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Mastering lateral balance on a small SUP board

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Created by colas 1 month ago, 2 Apr 2019
colas
3149 posts
2 Apr 2019 11:21PM
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After some experiments, I think I have found an easy way to have a good lateral balance on a small board. A small board being one with little lateral stability, be it because it is narrow, have thin rails, low volume, ...

Your front foot must be parallel to the stringer, and the less the board is stable laterally, the less distance it must have from the stringer.
The back foot will naturally position itself symmetrically wrt the stringer, so you actually only have to focus on the front foot.

To find this magic position, look at the following diagram:

- top row: if your feet are too close together, when you lean on one side, the leverage on the board will be not strong enough to make it roll at the same angle as your body: you feel the urge to widen your stance to keep balance

- middle row: if your feet are too wide apart (the problem of most people), when you lean on one side, the leverage on the board will make it roll faster than your body and you will be thrown overboard and your low foot will slip.

- bottom row: the perfect position: you will wobble as if your board and you was a solid culbuto toy. You want to be one with your board, as for banking in turns on a bike. Balance suddenly becomes super natural and smooth. It still needs a lot of concentration and it is still tiring, but it is definitively easier.

And once you experience this feeling, it is easy to re-find this perfect foot position by feeling how your board react to your wobbles.
It will not feel natural at all at first, but you must resist the urge to widen your stance, you will get quickly used to it.

It is especially useful if your rails are underwater. If your board has too much volume, it will not roll smoothly on its side (it resistance to rolling will vary with the angle), and the foot position is less critical. But for small and/or narrow boards, it is a very convenient rule of thumb to find the quickest way to feel at ease.

In practice this means that your feet are quite close to the stringer:


dingfix
51 posts
3 Apr 2019 4:03AM
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never thought of it that way before. Need to try, but makes so much sense! Nice one!

micksmith
VIC, 1298 posts
3 Apr 2019 7:22AM
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I think you need to make an instructional video cola,
Anyone can get a stick figure to fall

JEG
VIC, 1115 posts
3 Apr 2019 7:33AM
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thanks colas

LucBenac
264 posts
3 Apr 2019 4:50AM
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That's great. It is confirming what I was starting to experiment on.

Johndesu
NSW, 223 posts
3 Apr 2019 3:18PM
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colas said..
After some experiments, I think I have found an easy way to have a good lateral balance on a small board. A small board being one with little lateral stability, be it because it is narrow, have thin rails, low volume, ...

Your front foot must be parallel to the stringer, and the less the board is stable laterally, the less distance it must have from the stringer.
The back foot will naturally position itself symmetrically wrt the stringer, so you actually only have to focus on the front foot.

To find this magic position, look at the following diagram:

- top row: if your feet are too close together, when you lean on one side, the leverage on the board will be not strong enough to make it roll at the same angle as your body: you feel the urge to widen your stance to keep balance

- middle row: if your feet are too wide apart (the problem of most people), when you lean on one side, the leverage on the board will make it roll faster than your body and you will be thrown overboard and your low foot will slip.

- bottom row: the perfect position: you will wobble as if your board and you was a solid culbuto toy. You want to be one with your board, as for banking in turns on a bike. Balance suddenly becomes super natural and smooth. It still needs a lot of concentration and it is still tiring, but it is definitively easier.

And once you experience this feeling, it is easy to re-find this perfect foot position by feeling how your board react to your wobbles.
It will not feel natural at all at first, but you must resist the urge to widen your stance, you will get quickly used to it.

It is especially useful if your rails are underwater. If your board has too much volume, it will not roll smoothly on its side (it resistance to rolling will vary with the angle), and the foot position is less critical. But for small and/or narrow boards, it is a very convenient rule of thumb to find the quickest way to feel at ease.

In practice this means that your feet are quite close to the stringer:




Yes Colas and also a semi surf stance so your front foot is in front of your back foot (this works best for me) as well as a stance that is not too wide as you said, and if you are about to paddle over a large wave (broken or about to break) then move you back foot onto the stringer for perfect balance, and then back to the original position once you are clear and over it :-)

colas
3149 posts
3 Apr 2019 2:51PM
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Johndesu said..
Yes Colas and also a semi surf stance so your front foot is in front of your back foot



Yes, of course. The semi surf stance (front foot aligned with the stringer, rear foot slightly open) is mandatory on small boards, both for paddling balance and early take offs, as we often discussed here.

