Getting stuck on a bottom turn? Not generating enough down the line speed? Getting hung up on the lip? With big boards and big paddles, it's time for some fancy footwork. This article is an introduction to foot placement for stand up paddle surfing. Check back soon for more advanced techniques.
As opposed to traditional prone paddle shortboard surfboards, the massive size of a stand up paddle surfboard requires strategic foot placement to get the board to respond both driving down the line and cranking turns off the bottom and off the top. With time, getting your board to respond will become second nature, but until then, planning your actions beforehand and following these tips will get you longer and safer rides on any stand up paddle surfboard.
Where should my feet in flat water?
Flat water paddling is the best place to get familiar with your board before taking it into the surf. You should be totally familiar and have total control over your board in flat water before taking it into the surf where you will add a whole set of new variables to the sport. Now, where should your feet be? For easy cruising on a lake, find the center point of the board and stand with your feet in a parallel stance. This will feel most comfortable and will also give the most stability. For most boards, the nose should be out of the water for an inch or who and the tail should not be totally sunk.
The exact position will vary from board to board. For example, some Infinity surfboards have the balancing point just forward of center, while Paddle Surf Hawaii surfboads have the balancing point just back of center. Once you find the balancing point, it may be useful to put some stickers or markings on your board for quick reference while you're up and paddling.
Where should I stand for my power stroke?
When it's time to really power into your stroke either in flat water or when paddling for a wave, many feel that they are able to generate some extra power by staggering their feet slightly. When taking off on a wave, a slighly staggered stance will give you increased front to back stability as the swell rises behind you, however the side to side stablity may be compromised if you don't have any forward momentum. Use the paddle the get moving and try staggering your feet a little and you'll discover what feels most natural for you.
After taking off on a wave, where do I put my feet?
Right after takeoff, move your feet back toward the tail to setup for your turn off the bottom. On a shorter board or a board with the balancing point more back of center, a quick shuffle may do the trick. However, on extra long boards or boards with a more forward balancing point, a graceful cross step may be necessary, especially if you're taking off on the nose.
I'm just not getting the glide I need to get into a wave, is it my feet?
It could be. If your feet are too far back, you'll be sinking your tail and creating excessive drag while you're paddling. Likewise, if you feet are too far forward, your board will be pushing water as you plow through the water like a bulldozer. The goal is to get the board to plane as smoothly and quickly as possible at the moment just before takeoff. The quicker and smoother your paddling, the more even and controlled your takeoff will be.
After my bottom turn, the board is stalling out on me? How can I make the section to the shoulder?
Footwork could be the answer. In plain and simple terms, while you're riding a wave, if you move your feet forward, you will go faster. If you move your feet back, you will slow down and eventually stall out. As the wave changes shape your wave riding will turn into a surf dance of grace and power to keep the board in the pocket of the wave and sail through the critical sections and to the channel where you can paddle back out to the lineup.
Footwork is key for any surfer. I shift in your stance will open up the performance of your board. Master your footwork and you'll really be having fun out there. Check back soon for more advanced stand up paddle foot positioning techniques.