Where and How to Place Your Feet On A Surfboard -Ultimate Guide.

Shifting weight is how the surfer maneuvers the surfboard, and foot placement is one of the most critical factors. Let’s dive deep into all you need to learn about foot placement.

The optimal feet position is placing feet 45 degrees diagonally on the stringer with a stance slightly wider than the shoulder width. For turns, the back foot must be between the front fins and the back fin. To generate speed, both feet can be placed forward to keep the board horizontal and minimise drag.

For beginner and intermediate surfers, foot placement is difficult to monitor and change because there are so many things going on when you are on a wave.

Read on to learn all things about foot placement and practical tips.

Should You Put The Feet Diagonally Or Square to the Stringer?

In general, both feet should be placed diagonally facing forward when surfing. This helps the surfer with efficient turns and widens the visual field by improving the hip motion of the back leg.

Diagonal foot placement helps the surfer to turn by opening the pelvis and hip motion. When the foot is placed squarely, the back leg’s hip is already close to fully rotated outward. Therefore, during the front side turn and feels unnatural. It’s like doing a squat with one foot turned outward.

Putting the foot diagonally also helps the surfer to face move forward during backside riding. This opens the chest, improving our vision while riding a wave. When your back foot is square to the stringer, your hip limits the body’s turning, and you will always have somewhat limited vision.

How Wide Do You Place Your Feet When Surfing?

In general, for a shortboard, the width of the stance should be slightly wider than your shoulder width. This is the optimal position for stability and easy movement. For longboards, the stance tends to be narrower, but longboarders move or walk along the board frequently.

Foot positioning should not be fixed, and it should change depending on the intention of a surfer.

For example, when performing sharp turns, the back foot should be placed on the tail pad or between the back and front fins with a wide stance. However, when going in the barrel, the surfer’s stance gets narrower, and he crouches down to fit into a tube.

Where Should You Put The Front Foot?

Most people suggest that the front foot should be placed close to the centre of the board.

However, guiding the front foot positioning relative to the surfboard can be tricky because the length of the board can vary. Consider a surfer riding two different boards: 5’6 and 6’6. The surfer should place his front foot on a 5’6 shortboard closer to the nose than a 6’4 shortboard.

Therefore the front foot positioning generally changes depending on the backfoot placement and the length of the board.

Foot positioning determines how the board turns. Therefore, it would help us to know how turning on the surfboard works.

Hows Do Surfers Perform Turns?

When a surfer leans to the side of the board and digs the rail, it causes the board to change direction towards the side of the lean.

The turning mechanism is different compared to skateboarding or snowboarding. The surfboard works on an other axis during turns: X-axis.

The surfboard with fins creates the pivoting point diagonal to the board. It becomes clear if you look at where the board is compared to the water line during a turn.

Bottom turn: look how the waterline is diagonal to the board.

To utilise this axis well, you can emphasise the back foot where the board comes into contact with more water.

Also, by placing your back and front foot slightly diagonal to the stringer, you can have better leverage when turning the board.

How The Surfboard Works In Simple Terms.

The most basic way of thinking about how surfing works is by changing the weight distribution on the board.

Weight forward: Generate more speed (because the board will become horizontal with less drag)

Weight backwards: Reduce the speed (because the back part of the board will sink, causing the drag)

Weight Sideways: Make the surfboard turn by sinking one part of the rail.

There are two ways of shifting weight. You can move your foot, moving the weight on a specific part of the board and shifting weight distribution while your foot stays in the same spot.

You can also turn or change direction with a twist, simply moving the board on top of the water instead of using a rail to change direction.

Some beginners tend to turn the board just by shifting the board on the surface of the water, and it looks pretty awkward.

To surf well, you will need to learn both ways.

Do You Lean Forward When Surfing?

When generating speed on a surfboard, slightly forwarded weight distribution helps the surfer carry the forward momentum and keep the surfboard horizontal, causing less drag. However, weight needs to be shifted back when performing turns to engage fins using the board’s back part.

Therefore, surfing requires continuous weight distribution shifting to link turns without losing speed.

Why Do Surfers Walk On Surfboard?

Walking on longboard

Surfers walk on the board to change the speed of riding. For example, more forwarded positioning helps the surfer to ride the wave faster than when positioned in the back. The other purpose of walking is to ride different parts of the longboard, such as nose ride, where the surfer stands on the tip of the nose of the longboard.

Which foot should you put forward? Goofy Vs Regular

In general, there is no clear way of determining the stance. One should compare the feel when the left or right foot is forward while standing sideways as if they are surfing. Practice a few simple movements such as twisting, standing on toes and heels in this position and then, decide on the stance.

It’s common to see an instructor push a beginner surfer from the back and see which foot comes first to balance, determining the forward foot. Some other instructors will suggest trying to stand alternately and decide. There is no right or wrong way.

It’s worth noting that while it’s widely suggested that it’s something to do with the dominant foot. However, goofy foot surfers (Left foot forward) make up about 30-40 per cent of all surfers, while left-footed people are rare: 0-20 per cent of the population. Therefore it’s difficult to argue that it purely depends on the dominance leg.

It comes down to what feels natural to you. I suggest beginner surfers spend some time on the beach standing on the board: practising shifting weight and squatting and twisting to decide which foot forward feels better.

If you have taken snowboarding or skateboarding, you will already know your comfortable stance.

Can You Change Stance Later?

Most surfers do not change their stance, and even professional surfers cannot maintain their skill level switch footed. However, with training and practice, one can change their stance.

Here is a fun clip where a professional surfer is changing their stance while riding a wave.

Kelly Slater changing stance mid-ride

Trackpad vs No trackpad.

When considering putting a trackpad on the surfboard, there are two aspects: performance and foot placement feedback.

Most shortboard surfers will have a trackpad because it improves grip on the backfoot during sharp turns. Longboarders, however, generally do not perform aggressive turns. Therefore having a trackpad comes down to personal preference.

The other benefit of having a trackpad is learning foot positioning.

A trackpad helps you find backfoot placement because it is a different texture from fibreglass; therefore, a trackpad is recommended for beginner surfers to learn correct foot positioning.

In longer surfboards, especially for beginner surfers, the backfoot hardly gets closer to the trackpad, and some people may not bother about it. However, having a trackpad will be a safeguard where the surfer knows he/she is too far off the board and may step off if you step further back.

The last consideration is the cosmetic side of the board. Most people do not like the appearance of longboards, single fins or fish surfboards with a tail pad on.


My name is James, the person behind SurifngHeadquaters.com. With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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