down a green run you are on the right track. It is all about slight edge changes.  Did we mention slight edge changes?

If you read Understanding the wave> you know that the base of the wave is slightly downhill from the back to the front.     We want to do this trick on the meat of the wave, so it should be performed near the back or furthest spot on the wave from the boat.   You will want to stand at the base of the wave to start your rotation and stay there throughout the trick.   

Commonly people will bend forward or break at the waist to reach down and help initiate the rotation.  This will put weight on your toe edge and you will start to rise up the wave.   If we go all the way back to elementary school…[for some of us that’s a long time] we learned what goes up must come down.  So, if you go up the wave you will come back down, and your momentum will shoot you out into the flats.  It’s extremely difficult to recover from this.  

When using your hand to initiate your rotation take extra precautions to not weight your toe edge.  You will most likely end up squatting down to enable yourself to touch the water.  *You can just change edges and not use your hands but this takes some practice and a level of comfort and skill not normally associated with attempting to learn a 360.  Think of this style with no hands at the base of the wave as an extension of this method and something to aspire too if you’re riding a skim.  

Once you initiate the trick your goal is to stay in the same spot.  Your board will need to slide.  If you take an aggressive edge up the wave you will go and you will vacate the spot you were supposed to stay in.  Some really useful exercises are while holding the rope to try a few side slides in the flats and then eventually bring those closer to the wave as you get more comfortable.  As always remember to bend your knees while doing this as it will give you some added stability.  Also, please read our safety notice on trying tricks while holding the rope.

SAFTEY NOTICE: When you are using the rope, you should always be holding the handle.  You never want to pull yourself in on the rope.  This is the quickest way to injure yourself.  Loose or coiled ropes are EXTREMLY dangerous.  If you are holding a loose or coiled rope and you fall or release the rope it can get caught on various body parts.  Hands, arms, legs, and fingers are all likely candidates for injury. Unfortunately, many people lose fingers to coiled or loose ropes every year.  It is avoidable.  Don’t be that person.   Please adjust your rope length to the spot you would like to be riding on the wave and use the handle for what it was designed for…  Holding.    

A quick recap of the base of the wave method:

  • Find your spot at the base of the wave near the back.
  • Squat down so your leading hand can touch the water.
  • Touch the water and initiate your spin.
  • Maintain your relative position. Do not climb up the wave
  • When ¾ of the way around spot the boat and put a little weight on your toes to set your edge.
  • Smile.  You just landed a 360.

We hope this helps you on your path to 360 staredom!  With a basic understanding of the 2 methods it should help sort you out and point you in the right direction for the board you are riding and your physical stature.