SURF GUIDE CHAPTER FOUR

The Importance Of Stance

In this guide to surfing and self coaching we cover surfing best practices, how to’s & tips for new & developing surfers. Learn techniques used by surf coaches, discover common errors and clear up misconceptions.

Each chapter of the guide highlights different key areas that enable surfers to develop From how to catch more waves to understanding how to judge wave height or how to duck dive, each chapter is crammed with actionable detail to help you understand and improve your surfing.

Surfer taking steep  drop on a wave

Understanding a good surfing stance

Developing the correct stance whilst surfing is of course one of the most fundamentally important parts of learning to surf. 

Surfing as a sport is seen as a cool, stylish and even an artistic pastime, often people comment on how easy the professionals make it look. 

Much of looking good on a surf board can be attributed to a surfer's stance which in turn is related to every movement the surfer is able to make on the wave. 

Feet and Knees 

The surfer's role is to manage their weight up and down their board causing the board to react on the wave. 

Moving your feet up and down the board and within this, shifting your weight between and either side of your feet is an integral part of a surfer's stance.

In relation to other wave riding crafts and what makes surfing so dynamic is the surfer being able to transition their weight around the board through standing up. Of course a key aspect in this is your stance and how your feet are positioned on the board.

Feet 

Your front foot will need to be either in line with the stringer or slightly at an angle so that your toes are just over one side of the stringer and your heel the other side (Regular or Goofy footed).

Your back foot should be placed at 90 degrees across the stringer line. Overall you should aim to have your front foot in the middle of the board and the back foot over the back third of the board. This foot placement allows you to keep the board level and planing. 

Knees 

Positioning your knees slightly bent in towards each other gives manoeuvrability in your hips and allows you to adjust your weight up and down the board easily and quickly, without needing to move your foot positioning. 

Within this, keeping your back knee loose and bent forwards ready to absorb, push and drive the board provides a good platform.

What is a pooh stance?

The term used for surfers whose knees face outwards as they stand on the board is called the pooh stance. 

Although this stance in many other sports is a very strong and functional position, it limits a surfer in how they are able to move their hips and shift weight up and down the board, as they are only able to move their weight easily from side to side over their toes and heals. 

Surfing requires a vast amount of balance, by having your knees outwards your body assumes a squatting position. Once in this position it is very hard to adjust your weight up and down the board. 

This leads to another common error as the surfer uses their head to counter balance over their toe side rail and to stick their bum out with a bent back over their heal side rail to compensate. The result is an awkward looking surfer finding it hard to keep their balance.  

Head positioning

Like anything in life, looking at what you are doing and where you want to go is important. In the world of surfing a common error for new and developing surfers is concentrating on everything but where they are going. 

Having your eyes focussed on where you want to go and not at your feet will help you to keep balanced whilst the body positioning of looking ahead allows for you to naturally hold a straighter back and projects your body language towards the direction of travel. 

Leading Arm 

Based on whether you are a Regular or Goofy footed surfer will decide on what arm becomes your leading arm. The main functions of your leading arm are to help guide you, provide balance and un-weight your surfboard and body through your turns and manoeuvres.   

"Your leading arm should never be over your toe side rail"

The position and active use of your leading arm plays an important role throughout surfing, and especially so in the beginning years of a surfer.

Common examples of when a surfer's leading arm will be used is when:

Without your leading arm initiating and guiding you to the direction that you wish to go, you will only be able to trim the surfboard before loosing balance. 

Further advanced manoeuvres require incorporating with many other body movements a lifting of the leading arm, such as forehand re-entry’s, roundhouse cutbacks etc... 

Action: Emphasise your turns with your leading arm and over exaggerate this until movement until you develop a muscle memory and naturally become comfortable. 

Regular or Goofy

How do I know if I’m a regular or goofy footed surfer? When you first start out in surfing one of the questions that will need answering is which foot should be your leading foot. Simply this should just be the foot that naturally feels a tendency to creep forward. 

There are several methods and theories for testing which foot should lead, our favourite comes from a good friend Michelle Raven who has written an article on Stance “Anatomy of a Surfer 102: Stance” in this Michelle quotes David Anderson, PhD. SFSU, Department of Kinesiology, 

“March in place blindfolded. If you turn clockwise, your left leg tends to dominate during stance and locomotion; counter clockwise your right leg dominates.” 

The outcome of this may help you decide if you are a Regular or Goofy footed surfer. 

There is an argument that your weaker foot should be your leading foot, but ultimately the decision comes down to what feels comfortable to the individual. 

Forehand & backhand surfing

Surfing a wave on your forehand describes the surfer as facing towards the wave face whilst surfing (toes and chest is pointing towards the wave face).

Whilst surfing a wave where your back is closer to the wave face is described as a surfing a wave on your backhand (heels, back etc... is facing the wave).

For Regular footed surfers (left foot forward) a right hand breaking wave will be their forehand. A left hand breaking wave will be their backhand. 

Don’t be afraid of your back hand - For new or developing surfers riding a wave on their back hand can be difficult and daunting. 

Step One. Keep your shoulders open and parallel / inline to the board as you surf.

Step Two. Twist and rotate your trunk so you can easily view the waves face - don’t turn your back to the wave by looking at the beach. 

It is important that you don’t have your body facing the beach, this causes you to strain over your leading shoulder to look at the wave.