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The Perfect Surfing Stance

Your surfing stance affects everything you do when riding a wave. Ensuring that you are practicing the proper surfing stance and avoiding unwanted bad habits will propel your surfing both in the present and future. Here's how you get it right.

Am I Regular or Goofy?

Just as with other board sports like skateboarding and snowboarding, there are two stances:

  • Regular: Riding with your left foot forward on the board.
  • Goofy: Riding with your right foot forward on the board.

If you have no idea where you stand (literally) between these two categories, you want to determine what feels the most comfortable and natural when on a surfboard. And don't worry, there's no better or worse stance than the other- we're all equal here! Goofy foot surfing tips are the same as regular foot surfing tips.

To determine your surfing stance, you can either:

  1. Refer to Other Boardsports

If you've never surfed before, but you've spent time skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding, etc., then your stance with these board sports will carry over and remain the same.

  1. The Ol' Push Technique

Absolutely no idea what surfing stance is best for you? Give this classic trick a go.

Stand up straight with your feet just about shoulder-width apart, take a deep breath, and relax your entire body.

Next, have a friend stand behind you. When you are fully relaxed, they will give you a little push on your back. As you fall forward, you will naturally place one of your two legs out to catch yourself before the other. Generally, this leg that you use to catch yourself is your front leg when standing on a board.

Catch yourself with your right leg? Then you are probably goofy! Was it the left? Then it sounds like you're regular.

  1. Refer to your Strongest Foot

When initiating turns on the wave, a majority of the power comes from the back foot. Because of this, surfers generally ride with their strongest foot on the tail of the board. This means that whichever leg you feel is your dominant leg is most likely your back foot when surfing.

Try kicking a soccer ball or punting a football to determine this dominant leg. The foot that you instinctively use as your power foot will go on the back of the surfboard. Kick with your left? You're goofy. Or with the right? You're regular.

Frontside Vs. Backside

Frontside surfing refers to surfing with your chest facing the wave, backside referring to when your back faces the wave. For regular foot surfing, a frontside wave is a wave that breaks to your right when paddling into it and a backside to the left. For the goofy footers, a frontside wave is a left, and a backside wave is a right.

Where to Put Your Feet on a Surfboard

Once you've got your surfing stance down and know if you are regular or goofy, take some time practicing the surfing pop up. Once you get the motion down, you're going to want to ensure that you know precisely where to put your feet on a surfboard for the best stance.

Hawaiians used to surf with their feet placed parallel on the surfboard, but other than some old-school longboarders out there, modern surfing has changed things up. Your toes will point perpendicular to the surfboard, towards the edge (the rails) of the board in a sideways standing stance, not directly forward like you are waterskiing.

Many new surfers like to point their front foot forward towards the nose while keeping their backfoot sideways. Although your front foot should angle somewhat diagonally on the deck (think 10 O'clock), avoid pointing it completely straight.

You want your foot placement to be as even and centered along the surfboard deck as possible. If you place your feet too far on one edge, you'll find the rails digging in the water, tossing you off the board as you catch an edge and altering your balance. To make sure your placement is right, use the stringer of your surfboard for reference.

The stringer (which looks like a small piece of wood) runs directly down the middle of your board. When standing on your board, try placing your feet so the stinger runs right under the arch in your foot. If your board doesn't have a stringer, as modern technology is allowing for stringerless surfboards, just try to envision a line that runs perfectly from the tip of the nose down, and place your feet right over this imaginary line.

The Back Foot

You want to position your back foot on the tail pad of the surfboard, right over the fins. But don't worry, as a beginner, it will take some time getting this back foot placement right. Having your back foot a little further up the board is quite alright as you gain comfortability in balance.

After a while, you'll learn how to adjust this foot placement, scooting it further towards the back of the board and close to the lip of the tail pad to initiate your turns. The further back your back foot, the more you can dig the fins into the water for progressive surfing maneuvers.

The Front Foot

With the back foot planted, you want to spread your legs just at or slightly over shoulder-width apart. To keep/gain speed, this equal weight distribution is essential. With experience, you'll discover how minute adjustment to how far you spread your legs affects your surfing, but for now, shoot for shoulder-width apart and a little wider as you work on your surfing stance.

Again, a slight angle of the front foot is good, somewhere around 45 degrees, but don't go pointing it towards the nose of your board.

Bend Those Knees!

You want to have your knees nice and bent, but there's something called 'the poo stance' that is all too common with new surfers. The poo stance refers to a surfer bending their knees so drastically, pointing them apart, and drooping their butt so low to the surfboard that it literally looks like a caveman taking a #2 out in the wild.

For your own sake, don't do the poo stance, and if you do, really work on making those adjustments to gain some serious style points in the lineup.

The proper surfing stance should maintain a nice bend at the knees, but you're not going for a squat. Think forty-five degrees at the knees, not ninety. With this, you also want to bend your knees inward, not out.

The Arms

As you ride, you should try and remain aware of your arms. Not only does having your arms held properly look a hell of a lot better and enhance your style, but it helps with balance, as well.

With your chest remaining sideways, keep each arm hanging over a different rail of the board, and try to avoid flailing the arms around. For example, if you are regular foot surfing, your left arm should hang over the left rail, and your right arm hangs over the right rail. Don't hang them over the same rail, or this will throw you off balance due to unequal weight.

Speed Vs. Brakes

Your surfing stance plays a huge part in how to generate speed on a surfboard. When you place more weight on your front foot, this increases your speed. More weight on the back, and you are essentially hitting the brakes. Minute weight shifts will make a huge difference, and soon enough, you'll be using your surfing stance to help with your pumping and those first turns.

The Surfing Stance: A Summary

You want to enter the proper surfing stance as soon as possible after a pop-up, so as well as working on your actual stance, make sure that you have a smooth, quick, and clean pop-up that avoids bad habits like using your knees.

If your stance doesn't feel perfect on a wave, try and make those adjustments, as you want to get good at moving around a bit and adjusting your foot placement, even when riding.

You want:

  • Your feet in the middle of the board.
  • The front foot pointed somewhat diagonally to the surfboard at a forty-five-degree angle.
  • The back foot is perpendicular to the surfboard placed on the tail pad.
  • Shoulder width to slightly over shoulder-width apart stance.
  • Knees nice and bent inwards, but not in a poo stance.

Take your time with it, practice the stance on the sand, and you'll have a stylish and effective surfing stance down in no time.