Snowboard Tricks: The Concepts of Rotation and Counter-Rotation

Are you fairly new to freestyle? Perhaps you’re just starting out with your first ollies and straight airs, or maybe you can spin 180s, 360s and ride a few rails? If the above description fits you, or you’re close to it, the following is definitely worth reading.

Start thinking about the concepts of rotation and counter-rotation

The concept of counter-rotation had never occurred to me until recently, so I’m guessing the same is true for others in a similar position.

So what is it?

Let’s start with rotation – which is a concept that most people are probably familiar with, even if you haven’t broken it down in this way. Let’s use the example of spinning a frontside 180 or frontside 360. Perhaps you’re trying this on the flat, or from a small side hit. You’ll wind up your arms, ready to rotate in the direction of the spin as you jump or pop. As you progress through the spin, your lower and upper body are rotating together, in the same direction. This, is regular rotation, or just rotation.

Counter-rotation is simply the opposite. You start with your arms in a position to rotate in the opposite direction to your lower body/board. As you progress through the spin your arms move counter to your board, hence counter-rotation.

Why is counter-rotation is so important?

When you spin off of the snow you’re taking off from an edge. It might be a slight edge, but it’s there. The reason it’s there is that you need something to push off, and being on that edge lets you push away from the ground. That’s why rotation is probably the the method that freestyle beginners dabble in first – the upper body can be used to help lead the spin.

But what if you can’t use an edge? Say you’re on a box or a rail and you want to 180 out. Or perhaps you want to spice up an air and start with a shifty before spinning the other way? Have you ever seen those shredders who jump, tap something like a pole, and then spin the opposite direction? I have, and I’ve never been able to do it!

This is where counter-rotation comes in. Having your arms and upper body positioned to move in the opposite direction gives your lower body something to push against, or resist against.

For example, let’s say you’ve 50-50’d a box, there’s a nice drop off at the end and you’d like to backside 180 out. Use counter-rotation. Position your arms toward the back of your board, like you would if you were winding up for a frontside spin. But instead, as you drop off the box you can spin against the coil you’ve created in your mid-section, your arms rotate frontside and your legs rotate backside. You can do the 180, in the air, without needing to push off the box (which won’t work).

What to do next

  1. As I said above, I strongly recommend the SnowboardAddiction tuition videos. Check them out, they show these concepts in a crystal-clear way
  2. Learn it for yourself, now. Stand up in a snowboarding position and try some 180s. Do frontside and backside, and do them with both rotation and counter-rotation. You really can get a feel for it jumping around in your living room
  3. Practice. As soon as I became aware of this I was eager to try it out. The first thing I tried was a backside 180 off a tiny jump using counter-rotation. It was awesome. I went on to try a shifty leading into the backside 180 – but couldn’t get it. Yet. Like I said, practice 🙂

I’m not suggesting you do all your spins using counter-rotation. What I do think is essential for the freestyler is to understand the difference between the two and know which technique you should apply to a given situation. Counter-rotation will help you with your rail & box riding, with more advanced spin combinations, and will add to your repertoire when it comes to styling out airs.


  • Reply October 21, 2010


    Yeah i went through the exact same thing, on a box i could front and back boardslide ok and thats just about it, i didnt get how to move on a box or rail i would just freeze up and ride it out straight, anyway i bought the SA vid and watched it maybe 10 times over, built a balance bar and practiced for about three weeks, for maybe 5-10 mins a night, cant do much more as its knackerin.

    1 – i could feel my balance getting better everytime i practised

    2- i really got it in my head about rotation/counter rotation and the movements that go with it.

    i went to my local dome for a day course clinic on the rails and boxes and absolutely killed it, it took a little tweaking at first but wow!!

    I totally agree with all the above, if you are trying to progress your freestyle buy this tutorial, now i just cant wait to try it out in jan when i hit the real park.

  • Reply October 21, 2010


    Hey Welchy,

    man, that’s awesome that you got so much from the SA course, and the rotation/counter-rotation stuff too. I’m keen as mustard to get my leg fit again, and then get back to Cas to work on some more stuff.

    It seems like quite a few people have tried practising with a balance rail, I’m a firm believer of it too.

    Thanks for commenting, and good luck with your shredding,

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