When I advise people I even make it a mandatory condition to get on boards shorter than 8'. You will not benefit from a short board if you do not want to force yourself to stop paddling with parallel feet. A surprising number of people keep paddling parallel on small boards and thus take off really late and miss a lot of waves, or take off too late and a get the wave close on them.

I made a dedicated post for the lateral balance issue because at 59, after 10 years SUPing, I felt that the lateral balance was the main thing what I felt worse than when I was younger: I am slower to react. I was thinking that (relatively) narrow boards were not for me anymore. Younger people will be able to put their feet about anywhere, but for most people, I think looking for this lateral balance point will be very useful, as the board moving with you let you more time to react before things need correcting.

Johndesu
NSW, 223 posts
3 Apr 2019 8:06PM
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colas said..

Johndesu said..
Yes Colas and also a semi surf stance so your front foot is in front of your back foot



Yes, of course. The semi surf stance (front foot aligned with the stringer, rear foot slightly open) is mandatory on small boards, both for paddling balance and early take offs, as we often discussed here.

When I advise people I even make it a mandatory condition to get on boards shorter than 8'. You will not benefit from a short board if you do not want to force yourself to stop paddling with parallel feet. A surprising number of people keep paddling parallel on small boards and thus take off really late and miss a lot of waves, or take off too late and a get the wave close on them.

I made a dedicated post for the lateral balance issue because at 59, after 10 years SUPing, I felt that the lateral balance was the main thing what I felt worse than when I was younger: I am slower to react. I was thinking that (relatively) narrow boards were not for me anymore. Younger people will be able to put their feet about anywhere, but for most people, I think looking for this lateral balance point will be very useful, as the board moving with you let you more time to react before things need correcting.


Yes Colas I made the mistake of a parallel stance when I 1st jumped on a sup 3/4 years ago, and actually after watching you surf (on line) I started to only surf short sups :-)

FRP
257 posts
4 Apr 2019 3:54AM
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Thanks Colas. I tried this stance on my "short board" ......well short for me....8'7" Sunova Creek, this morning in very choppy conditions and blowing about 15 knots side shore. Balance was much improved, and my surfing improved. Other than going over on my ankle falling off a log on the walk out it was a fun morning.

Bob

toolate
59 posts
4 Apr 2019 6:25AM
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colas said..

Johndesu said..
Yes Colas and also a semi surf stance so your front foot is in front of your back foot




Yes, of course. The semi surf stance (front foot aligned with the stringer, rear foot slightly open) is mandatory on small boards, both for paddling balance and early take offs, as we often discussed here.

When I advise people I even make it a mandatory condition to get on boards shorter than 8'. You will not benefit from a short board if you do not want to force yourself to stop paddling with parallel feet. A surprising number of people keep paddling parallel on small boards and thus take off really late and miss a lot of waves, or take off too late and a get the wave close on them.

I made a dedicated post for the lateral balance issue because at 59, after 10 years SUPing, I felt that the lateral balance was the main thing what I felt worse than when I was younger: I am slower to react. I was thinking that (relatively) narrow boards were not for me anymore. Younger people will be able to put their feet about anywhere, but for most people, I think looking for this lateral balance point will be very useful, as the board moving with you let you more time to react before things need correcting.


why does parrellel stance relate to the lateness of takeoff?
It surely relates to how quickly one gets into good form to explode out of the wave and prevent pearling etc

toolate
59 posts
4 Apr 2019 6:28AM
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by the way, thanks for this. I had assumed it was likely so, but as you say you need to fight the natural tendencies...
What I find fascinating is how powerful a force confidence is in balance.
Some days I am flopping all over the place on my 7'10 and then a catch a good wave and thereafter my balance is no issue whatsoever...

supsean
19 posts
4 Apr 2019 8:59AM
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GOOD ONE. even though I'm not on such a short board (8'10" Sunova Steeze) I went 20 liters down in volume and feel that I need to, even though it seems to be against my instincts.

colas
3149 posts
4 Apr 2019 3:12PM
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toolate said..
why does parrellel stance relate to the lateness of takeoff?


With a parallel stance, the board nose tilts upwards when paddling for a wave, slowing you down and preventing the take off, and your feet has no leverage to prevent it. With a longer board the push of the wave lifting the tail is enough to counter it, but things are totally different with a shorter board.

With a staggered stance, you can exert torque on the board to control the height on the nose above the water, preventing pearling, but more importantly tilting the board into the drop with your body weight more than with the paddle. Basically it is just like the difference between a take off on a shortboard and a longboard. It is both much more efficient, and more fun, as you experience again what makes prone take off so special.

