Maneuver that takes a surfer from the wave's shoulder—the unbroken area ahead of the curl—back to the steeper, more critical, powerful part of the wave. The cutback is one of the sport's three fundamental turns, along with the bottom turn and top turn. "It's the purest power move in the book," Australian surf journalist Nick Carroll wrote in 2000. "In the hands of a master, it becomes a slashing, elegant work of art."

The cutback as it exists today came about following the post–World War II ...