Functional Stance

Lesson 13 Chapter 2

Leading arm

Surfers ride with one foot in front of the other. The front foot is called the leading foot. It doesn't matter which foot is in front - only which is more comfortable for you.

Once you have decided, you will either be:

  1. A natural footer - where you stand with your left foot forward
  2. A goofy footer - where you stand with your right foot forward

Occasionally you will see surfers swap their leading foot, this is called 'switch foot'.

Before entering the water you will need to determine, whether you are a natural or goofy footer.

How to know which is my leading foot

 Lie on the sand and lose your eyes, then jump up to your feet with one foot forward

 Or, place both feet together and lean forward. Whichever foot comes out first to regain your balance, this is your leading foot

√ You will find you naturally put one foot in front of the other

Common mistakes

There will always be one foot more dominant than the other, don't make the mistake and think you are ambidextrous

Go with what feels right, not with which one you prefer

Positioning & Posture

Standing on top of a board as it glides through the water is a phenomenon in itself. However, there are few key ingredients that play an important role in order to have the proper surfing stance.

A key aspect is your stance and how your feet are positioned on the board. It’s about comfort while shifting your weight around your surfboard.

With a good stance, you will be comfortable to shift your weight forward and backward quickly.

If it’s difficult for you to do this, there might be something wrong with either your width of stance or your feet positioning on the board.

Let's take a look at these four key areas:

  • Feet
  • Knees
  • Leading arm
  • Heading positioning

Correctly standing on your surfboard


√ Your back foot needs to be positioned over the stringer at 90 degrees

√ Your front foot needs to positioned over the stringer at 45 degrees

√ You aim to have your front foot placed in the middle of the board

√ You back foot towards the back third of the board (on top of the fins)

√ Your feet need to be shoulder width apart - this is to help balance


√ Your knees are slightly bent - to help absorb any bumps on the waves

√ Bending your knees will give you better balance and allows you a faster change of direction

√ Tuck your back knee in, to help you gain more mobility

√ Bend your knees inward - compressing with your knees angled inwards, keeps your body mass compact, which keeps you more in control of the board

Leading Arm

√ Your leading hand must be outside your heal rail

√ One hand on either side of the board

√ Your leading arm initiates and guides you to the direction that you wish to go

Head positioning

√ Look in the direction you wish to go

√ Try looking further down the wave - ready in anticipation

You need to get rid of bad habits early on as I hate to break it to you but there is nothing worse than a bad style. It becomes incredibly difficult to generate speed, perform manoeuvres and control your board.

Here are some examples:

Common mistakes

X Poo stance - feet are too far apart, and knees are pointing away from your body

Don't bend at the waist - you want to drop your center of gravity

The skier - feet are too close together

Legs too straight - standing upright

Weight too far back - this will lift the nose of your surfboard out of the water and the board will stall. If you continue to stand this far back you will miss out on so many waves

Weight too far forward - standing too far forward will result in you nose diving the surfboard most of the time

If you look down, you go down

Forehand & Backhand

Forehand and backhand are the terms used to describe the way in which you stand when you are up and riding the wave.

Depending on whether you are taking a left or a right wave will determine whether you will be surfing your forehand or backhand.

Let's take a look:


  • Riding with your chest facing the wave


  • Riding with your back facing the wave

In action for example, if you are natural-footer surfing a right-hand break you will be surfing the wave on your forehand. If you are surfing a left-hand break you will be riding the wave on your backhand.

If you are a goofy footer (right foot in front of left), the opposite applies.

Most people find surfing their forehand easier to surf, especially when you're trimming and starting to do turns.

Why? Because when your bottom turning your leaning over your toes, however, on your backhand you're leaning on your heels. Most people find it more difficult to balance on their backhand.

Whether you prefer one over the other is a matter of personal preference.