I often stop paddling mid take off to focus on dropping in by moving my body.

See at 0:26 in
?t=26

Or at 0:41 at
?t=41

toolate
59 posts
4 Apr 2019 3:29PM
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Thanks. Now that you mention that I can easily agree.

FRP
257 posts
4 Apr 2019 10:42PM
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Colas. Thanks for posting the two videos. Foiling has definately not adversely affected your surfing. You are surfing with power and finesse. Amazing on a 7" board and you make it look easy on those great waves.

Cheers

Bob

supsean
19 posts
4 Apr 2019 11:00PM
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Your technique is interesting. Putting up the video makes it super-clear. Unlike some other people that I have seen who start out in surf-stance you really keep your legs parallel. The are quite separated front to back, and in fact almost taking a knee on your back leg. Then you just twist your body and your legs into surf stance with very little adjustment (front and back). These two shots are on the same wave, with the one on the right a split second later. I'll have to give it a try, as sometimes for me switching to surf stance while paddling in the chop can be quite a challenge.




t457118
100 posts
5 Apr 2019 8:25AM
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Good tips Colas, and good spotting supsean. colas and paddlewoo got me going on the whole surf stance for everything gig. I'm probably more like Colas in the shot on the right before I start paddling into the wave, partly because I've got into the more exaggerated surf stance to pivot turn the board around, and also because theres one less adjustment to make after you've got onto the wave proper. After getting onto the wave you just leave the front foot there and move the back foot as required for front or backside turn. I also drop that back knee as it lowers the CoG and makes the paddling in more stable. On short boards its easy to wobble a bit and catch a front rail if you're not completely balanced - exasperated by fact you're weighting the front to trim it out and get more speed, and the knee thing helps mitigate that wobble.

Bender
WA, 2055 posts
5 Apr 2019 9:12AM
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colas said..

toolate said..
why does parrellel stance relate to the lateness of takeoff?



With a parallel stance, the board nose tilts upwards when paddling for a wave, slowing you down and preventing the take off, and your feet has no leverage to prevent it. With a longer board the push of the wave lifting the tail is enough to counter it, but things are totally different with a shorter board.

With a staggered stance, you can exert torque on the board to control the height on the nose above the water, preventing pearling, but more importantly tilting the board into the drop with your body weight more than with the paddle. Basically it is just like the difference between a take off on a shortboard and a longboard. It is both much more efficient, and more fun, as you experience again what makes prone take off so special.

I often stop paddling mid take off to focus on dropping in by moving my body.

See at 0:26 in
?t=26

Or at 0:41 at
?t=41


Nic waves Colas, your turns and flow while riding would improve dramatically if you starting leaning on you paddle in turns. The amount of extra leverage and control you get is unreal. Just my 2cents

Johndesu
NSW, 223 posts
5 Apr 2019 12:33PM
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toolate said..
by the way, thanks for this. I had assumed it was likely so, but as you say you need to fight the natural tendencies...
What I find fascinating is how powerful a force confidence is in balance.
Some days I am flopping all over the place on my 7'10 and then a catch a good wave and thereafter my balance is no issue whatsoever...


Hi
The thing that works the best for me is to paddle out in a semi surf stance and then centre / even it out as I go and if there is a lot of waves / water movement / and surfers etc - then I am always on the move (on my toes), but if it is more relaxed and not too crowded then a more traditional stance is used and then switch as Colas does in his videos. The best thing to do is to always reevaluate your stance / foot placement, eg. after a take off / dropping down the face /and during the wave at some point do a little jump / hop for feel, speed, balance & positioning (similar to a short board bunny hop but not as dramatic) also the sooner the better as you will set yourself-up for the rest of the wave in a better position, and do not be afraid to use your paddle for leverage / advantage as needed :-)

colas
3149 posts
5 Apr 2019 1:42PM
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supsean said..
Your technique is interesting. Putting up the video makes it super-clear. Unlike some other people that I have seen who start out in surf-stance you really keep your legs parallel.


Yes, that's a fencing position, not a surfing stance.

You put all your weight on your front foot, and the back foot is extended like a bike stand to resist the push of the wave. The steeper the drop, the far away the back foot, that can be on the tail pad for really late drops. And by facing forwards you can really dig the paddle hard far away in front of you, and also downwards, as the slope of the wave means that to catch the water in front of the board means also below it.

