February 20, 2023 9 min read

The difference between regular and goofy-footed surfers

Regular vs Goofy Footed difference

When you start venturing into the world of SUP surfing, traditional surfing, skateboarding, and even snowboarding, you will get posed with the question: regular or goofy? Do not worry – people are not asking about the comedy values you bring to the group! Regular and goofy refers to your stance when standing on a surf or SUP board.

So what do these stances really mean? And which are you, regular or goofy stance?

This guide will talk you through everything you need to know about the surf stances, from where the terms come from to how you work out which is your natural stance. We have even outlined some top tips for SUP surfing to help get you started riding waves with your stand up paddleboard!

Everything you need to know about regular and goofy stance

It is easy for beginners to water sports to get confused and lost when it comes to the surf jargon. Once you get your head around these terms, you will be well on your way to conquering the waves and having a blast.

These stances are different from how you stand on a SUP for recreational paddling – typically a parallel foot position. You adopt the surf stance when you ride waves and require a stronger and more stable position on the board.

Keeping it basic, these stances are determined by which foot is leading:

  • Regular stance – left foot in front
  • Goofy stance – right foot in front

It is important to note, that there is no right or wrong way to stand on a board. Also, these stances do not relate to whether you are left-handed or right-handed. In fact, the statistics of regular stance vs goofy stance are almost even. Typically, the stances correlate to the dominant foot being at the back of the board. 

Things do get interesting when we start throwing in the term switch stance though! 

Regular footed

Regular vs Goofy Footed: regular footed

Also known as natural stance, regular surfers have the left foot forward.

Front foot Left foot
Back foot (dominant foot) Right foot
Forehand wave-type Right-hander
Backside wave-type Left-hander
Most famous regular-footer surfers Kelly Slater; Andy Irons; Stephanie Gilmore

Goofy footed

Regular vs Goofy Footed: goofy footed

More common than you may initially think, goofy surfers have the right foot forward.

Front foot Right foot
Back foot (dominant foot) Left foot
Forehand wave-type Left-hander
Backside wave-type Right-hander
Most famous regular-footer surfers Rob Machado; Gabriel Medina; Bethany Hamilton


Switch is where it gets fun! To ride switch stance means the rider can interchange between the leading foot, comfortably riding with whichever foot is in front. This is a trick often displayed by longboard riders, as they cross-step to the nose, or experienced riders mixing it up across other board sports.

The term is relatively simple. Switch relates to ‘switching’ from your natural stance to the opposite. It requires exceptional balance, control, and coordination.

Regular vs goofy – which is better for surfing?

As we have already mentioned, there is no correct stance. Regular and goofy are determined by your dominant foot. Therefore, it is impossible to say which is better for surfing. It would be like trying to decide if a golf player is better if they play right-handed or left-handed. 

That being said, statistics from the Pro Tour in 2019 would suggest that there are more regular surfers in the world:

  • The Men’s Championship Tour consists of approximately 70% natural footers – 10 goofy-foots and 24 naturals. 
  • The Women’s Championship Tour consists of approximately 75% natural footers – four goofy-foots and 13 naturals. 

Where does the term "goofy-footed surfer" come from?

“Goofy” is quite a funny term and its origins are somewhat distorted. There are two popular theories that are believed to be the most plausible. We like to think that both played a part in setting “goofy-foot” firmly in the surf lingo.

Theory 1: Walt Disney's 1937 Hawaiian Holiday

Walt Disney’s Hawaiian Holiday is iconic and the first color-animated surf movie. This short film displays the beach lifestyle in all its glory. From palm trees and coconuts to ukuleles and barrels, Disney did a great job of capturing the beauty of Hawaii.

Goofy and Pluto are center stage throughout. If you look closely, Goofy is shown charging down a bomb with his right foot in front. 

Many say “goofy” entered surf terminology soon after the movie's release, insinuating Goofy (the character) coined the term.

Theory 2: Desmond Muirhead's 1962 Surfing in Hawaii

Another plausible theory for where the term “goofy-footed surfer” comes from is Surfing in Hawaii, a book written by Desmond Muirhead. Muirhead was a world-renowned gold course designer who frequently visited Hawaii and fell in love with the waves. 

Muirhead’s dreamy recount of Waikiki's perfect and smooth-rolling waves reference goofy-footed surfers, the first to be written down: "People who put their right foot forward are called 'goofy foots.' Personally, I find this position the most comfortable," Muirhead wrote.

This is not to say Muirhead came up with the phrase, rather it was already in use in Hawaii and he merely brought it to common use across the world.

How to work out your surfing stance

Regular vs Goofy Footed: training

You will have a preferred and natural stance that will just feel right. Luckily, there are some easy and quick ways to find out whether you are regular or goofy before you get out in the water. 

If you take a beginner's surf lesson, the surf instructor may do one of the following to reveal your dominant leg.

1. Throw a ball

Stand with your feet parallel and relax. Now, pretend to throw a ball. Naturally, you will step forward leaving your dominant foot behind to drive the energy through the throw. 

You can also go to kick a ball. Most people will use their dominant foot. If you go to kick with your right foot, then you will be regular. If you go to kick with your left foot, then you will be goofy.

2. Get pushed

Some instructors might come up behind you and give you a gentle shove forwards. As you regain balance to stay upright you will again step forward, revealing your surf stance. The dominant leg will be the one behind. 

3. Putting on pants 

Stay with us! Imagine you’re putting on your pants (or wetsuit if you’re in a colder climate). The foot you put through first will be your leading foot, showing if you are regular or goofy-footed. 

Understanding frontside and backside

Once you get your head around the regular and goofy stance you then need to learn about frontside and backside. Yes, there is plenty more surf lingo where that came from too! 

These terms refer to the direction your body is facing when riding along with a wave. 

  • Frontside: the surfer's chest and toes are pointing towards the wave.
  • Backside: the surfer's back and heels are facing toward the wave

When learning how to catch waves, whether you are a surfer or on a SUP, you will probably prefer riding the front side because it will feel natural following the wave and going down the line. Learning how to go on your backside can be challenging, but once nailed, you may find you prefer it!

Best types of waves for regular and goofy surfers

Regular vs Goofy Footed: White waves

You may have already guessed, but surfing is not as simple as just catching a wave. There are several different types of waves to factor in, the surf report to consider, and your preferred stance of course. 

Beginners to surf should start off gently in white water waves (already broken). These waves are slower and easier to catch while you are mastering your paddling technique, both on a surfboard or a stand-up paddleboard. As you progress and improve your skills, you can move on to green waves (unbroken).

Following on from frontside and backside, we have left-hander and right-hander waves to get our heads around.


Also commonly referred to as ‘a left’, these waves peel to the left from the perspective of the surfer riding the wave. From the beach, these waves will be breaking right.

Goofy-footed surfers will generally prefer lefts as they will be surfing on their front side. 

Some of the best waves in the world are left-handers, including Skeleton Bay in South Africa and Desert Point in Lombok Indonesia. So it is in regular surfers' interest to master these waves as well!


Also known as ‘a right’, these waves peel to the right from the view of the surfer riding the wave. From the beach, these waves will be breaking and running left.

Regular-footed surfers will typically prefer rights so as to be surfing on their front sides. 

Again, goofy-footers should also strive to conquer their backhand skills so they can comfortably go for rights. Famous right-hand waves include Cloud Nine in the Philippines and Kirra on Australia’s east coast.


“A- frame” waves are the dream for most. As the name suggests, this wave type kind of looks like an ‘A’ because it breaks in both directions. The best of both worlds!

These waves are ideal for intermediate surfers who want to practice on their backhand without sacrificing the session of a fun frontside wave. It allows you to alternate between the two. 

