How to Cross-step on a Longboard – 4 Tips From Our Surf Coach Kirsty

You only have to look at a 9-foot log and you’ll know that a longboard is a totally different surf craft to a standard shortboard. With the extra length, weight and foam, it takes a lot more than just shifting your weight between your front and back foot to move a longboard around. To make the most of the wave on a longboard, you’ll actually need to move your feet. This is where the cross-step comes in – the best way to move your weight along the board.

What is cross-stepping?

Cross-stepping is a way of travelling up and down your longboard without breaking trim or speed. It involves stepping your back leg in front of your leading leg into a cross-legged position, then bringing your new back foot (which is the foot you usually lead with) through to return to your usual open stance. 

Kirsty showing us how it’s done at Fistral Beach, Newquay with a back-side cross-step. Photo: Sarah Bunt

Why do it?

Surfing is all about generating enough speed to stay with the most powerful part of the wave. On a longboard, cross-stepping allows you to keep your weight in the optimal place on your board to stay in that critical part. It’s also how you set yourself up for noseriding (but that’s a lesson for another time!).

Sometimes you’ll also want to stall your board and slow down if you find yourself speeding too quickly to the shoulder of the wave for example. This is where you’ll need to cross-step back towards the tail of your board to then cut back into the pocket.

Not only does cross-stepping look more stylish than shuffling your feet along the board, it keeps your rail engaged with the face of the wave, allowing you to maintain trim and stay in the critical part of the wave. 

Lola Mignot taking a high line in Mexico. Photo by @_lucrecia_

When do you cross-step on a wave?

Knowing when to cross-step is just as important as knowing how to do it. This is because you need to be in the right part of the wave for the water to hold the tail of your board down, which will allow you to move your weight more towards the nose. One scenario where you will want to cross-step is when the wave is moving at a faster pace than you are, so by moving your weight forward you’ll be able to generate speed and catch up with it. Another time you might want to cross-step is as you come out of a bottom turn, you start walking along the board as it climbs up the face of the wave.

Okay, so how do you do it?

Cross-stepping can seem daunting and even impossible – you’re walking along your board as your board moves across the wave, so there’s a lot going on! But with these top tips from our surf coach Kirsty Brown (and a lot of practice!) you’ll soon be making your first steps to the nose!


1.Position your board in the pocket

“In order to cross-step to the nose of the board, your board must be positioned in the top third of the wave (the steepest part) and right in the pocket. The pocket is the section of the wave which is right in front of the breaking white water – this is where the wave is steepest and has the most power. The reason why the board has to be positioned here is because the weight of the breaking wave on the back of the board counter-balances your weight on the front of the board.  If the board is positioned further out on the shoulder (further away from the breaking white water and too far from the pocket), there will be nothing to counter balance your weight on the front of the board and you are likely to nosedive. Taking this into account, you may have to do a cut back or a faded takeoff in order to position yourself correctly before beginning to cross-step.”

Brazilian lady slider Jasmim Avelino tucked in the pocket of the wave.

2.Shift your weight from your hips first and the rest will follow

“You start with your weight over your back foot, keeping your hips and knees relaxed and loose. The next step is to shift your weight over your front foot by moving your hips and upper body forward. Now that there is no weight over your back foot, you can bring it round in front of your leading leg. At this stage there is still no weight on your back foot, so you can step back easily if you pick up too much speed or become unstable.”

To continue cross-stepping, shift your hips and upper body forward again on to your new leading foot (the foot that has just crossed over to the front). You can now bring your usual leading foot back around behind your back leg into an open stance again. You don’t need to transfer your weight onto this foot, but if there is room and you want to continue cross-stepping you can repeat the process and maybe even get to the nose!”

3.Stay loose in your knees and hips

“You should keep your knees and hips relaxed and slightly bent. If you bend down too much you will find it difficult to cross-step, and if your legs are completely straight then you will have difficulty balancing.”

4.Keep your arms low

“To begin with, you will probably find that your arms flap all over the place – this is fine! When you’re finding your balance, it’s okay to use your arms to help you. Ideally, when you begin to get the hang of cross-stepping you want minimal movement in your upper body, so keeping your arms below your shoulder line helps with this.”

Josie Prendergast gracefully stepping to the nose with her arms below her shoulder line. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.

Once you’ve nailed your cross-step, you can start to stretch those toes to the nose… In the next article of our Longboarding Series we’ll be sharing some noseriding secrets! 

Written by Lily Plume

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