It is also super efficient for foil take offs.

The problem with surfing stance is that you lose a lot of lateral control, and a lot of paddling power, and it is hard to crouch and paddle hard. Pros manage it, but they have hours of training. Regular SUPeurs paddling in surfing stance kill their paddle power.

The drawback of the fencing position is that it is easy to have the front foot heel too far towards the rail, making the rail catch on takeoff. You need to keep the proper distance from the stringer also on takeoff.

If you look at my other vids in my Youtube channel, you can see the efficiency of the take off method. Some examples, but there are plenty others:






colas
3149 posts
5 Apr 2019 1:47PM
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Bender said..
Nic waves Colas, your turns and flow while riding would improve dramatically if you starting leaning on you paddle in turns. The amount of extra leverage and control you get is unreal. Just my 2cents


Yup, I guess that is my roots in small wave surfing that show here. I tend to always seek to generate speed with turns, and for this good placement on the wave and use of the board generate much more power than the paddle, and it feels also more satisfying. I guess people used to powerful waves will rely on the paddle more, seeking more control than speed.

Bender
WA, 2055 posts
5 Apr 2019 2:04PM
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colas said..

Bender said..
Nic waves Colas, your turns and flow while riding would improve dramatically if you starting leaning on you paddle in turns. The amount of extra leverage and control you get is unreal. Just my 2cents



Yup, I guess that is my roots in small wave surfing that show here. I tend to always seek to generate speed with turns, and for this good placement on the wave and use of the board generate much more power than the paddle, and it feels also more satisfying. I guess people used to powerful waves will rely on the paddle more, seeking more control than speed.


That's my point to gain more control of your board by having better rail control. You need to use the paddle by leaning on it on the inside of your turns. By doing this you can really get the board up on rail. I short board a lot still so I know where your coming from but SUP surfing is different. The boards are so much bigger we don't have the leverage to put them up on rail so using the leverage of the paddle is essential. Planting the paddle on the inside of a turn also creates a pivot point to turn on allowing powerful sharp turns without loss of speed IMHO

colas
3149 posts
5 Apr 2019 2:49PM
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Bender said..
That's my point to gain more control of your board by having better rail control. You need to use the paddle by leaning on it on the inside of your turns.


Actually, if you look at my videos, I use the paddle on nearly each of my turns. What do you mean exactly?

micksmith
VIC, 1298 posts
6 Apr 2019 10:42AM
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I think bender is referring to your bottom turns ( correct me if I'm wrong bender) you actually don't use your paddle to full advantage for leverage and as a result tend to turn from using your knees down thus producing a squirrelling turn. To me it looks like you would be better suited to a longer thinner board on the smaller days, I know you have a 9'. Not criticism just observation and of course it's easy to critique someone else.
Work on it you'll be pleasantly surprised

Bender
WA, 2055 posts
6 Apr 2019 12:17PM
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micksmith said..
I think bender is referring to your bottom turns ( correct me if I'm wrong bender) you actually don't use your paddle to full advantage for leverage and as a result tend to turn from using your knees down thus producing a squirrelling turn. To me it looks like you would be better suited to a longer thinner board on the smaller days, I know you have a 9'. Not criticism just observation and of course it's easy to critique someone else.
Work on it you'll be pleasantly surprised


Yes well put
I couldn't think how to say it. Please dont take my comments the wrong way. They are intended to be constructive

colas
3149 posts
7 Apr 2019 4:15PM
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A perfect example of why you should not paddle with parallel feet on short SUPs on takeoff: look at the SUPer on the wave in the background at 1:07 on the video below: the nose of the board goes up and he cannot push it down, so he stalls. He manages to get into the wave at the end, but loosing a precious time on the wave to engage in the ride.

Seajuice
NSW, 400 posts
7 Apr 2019 8:48PM
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I would just like to add Colas. Learning the stance like you said can short cut anyone wishing to learn foilboarding. As foil boarding demands precise feet position on or close to the centre line. The best is to be in the surf stance before deciding to catch a wave.
I found too, that the front foot should be in position over centre line stringer of the board & the back foot will shift in position over the centre line stringer just as board catches the wave for a foil board.
And when thinking about this stance on shorter narrower boards I realised that a person's left right balance stance shifts diagonally towards the fore & aft stance. So in exaggeration its like turning your board 90 degrees so the left right stance is the fore & aft stance which ends up like widening your board & shortening its length. So in other words your front foot is pushing down towards the front of the board which is more resistance to tipping instead of pushing down the rail making ones centre of balance fall over the rail & thus making the rider fall.
I am still thinking of focusing on this way of stance to ride my frustrating 7ft 10" 90 litre board at my weight of 80kgs. All good in flat water but when out on just a little ocean chop I find myself under my board more than on top of it. Haaaa!

colas
3149 posts
7 Apr 2019 10:38PM
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Seajuice said..
I am still thinking of focusing on this way of stance to ride my frustrating 7ft 10" 90 litre board at my weight of 80kgs. All good in flat water but when out on just a little ocean chop I find myself under my board more than on top of it. Haaaa!


What may also help you is having the front foot parallel to the stringer: this way there is no difference in lateral balance when your weight moves between your toes and your heel, something that happens a lot unconsciously as you keep your balance. In my experience having your heel closer to the rail than your toes is the recipe for unexpected disaster.

Seajuice
NSW, 400 posts
8 Apr 2019 8:19AM
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Yes. I will have to try the front foot parallel to stringer more so next time.
Thanks for the tips & nice videos too.

supsean
19 posts
8 Apr 2019 10:51PM
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The drawback of the fencing position is that it is easy to have the front foot heel too far towards the rail, making the rail catch on takeoff. You need to keep the proper distance from the stringer also on takeoff.



I normally paddle in surf position if there isn't too much chop.Last session,I tried the "fencing position" with some success, both onflat water and on waves.Itreally keeps your body from twisting especially when back side paddling.

This technique alsoseems to be helpful in the chop when you are setting up for a wave, as you don't have to worry about twisting your feet until you are on a wave. And then its quite easy to do because your foot is back in the right position.

ghost4man
282 posts
11 Apr 2019 11:06PM
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Just to add my own perceptions.I am the owner of a 7'2 x 26 3/4, 97 L DEEP Minion board.This means that I get to experience small board riding and all that it has to offer.When I first read Colas' impressions, what came to mind is its worthwhile nature and relevancy.The fact is that it can be an absolute PITA riding boards this size particularly when the water becomes choppy.Flat water is clearly not a problem. Go outside and things obviously change.

I have spent the last few times out on the water adopting some of Colas' suggestions.I think it has merit.

Okay why?

One of the things that one does is intuitively spreading ones feet apart in order to achieve stability onto the water.

I couple this with a split stance - not a pronounced surf stance with one foot being further in front than the other.This should be obvious to anyone who rides the smaller boards as they tend to have a smaller sweet spot for feet
positioning. This is a key. This means you really have to get your feet right straightaway otherwise you end up in the water
and not on top of the board.

Trying the new way needs new muscle memory. If you are expecting to shift your feet closer together without any falls
then you will be sadly disappointed. At first you fall in and do so a lot. When it comes together however, it presents
with a stability that I think is superior so far to what I have felt before.

I think the reason for this relates to what happens when you bring your feet closer to the line of the stringer. If your feet
are further apart it makes it very difficult to return to a balanced position if one side starts to sink the board and disrupt
the boards equilibrium which is also your equilibrium.

If the feet a closer together then it seems to have a see-saw effect. Have you ever noticed if you stand on a see-saw with
your feet on either side of the fulcrum you can very easily maintain balance. But, if you position two different weighted people
on the see-saw you'll notice how unbalanced the see-saw becomes. It then requires each of the persons to position themselves
at different distances from the fulcrum.

By keeping the feet closer together, it starts to introduce the sense of balance that you get walking on a slack line or a narrow
fence. If one of your hips leans to say the left, you'll notice the person will try and compensate for this by bringing their arms over
to the right side.Once I started to get a feel for my feet being positioned closer the manner in which I balanced myself changed and with better outcomes.

Another useful analogy is a balancing exercise you can do with a small plank of wood and a roller. Try balancing on the wood with the
roller underneath with your feet further apart. You will find it much easier if your feet are closer than further apart.Don't get me wrong this way requires learned balancing which I think consists of more corrections which are subtler and more
constant in application. When I looked down at my feet today when I went out, I realized my feet could still come in closer when
compared to Colas' photo of his feet on his board. I found best balance when I had this sense of my knees coming in together which
felt quite different.

I am going to start testing for efficacy to see how this works with both feet standing on either side of the stringer but still in a split stance.

Cheers.Ozzie



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"Mastering lateral balance on a small SUP board" started by colas