Font of all paddling knowledge Steve West shines a spotlight on stand up paddling balance issues, foot placement, stance and how this relates to other watersports disciplines, plus how to become more efficient and fix those issues.


The action of paddling while standing ensures that we should spend some time considering the importance of the variance of stances we can adopt and address the issue as a matter of importance, as standing whilst delivering power to the blade is central to SUP.

Stand up paddle boarding as an activity requires good balance and if you don’t have it, you will need to develop it over time. How this comes about relies upon a variety of factors; natural ability helps as does developing good paddle skills, core strength and prediction of how the board moves under your feet, otherwise known as anticipation.

Consider how many other board sports warrant or dictate the feet must be aligned, side by side and facing the direction of travel? Surfing and windsurfing demand the rider is essentially ‘offset’ in varying degrees in relation to the direction of travel for reasons of control and stability in countering the forces at play. Windsurfing is probably our best example being that the forces are essentially transverse, yet the resultant direction of travel, forwards.

In doing so, this sets up the rider in what is termed ‘footedness’ in the same way as ‘handedness’ dictates whether someone favours the left or the right hand, though for the windsurfer, the feet alter each time they gybe or tack but even so, many windsurfers will still favour a regular or ‘goofy’ stance for jumping or wave riding.

It’s a natural response to want to adopt a counterpoise position in resisting being pulled forwards (as experienced when stand up paddling) and part of this response should naturally be to offset the feet, if only marginally, so as to create a front foot and a rear foot.

Importantly the forces generated by the paddle’s blade which are initially felt as lift and then a pulling forward progressively and transversely to one side of the paddler, requires that the best stance should be somewhat marginally offset, either toward or away from the paddling side and not square on as often advocated.

Practice is the key and ideally you should learn to stand up paddle with either left or right leading leg, natural and neutral so as to adopt any stance necessary to improve balance and greater board control.

In consideration of stand up paddling, we must factor in the paddle as a vital component in assisting balance, not hindering it and how this affects a shift in our centre of gravity as we swing through the stroke and how torque created through rotational forces can be best delivered.

Footedness and Pedi-dexterity

There are several ways to determine footedness. Once you have this identified, this will give you a clue as to how you can begin to apply this to your stand up paddling. There are some big advantages to be had in nurturing fancy footwork in leading to greater board control, management of rougher water and getting greater enjoyment from your paddling.

Regardless of your footedness, nurturing pedi-dexterity so as paddling with either foot forward is ideal as it opens up a wider range of control over the nuances of the board and direction of force from the blade to the feet. When first learning a new board sport, riders and paddlers very quickly adopt a preferred stance. Regardless, significant amounts of practice can yield high levels of pedi-dexterity between stances.

Many stand up paddlers can switch between feet and more especially those who come from a windsurfing or kitesurfng background.

  • 1. Stand feet together have someone push you firmly from behind and see which foot you place forward to prevent your falling over.
  • 2. Stand feet together and imagine you are going to push a scooter along using your foot which would you use. The one you use is your leading leg.
  • 3. From a prone position, spring up to surfing stance and see where you end up in terms of your feet.
  • 4. Stand feet together, out-stretch your arms and have someone pull you toward them and see which foot leads out to prevent you falling.
  • 5. Close your eyes, jump up in the air and turn and land and see which way you naturally turn and land.

There are anomalies in these tests and some folk can become confused as to which stance they prefer. In the context of stand up paddle surfing, or surfing you will at least determine which leg your leash attaches – to the rear leg.

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