I’ve been asked countless times how to begin cross-stepping, and here is what I have to say:
You’ll need to start with a solid takeoff. Make sure your feet are not too far apart, look down the line as you drop in, and set yourself up in the pocket of the wave, just in front of the whitewash. This is where you will begin to trim and feel the power of the wave. Stay high on the top third of the wave, and when you feel stable, take your first step.
Keep your knees bent and your body weight centered and stable. As my friend says, “Tuck the tail and push the bush,” meaning do not bend forward.
As you begin your first step, shift your body weight onto the front foot, bringing your body with you.
Begin with just one cross-step. With each step, you want to place your foot on the stringer (middle of the board). Take it slow, stay there for a moment, see if you can find stability, and then step back to your starting position.
Practice this several times, and get comfortable with your back foot crossed over your front. Work on a smooth transition from one foot to the other, playing with the shift of your body weight onto each foot.
Make sure as you step forward to keep your hips and shoulders, and head aligned on top of one another. A common mistake is to reach with your foot but leave your body behind. Or bend forward at the waist.
You must commit, stay centered with your core engaged, and believe!
As you step, your feet should be on the stringer, but you will also need to put pressure on the wave side of your rail. For example, if you are regular-footed and going right, you’ll put pressure on your toes as you cross-step. And If you're goofy going right, the pressure will be more on your heels. This will help hold the rail of the board in the wave face and keep you in a trimming position down the line.
Little by little, start taking more steps forward and equal steps back. You will feel the speed changing with your position on the board. Notice how you slow down when walking back and speed up when walking toward the middle of your board.
Remember, the board is moving, and so are you, so be patient it takes lots of practice. Falling is a part of learning.
Besides practicing in the water, you can play around on railroad tracks, a two-by-four, a balance board, your board without the fin, or any line on the ground.
Most every longboarder wants to get to the nose of the board to hang 5 or 10, but you have to start in the beginning. It's crucial to master the setup first and control the speed of your board. The goal at this point is to feel stability with every step you take and enjoy the journey.