The maneuver is a “snap” because the turn is not a full turn but rather a quick blast that is functional in terms of planning for another maneuver down the line and visually explosive what with all the possible displaced water off the back of the wave.
Additionally, the frontside snap is great for novice surfers mainly because it doesn’t take the balance and commitment of longer rail turns like round houses or more radical moves like a tail waft or aerial.
So how do you do a frontside snap?
Take off on a wave that has a good long wall. Ride the wave with your chest facing the wall of the wave. Gather some speed by riding high, angling into the trough and then riding high again. Once you are moving along at a swift rate and the wave is still good and steep, you are ready. You can use this speed to make your snap.
Bottom turn off the trough of the wave (learn about all the parts of a wave) at about a 40 degree angle (come out of the turn too steep and you’ll go straight up into the lip of the wave or too shallow and miss the more vertical wall section that you need). Snaps are less radical than a vertical lip re-entry and thus require less vertical climb. Think of the snap as a swath of paint across a canvas or a knife slash across the face of a wave. It’s meant to be explosive but not a long carving event. You can use the snap to slow your speed and set up for another maneuver down the line or to place you in the right position for the next section.
Now you are veering from your bottom turn and up into the top half of the face of the wave. You generally complete this move close to the pocket of power since that is where the most juice resides. So you will harness all this power as you slingshot up on to the face. Always keep your eyes on the where you want your board to go. So let’s be clear, as you come off the bottom turn:
Your back leg should be slightly bent.
Your front leg should be bent more than your front…coiled with potential energy.
Your shoulders should be parallel to the face of the wave
Your eyes should be pointed square on the section you want to snap across.
Now, as you rise up the face and your board is crossing over the top half of the wave, unweight for a split second and extend your back leg to point the nose of your board downward and allow the tail of your board to pass the nose (learn about the parts of a surfboard ). Now, your weight should be focused on the center of your board and that front leg is used as a pivot point. Your back leg should be holding strong and pushing the tail around. Your eyes at this point can be focused ahead into the next section as to tell your body where you need to go (good head and eye placement are crucial to surfing well). But your shoulders should be turning the same way as your board. Only turn your shoulders as far as you want your board to turn.
You need to pay special attention to both your nose and tail as either one can dig into the water and end this maneuver and the entire wave. Try your best to stay over the top of your deck and over the center of your surfboard. If you are a beginner, try this maneuver on a smaller and less steep section and don’t put too much pressure on your back foot as you may break your fins loose from the wave. The more pressure you put on your back foot, the least likely you will lose traction. Here is the way you need to think in terms of balance and pressure as you complete this maneuver:
More pressure on the toe side as you set up
Pressure on your front foot as you climb into the maneuver.
Pressure on your back foot as you complete the snap.
Return pressure onto both feet and over the midpoint of your board as you glide into your next move.