Back foot surfing placement
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The back foot debate and how overthinking your surfing is ruining it

Stop overthinking every little part of your surfing, it's ruining your surfing and this includes where the back foot should be. Think how do I make the movement better as a whole rather than one part.

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Do you ever think about your surfing way too much?

Do you fuss about the back foot, your stance, how you’re moving or what others are thinking of you?

Why you need to stop overthinking your surfing

To be frank, this is ruining your surfing and it really frustrates me whenever I hear people asking questions where the solution is clearly, “you’re overthinking it, just flow with it.”

But for those people stuck in that mindset and fussing over it, it haunts you and you can’t let go of these thoughts until you get it or retrain that bad habit and fix it.

Well… that is just training a bad habit.

Overthinking just introduces stress

By overthinking any part of your surfing, you are just introducing stress and tension into your surfing.

Take this out of surfing, if you are on the dance floor and thinking more about how you look rather than just dancing for the fun of it, how do you think you will be moving?

Pretty bad…

It’s the same in surfing, there’s no commitment to the moves and you aren’t present.

Think of whatever it is you do for fun or for work, if you overthink any of that process, do you do your best or have the most fun? No, it becomes stress.

Just get on with it and enjoy it, own the mistakes.

You don’t notice a pianist making a wrong note, just go with it and absorb the mistake into your flow.

Stop caring about how you look or what you think is going on

To really nail this home, overthinking your surfing, to me, is narcissistic surfing. It’s fussing over the fine details that no one cares about. You’re stuck thinking about one little detail, thinking it will make all the difference.

It won’t… The main focus is your body as a whole, are you moving as a whole efficiently. If you overthink one aspect, it will stop the rest of the movement.

It’s distracting, you will most likely stop where you are looking, lock up and look worse, feel worse and not do anything like what you want to do.

Think of a mate or your partner, you’re getting ready to go out. They are busy facing over one small portion of their hair, the way their shirt or dress falls or some other part of their appearance. 

You are most likely sitting there thinking, “c’mon, let’s go, no one will even notice nor can I see the difference, forget it and let’s have fun”.

This is you overthinking your surfing.

It reminds me of instagram vs reality. You may think the shot of the girl rolling in the shore of the sand looks hot on insta, but then you see how that person is moving in reality and you think, what are they doing, they look so stupid, just stop.

This is you overthinking your surfing and what it looks like.

Examples of overthinking it and how it ruins your surfing

There are three great examples of this and how it ruins your surfing.

  1. Back foot pressure
  2. Your stance and where you land after getting up
  3. How much spray or power you put into turns

Should I put more pressure on the back foot?

I hate this, with a burning passion. There is this old thing about how I need to have my back foot here, I’m not on the back foot, should I be weighting the back foot, my back foot isn’t over the fins, on and on…

Who cares!

When someone says this, they don’t understand their surfing and they are regurgitating old surfing from the 70’s when you had to weight the back foot to apply pressure to change direction.

Modern surfing has moved on, I suggest you do too.

A lot of surfers think they need to be right over the fins to get their board to move and surfing is all back foot. It’s not, it’s nuanced and depends on what you are doing, what you want to achieve, what board you are riding, your style and how you know how to move.

If you are an advanced surfer, sure, but look at this video of John John Florence.

Forget everything else he is doing, just look at his back foot. It will move all over the place and shift how he weights both feet, even with him barely having any weight on it.

You’re modern board isn’t designed for back foot

So modern designs have moved on. This is not how your board functions, assuming a standard design.

Rails for most of the board are round, they are meant to roll, hug the water and this helps turn.

The rails at the tail of the board are sharp edges, this is meant to part the water and cut it. This helps disengage the turn.

So why do you want to focus on disengaging the turn?

Most people fussing over this back foot can’t even do a bottom turn or cutback - not all and I get it, you want to improve but you are looking at the wrong thing. Learn to move better, more efficiently as a whole, not as one part.

I will make a small point that noseriders have different rails to suit nose riding and then there is nuance to logging where the back foot can be used for pivoting turns but that is more advanced than what most surfers are at.

I pop up with my feet in the wrong place

So what? This also really grinds my gears, I couldn’t care.

Move them, if you get up in the wrong position, adjust yourself.

Surfing isn’t static, you are allowed to move, no one is holding a gun to your head and saying no, you popped up here and now you are stuck, move and I shoot…

The bigger problem is how you adjust or how you pop up. The average surfer will do a pop up to lock up. Meaning they pop up and put their body and stance in an uncomfortable position not promoting freedom of movement. You are limiting your range of motion. This is worse than where the feet are.

If you want to adjust, think of emulating a longboard cross stepping, graceful, slow, tall, stacked and smooth movements. Just adjust your stance gracefully to what is comfortable.

And to be honest, a lot of people who ask this, I see riding bigger boards, you can move up and down them, so do.

Again, back to that video of John John Florence, he moves up the board. You do not need to be glued to your board. Your feet can shift and move, regardless of what style of surfing you are doing.

So forget it, who cares, adjust and move on, get comfortable.

I want to throw more spray

Urgh… Power is an illusion, if you want to throw more spray, you can’t be looking at how much spray you throw. 

If you are trying to look at your spray, you are stopping the movement and not getting on with it.

You aren’t moving efficiently when you look at your spray. You are stopping the movement. 

The only people seeing your spray should be other surfers or those on the beach.

Forget it or learn to accept you won’t finish turns or they will look like crap.

Surf the wave, not your board

All of these examples come down to three things, stop overthinking it, you are bringing in stress, preventing flowing movement and, if not for yourself, at least have the decency to look at the wave.

What I mean by this is, you are no longer responding to the wave, you aren’t reading it. You’ve left the ocean and are fussing about how you look or what one small portion of you is bad.

At OMBE we always say, surf the wave, not your board. At this point you aren’t even surfing the board. You are stuck playing around with yourself. You are fooling around while the wave carries on. Forget it, get comfortable, adjust, quieten your head and surf the wave how it tells you to.

This just trains bad habits

I get it, it’s frustrating, you train to fix bad habits, you want to do things right, your land based training feels good and now in the water it sucks.

But I want you to be aware, you overthink all this stuff and fuss about the board, how you are standing on it etc and you will train that into your surfing.

If things go wrong, work with it, not against it, let it flow and happen. Don’t train the fix, train the right habit, just relax and let it happen, overtime your body will adjust and learn what it needs to.

Surfing is static, it’s movement, so let it flow

A lot of surfers get this idea they can’t move, I’m glued to my board, or I can’t reset myself. Who cares, surfing isn’t static, it’s movement, so let it flow.

If you’re overthinking something, just forget it, get comfortable, find the position that is comfortable for you. Move up and down the board, find the sweet spot, play with it rather than being stuck and taking your mind out of the wave.

Be in the present, don’t live in the past or the future. Make mistakes and work them into your surfing.

If you are overthinking how to do a movement or manoeuvre, I would suggest going back and trying to learn how that movement works, how the movement connects to your board and the line it takes on the wave.

Rant over.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching