Back-foot; “The step-peg that one uses for control and power during sexy manoeuvres.”
It’s funny that I’ve been compelled to write about something that takes only a couple of seconds to explain, but I get asked this question so often that I actually think my response requires a permanent place on the wonderful web.
Your leash is supposed to attach to what is commonly known as your ‘back-foot’. Your back-foot is a term that I know best from surfing and it refers to the foot which is at the back of the board when I am riding a wave. My back-foot enables me to become naturally balanced as I deliver control and power to my manoeuvres and the reason my leash is attached to that foot is so that when I step back to ride the wave and control my board, my leash drags behind me and does not get tangled under my feet. That would happen every time if I were to strap the leash to my front foot thus hindering me from my maximum ability to shred the knar and a wayward leash would definitely cause an unwanted distraction when in the green room (Ha!). Just kidding, but not about the leash getting under your feet.
When most start out stand up paddleboarding they are not riding waves and stepping back to perform manoeuvres that require the leash to be out of the way. They are stood square footed and gently paddling their favourite stretch of water. However, rather than standing square footed (feet parallel) you should all be taught to stand on your board in what we call an engaged stance. That means one foot slightly in front of the other so that you can maintain balance when you rock forwards or backwards off balance. Standing with your feet totally parallel only really gives you lateral stability (side to side) and leaves the tiny muscles in your toes to do all the work of stabilising your forward and back discrepancies. So, it’s still a good idea to know which is your back foot so that you can stand in this correct engaged stance.
So, how do you discover your back foot? Well it’s hard to say but I have a couple of methods that I use on my clients although I’m sure there is a text book method out there. I encourage my guys and girls to initially just put the leash on the ankle that they reach to first as the leg that they first present to the leash is often the leg that they are happiest to control, or in my terms, that would be the leg that delivers the natural balance and control during a manoeuvre. Another test is to stand with both feet together on flat ground and get someone to push you backwards with a little force. The leg that you put backwards to catch your balance is most likely to be your natural back-foot. I stress, this is not an exact science but a method that might help your thirst for back-foot discovery!
With your back-foot potentially being discovered on dry land, you’ll now need to head into the water with your SUP and get stood up. Keep your head up and facing out towards the horizon and without looking down at your feet, take a step back into the ‘engaged stance’. Your leash should be on the ankle that is furthest back on the board. If this is not the case, you have probably not got the leash around your natural foot so come back to the land, take off your leash and swap it to the other ankle. One way or the other, you should feel that the leash is not a distraction. It should feel totally comfortable to wear and should not become tangled under your feet an any time.
I really hope this helps and wish you every success discovering your back-foot!