“Chest over front knee” Where did the training concept come from?

There are a couple of truisms in surfing that are fundamental to successful surfing. “Break the ledge at take-off”, “look where you want to go”, “hold a body position longer” to draw a longer arc – are directional statements which guide a surfer towards successful outcomes. One of the most fundamental of these is assume a “Chest over front knee” body position when finishing a wave or when completing advanced manoeuvres.

The concept of “chest over front knee” as a landing body position came from a particular training session with Hawaiian pro surfer Mikaela Jones. Mikaela was around 14 at the time [25 years ago] and we were training at a beach near Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s north shore. At this particular session, there were fast down-the-line waves breaking, with a suckey finishing section.

Chest over front knee landing – backhand floater

As the session unfolded Mikaela was consistently falling on his finishes. I called him in and said you need to bend more when finishing. He paddled out and again continued to fall on his finishes. I again called him in and said – “ when you land, think about landing with your head over your knees”. He again paddled out and this time he landed but just caught the inside rail, almost making his finishes but still wiping-out.

When he came in again I said – “This time push forward to a chest over front knee body position”. When he paddled-out, Bam…..Bam….. Bam….., he finished all his waves perfectly. This small change of pushing forward on landing had instant success, and was a revelation to Mikaela and to me as a coach.

I’ve been using this phrase [and the image it conjures-up in surfer’s minds] since then with every surfer I have coached who struggles to finish their waves. Knowing where a surfer’s body needs to be at a given moment is often all it takes to better a performance. That’s the true secret to surfing better, small changes often create better surfing.

Chest over free knee landing – forehand aerial