Backfoot surfing

Kamil Tałanda
2 min readNov 20, 2022

I would call myself a self-taught surfer. I’ve been learning how to ride the waves for a long time now, with a few professional lessons at the beginning. Unfortunately, because I was going through it without detailed guidance, I ran into some traps on the way and developed some habits I need to get rid of now. I’m still unsure what the right balance is between relying on the coaches and learning from my mistakes, but this time I don’t want to write about it. So instead, in this essay, I will focus on one bad habit I developed in surfing that blocks me from getting enough speed to rip the face of the wave.

Imagine yourself catching an excellent wave. You go down, and it is time to do a bottom turn. The whitewash is getting close, and you don’t want to lose the line. What is the best way to force the turn? From my experience is to push the back leg and twist, and this is when you lose all the speed, and instead of going up, you are stuck in the white water. You can wave goodbye to the beautiful section before you and jump back to the lineup, hoping you will get another chance. I’ve heard Kelly Slater saying something like, “surfing is all about leaning and twisting”, but you need to know when to make each of those two moves. Leaning can help you to accelerate, and twisting makes the splash on the top turn. The problem is sometimes you feel like you need to rush the turn, so you rely on a quick twist of the legs, which as a result, slows you down. I’ve heard in multiple surf tutorials that the front foot is an accelerator, and the back foot is a break. However, still, in the water, when I have to react automatically, I default to twisting, which as a result, hurts my surfing and progress.

It all boils down to choosing the right approach at the right moment. Something that gives you an instant result doesn’t always help you to succeed. Even though you turn quickly, the bottom turn is not only about turning. It is mostly about preparing for the next move and about speed generation. You will be counter-productive when you push the backfoot, fighting against your own goals. This move has its place when you try to make the splash on the top of the wave, but you won’t even have a chance to do it if you stay in the whitewash.

If you have only a hammer, everything looks like a nail, but it might be better to look around to find better tools to solve various problems. So remember “leaning and twisting” and always in the correct order.

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