Editor’s Note: For a limited time, Inspire Courses and sustainable apparel company Seea are teaming up to offer Leah’s full video tutorial on foot placement for free. Every student who accesses this free trial from September 22, 2023, to October 6, 2023, will be automatically entered for a chance to win Seea’s Sydney Yulex Longjane, Seea’s Haze Yulex Jacket, access to the entire Guide to Alternative Surf Craft, and Avasol sunscreen — a prize package worth $500. Access this free trial today!
Every turn, every stall, every line you take is initiated by proper foot placement. From engaging your rails to standing over your fins, creating enough torque for a turn, finding that sweet spot on your board to drive through a barrel or slide into trim, the first connection you make with your surfboard is the one linking your feet to your deck. It’s no wonder then why Leah Dawson places a lot of importance on foot placement when it comes to her mechanics and technique.
“Foot placement is, in my humble opinion, the most important element to riding a surfboard,” she says in her Guide to Alternative Surf Craft. And of course, with the variety of boards Dawson will ride on any given day, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this aspect of her surfing. Smaller boards require more minute adjustments, naturally, while moving around on a log will require a much larger range of adjustments and foot placement. In general, Leah likes to treat the center of her board as the starting point for her front foot. Her back foot placement then dictates much of the work, whether she’s ditching or finding speed, turning, cross-stepping, and the list goes on.
A Simple Tip for Smaller Boards
When it comes to smaller boards, Leah says “you still have to move (the back foot) from turn to turn.” If you find yourself bogging turns or feeling “stuck” trying to lean too much into a turn, your problem is probably as simple as incorrect foot placement. Meanwhile, it’s still important to ensure that front foot is over the stringer.
“It’s really going to cause an imbalance in the board and make the board tip,” Leah adds. “So you’re always going to be trying to counterbalance that front foot with your back foot. That’s why I like to at least start by having my front foot in the middle of the board, and then allowing my back foot to be the one that dances from one side of the rail or the other.”
A Simple Tip for Larger Boards
This isn’t a big secret: the larger the board, the more “sweet spots” you’re going to find. Leah suggests using this as an opportunity to play with different foot placements and take note of how the board responds. For example, she talks about wider boards giving us space to take on a parallel stance in trim.
“If I’m riding a bigger board that has a lot of volume and the waves are steep, then I am almost riding that board in a parallel, more of like a split stance, where I can really lean on the inside leg and engage that rail into the wave (face).”
Leah expands more on foot placement techniques that apply to a variety of boards in her Guide to Alternative Surf Craft.