Some locations provide perfect A-frame waves when the swell is smaller, like Batu Bolong in Bali. As the swell increases, the reef or sandbanks will typically reveal a definitive wave direction. 

Surf stance on a SUP

Regular vs Goofy Footed: sup stance

If you want to start catching waves on your SUP then it is recommended to change your parallel position to a surf stance. This will give you more stability as your board speeds along with the wave, allowing you to turn and manouever the board easier using your body as opposed to the paddle. 

Moving from a central/ parallel foot position to your surf stance is not as hard as it sounds. You can even practice this change of position on flat water before you start catching waves to build up muscle memory. To begin with, you can try shuffling your feet until you get more confident and comfortable moving by stepping back into a surfing stance.

As with recreational paddling on a SUP, you still need your body weight in the middle of the board to avoid digging in a rail and having a wipeout*. It is important to keep a slight bend in your knees to stay stable.

With a stand-up paddle board, we also have the paddle to our advantage. Holding the paddle can actually help you keep balance on a wave. As you get more experienced, you can even use the paddle to perform sharper and more powerful manouevers. 

*Wipeout: falling from the board, sometimes in spectacular style! Wipeouts are nothing to be afraid of and it happens to us all.

10 tips for SUP surfing

Here are 10 useful tips to help you kickstart your SUP surfing adventure and keep you safe while out on the water!

  1. Know your limits – waves and currents are powerful, so be respectful of nature and start off easy. 
  2. Assess location and conditions – are there rips or currents? Are there rocks you need to avoid? 
  3. Use a leash – when you wipe out (it will happen) you do not want to be swimming after your SUP to the beach.
  4. Starfish fall – knowing how to fall is just as important as knowing how to catch the waves. Fall backwards in a star shape to avoid getting hit by your own board.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings – this includes rocks, currents, boats, and other people. 
  6. Opt for 3 fins, to begin withSUP fin setup is important to help your stability and tracking. As you get more competent you can experiment with the fins.
  7. Paddle like you mean it – engage your core, reach forward, and use proper stroke technique. You need to match the wave speed in order to catch it!
  8. Don’t look down – keep looking up and ahead to where you want to go. Look down and you will probably fall in.
  9. Move to kneel or prone position – if you feel unbalanced at any point move down. The wind can cause havoc to SUP surfers.
  10. Most importantly, have fun!

Other super useful surf jargon to learn

Do you want to speak like a surfer? You are going to need to learn these terms to play the part:

  • Leggie - leash/leg rope
  • Onshore/Offshore - wind direction
  • Reformer - a wave that reforms
  • The back - behind the breaking waves
  • Shorey - a wave breaking on the shore
  • Lineup - surfers waiting for waves
  • Wettie - wetsuit
  • Closeout - a wave that breaks in one line instead of peeling
  • Quiver - a collection of boards
  • Stoked - feeling of happiness
  • Drop-in - cutting up other surfers on their wave
  • Surfer's froth - excitement
  • Dawny - getting out at sunrise


🏆 What is goofy foot surfing?

Goofy foot surfing is when the surfer has their right foot in front and left foot at the back of the board. This surf stance is the opposite of a regular or natural stance. Goofy-foot surfing is marginally less common than regular stance, in the same manner, that fewer people are left-handed.

📦 Is it better to surf goofy or regular?

There is no right or wrong surf stance. Comparing goofy and regular stances for ability and skill is impossible. Throughout surf history, there has been a fairly even distribution of regular surfers and goofy surfers winning world championships and competitions.

🏝️ What percentage of surfers are goofy-footed?

It is strongly believed that there are more regular surfers out there than goofy surfers. On the World Tour, approximately 30-35% of competitors are goofy-footed. This does not mean that a regular stance is superior in any way.

❓ Can I switch between the two stances?

Some people are talented enough to surf in the switch. This means they can alternate between regular and goofy. Achieving this takes a lot of practice to nail balance and coordination, or you have to be naturally gifted and ambidextrous.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.