Have you ever watched a paddleboarder turn their board with ease and style? Chances are, they were using one of two advanced SUP turns: the crossbow or the pivot. In this fourth instalment of our Intermediate SUP Lessons series, we’ll be showing you how to perform these impressive turns. Get ready to feel like a real SUPerhero! 

Before we start, let’s make sure that you have your basic turns in the bag. We covered the forward and reverse sweeps in Paddleboard Lesson for Beginners – Part 3 – SUP Turns. If you are unsure, it’s a good idea to go back and revise them. The sweeps will serve as the foundation for the crossbow and pivot turns.

Intermediate Paddleboard Lessons – List of Posts

Woman walks into the water while carrying her Thurso Surf paddleboard

Robin is leashed up and ready to show off her SUP turns

Crossbow Turn

Let’s begin with the crossbow turn. This turn is the best of both worlds! It combines the efficiency of the reverse sweep with the forward motion of the forward sweep. This is a great turn to use when you want to change the direction of the board and keep moving forward, without switching hands. It is called the crossbow because you are bringing your paddle around the bow (front or nose) of your board.

The crossbow looks complicated at first, but once you’ve got it down, it becomes second nature. Here, certified SUP instructor Robin demonstrates the five steps of the crossbow turn

How to Perform a SUP Crossbow Turn in Five Steps

Step 1: From a forward paddling position, bring your top hand down so your paddle is now horizontal across your body

Woman performs a SUP crossbow turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 2: Bend your knees to get lower and rotate your upper body so your blade swings around to the opposite side.

Woman performs a SUP crossbow turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 3: Submerge your blade in the water. Think of your board as a clock pointing to 12. If you’ve rotated to the right side, submerge your blade around 2, If you’re on the left, submerge your blade around 10.

Woman performs a SUP crossbow turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 4: Keeping your blade in the water, bring it towards the nose of your board and then hop your blade over the nose.

Woman performs a SUP crossbow turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 5: Perform a full forward sweep, nose to tail.

Woman performs a SUP crossbow turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

One important note about hand placement: People often get confused about where to place their hands with the crossbow turn. The position of your hands does not change at all. Keep your hands where they are, from beginning to end. 

And that’s how to perform a crossbow turn in five simple steps! When you are first trying it out, take your time to execute each step slowly. Once you get used to the steps, speed it up a bit. In no time, you’ll find yourself doing this turn intuitively.

Pivot Turn

The pivot turn, also known as the step back turn, is the quickest and most impressive turn out there. You’ll see pro racers using it to go around a buoy. It is a show stopper, with the paddler standing at the back of the board, sinking the tail in the water, while the nose of the board lifts up. You can even use it to perform a 360 rotation on the spot! 

Feeling intimidated? Don’t be! It’s easier than it looks, especially if you follow our step-by-step guide below, as demonstrated by Robin. 

How to Perform a SUP Pivot Turn in Three Steps

Step 1: Remember the surf stance from Intermediate SUP Lesson 3? Let’s use that. Rotate your front foot inward, towards the carry handle. Then take one or two side steps until your leashed foot is at the end of your deck pad. 

Woman performs a SUP pivot turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 2: Use the weight of your back foot to sink the tail while leaning forward with your upper body to keep from falling backwards.

Woman performs a SUP pivot turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Step 3: Use a forward sweep to rotate your board. Want to turn in the opposite direction? Switch your hand position to do a forward sweep on the other side.

Woman performs a SUP pivot turn on a Thurso Surf paddleboard

Yes, it is that easy to do a pivot turn! The steps are not complicated; the challenge is maintaining your balance and having the confidence to just go for it. Bracing will help you maintain your balance. 

Feeling intimidated? Then take it in baby steps. Start by taking only one step back, and then doing the forward sweep. Or just focus on side-stepping to the back of your board. Taking it nice and slow will help build your confidence to go for the full pivot. Here is some inspiration from our friends at SUPboarder. Definite #SUPgoals!


We hope you have lots of fun practicing the crossbow and pivot turns! They are great skills to add to your bag of tricks and will come in useful, whether you are touring, racing, surfing, or just impressing your friends. Remember; practice makes perfect! Find something to turn around (maybe a buoy or a friend) and challenge yourself go around as quickly as you can. Showing off your new SUP skills on social? Tag us #thursosurf!




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