The Inertia Contributing Writer
Photo: Shutterstock

Fact: Left-handed people are only left-footed about half the time. Photo: Shutterstock

The Inertia

It’s pretty much a scientific fact that goofy footers are born with a greater risk of low heat scores on the World Tour’s Australian leg. But what can science tell us about one’s proclivity to go backside or frontside at Margaret River’s Main Break? What makes a person ride with their right or left foot forward in the first place?

The short answer is: It’s probably related to footedness, which is related to handedness. The long answer is that it’s probably even more related to genetics, though scientists aren’t sure how.

The main understanding of why more people are regular-footed boils down to the way human brains are wired. Each hemisphere of our brains controls the opposite side of our body. Because the left side of the brain governs spatial awareness, it controls the right foot, which controls most people’s surfboards, snowboards, skateboards and, god help you, Razor scooters. But if it were that simple, we’d have no Mark Occhilupo, no Craig Anderson and no reason to scream at WSL webcasts when judges rob goofies of good scores on righthanders.

First, the numbers: One study of snowboarders put the ratio of goofy- to regular- foots at 30 to 70. Another study, this time of skateboarders, found that 44 percent are goofy. Surfers are probably somewhere around there, too, and the above studies weren’t super big, so we can take those figures as approximate. Anecdotal evidence says more often than not, lefties are goofy.

The ratios of goofies to regulars are way more balanced than those for handedness, which show that 9 out of 10 people are righties. So that’s exactly where goofies start getting goofy: Nearly all (again, 9 out of 10) right-handed people are right-footed. But southpaws go both ways. Left-handed people are only left-footed about half the time. Complicating matters more, some very confused individuals may paddle out goofy but skate or snowboard regular, or vice versa.

And what makes a southpaw go goofy rather than regular? It might be because their parents conceived them while watching a very sexy backhand clinic by Ace Buchan. Maybe their mothers were dreaming of beautiful Brazilian screwfoots like Gabriel Medina or Wiggolly Dantas. Or their fathers were dreaming of goofy Hawaiian hotties like Alessa Quizon or Tatiana Weston-Webb. We’ll have to ask them.

In lieu of that data, we’ll have to examine what makes a lefty a lefty. And here’s where it all gets very goofy indeed. Some scientists believe handedness is determined by one gene, or a network of genes. And though the human genome has been mapped, no one’s pieced together exactly how that works. Enter the very insulting “insult theory”, which basically asserts that something funky happened while they were in the womb. Scientists have floated that exposure to certain chemicals in utero causes the birth of southpaw babies. Identical twins and fellow goofyfooters CJ and Damien Hobgood might agree with that theory (although the womb they developed in was clearly exceptional.) However, fraternal twins can be born one lefty, one righty, so that muddles that theory. Scientists have also found a weak link between premature birth and left-handedness.

And if you ever thought the World Tour schedule was disturbingly right-leaning, prepare to be more disturbed: Beyond the predisposition to silky frontside hacks at Pavones, “left-handedness has also been associated with higher rates of dyslexia, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some mood disorders, and…even cancer.”

And now for an ending to distract from that last bit: The term goofy originates from the 1937 Disney cartoon Hawaiian Holiday starring, you guessed it, Goofy. He paddles out on a finless board in macking Hawaiian surf. Like most vacationers, he gets his ass handed to him. But he does manage to briefly stand up on a wave – right foot forward – before getting decked by the shorebreak. What can I say, it’s been a hard road for goodies.


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