The importance of centering the back foot in surfing


Most surfers understand the necessity of placing the back foot all the way back to gain leverage for turns. However, there’s less emphasis on the importance of centering the back foot, which is crucial for efficiently engaging both toe and heelside rails during maneuvers.

A Common Issue

When dropping into a wave and preparing for pumps or a bottom turn, many surfers instinctively position their back foot toes closer to the toeside rail. This adjustment indeed facilitates easier engagement with the toeside rail, simplifying the execution of these maneuvers.

This positioning, however, leads to an unintended consequence: it places the heel further from the heelside rail. As the heel distance increases from the rail, initiating frontside turns becomes notably more challenging.

The Heel Engagement Challenge

Engaging the heel for heelside turns such as the frontside carve or backside bottom turn is inherently tricky for the majority of surfers, primarily due to physiological and habitual reasons. We are naturals at applying pressure with our toes – they are more flexible, sensitive, and accustomed to exerting force. Conversely, heels don’t offer the same level of sensitivity and flexibility, making it awkward to initiate and manage pressure..

This differential in comfort and control between toes and heels creates a significant challenge when the back foot is not centered properly, and the heel is too far from the heelside rail. The lack of heel engagement impairs the surfer's ability to execute precise and controlled heelside turns. 

To make matters worse, the issue gets magnified the further from the back your backfoot is placed because the board gets wider and therefore your heel is further from the heelside rail.

Centering Your Foot: The Solution

Addressing this issue requires deliberate attention to back foot placement and conscious efforts to center the foot on the board. An effective approach to facilitate this adjustment is through utilizing a trackpad designed to provide sensory feedback on foot positioning. These trackpads are structured to allow surfers to feel the arch of their foot, serving as a tactile guide for achieving centered foot placement.

Investing in a trackpad that offers this feature can significantly ease the learning curve associated with retraining foot placement habits. Additionally, surfers should engage in continuous self-monitoring and reflection on their foot positioning during rides. Analyzing videos and photographs of your surfing can provide valuable insights into your habitual foot placements and guide you in making conscious adjustments to center your back foot better.


Proper foot placement is foundational to executing controlled and efficient surfing maneuvers. While the emphasis is often placed on toe engagement through positioning the back foot close to the rail, equal importance should be assigned to maintaining proximity to the heelside rail for effective heel engagement. Through conscious effort, practice, and utilization of supportive equipment like sensory trackpads, surfers can develop balanced foot placement habits that enhance both their performance and surfing experience.

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