Neil Armstrong explores the wave pool (left) space

I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed with you. Well, most of you anyway. 

There you are surfing, having a great time at wave pools, and letting waves go to waste. But not just to waste, often completely unappreciated. And just because these waves are born by machine doesn’t mean they’re any less special.

I’m talking about lefts. Those waves often break on their lonesome while the rights are getting all the love and attention. But it’s not all your fault (just mostly) you can’t help being a regular foot and wanting to take the easy option, right?

At every wave pool, sessions for the rights always book out quicker than the lefts. And more often than not, come surf time, there are fewer surfers on the lefts than the rights. 

I asked some pool operators about this, whether the overabundance of regular footers was a boon, or potentially problematic. First up is Mike Schwaab who runs Waco Surf. Reckons Mike, “For starters, as a goofy-footer, I’m terribly offended, and would like to offer my right-foot-forward capabilities to help fill any empty left-hander capacity needed, globally!” A generous gentleman is he.  

Mahina Maeda laying down a frontside hack on a left. Image Surf Stadium Japan

Mike continues, “The layout and tech of other lagoons require the “go right or go left” decision making (on a per session basis), but the PerfectSwell(R) tech that we deploy at Waco Surf allows us to program our sessions for 30mins of rights and 30mins of lefts.” 

Mike believes that maybe that’s the gentle nudge we all need to learn to surf our backhands. He says jokingly. Kind of. “To your point though,” Mike continues, “I am definitely starting to see many more large groups coming in to book out 8+ hours of the pool, and whether we help them organize the heats or they do it themselves, it’s getting pretty common to see the heat division based on stance rather than the level of friendship. Us goofy’s have to stick together I guess!” 

Vincent Riba, Head of Communication at Alaia Bay confirms the rights’ reigning popularity. 

“Indeed, we have more bookings on the right side than on the left side,” he says, “We don’t have a clear view on how fast the rights get booked. But we wouldn’t say we need to put in place some extra action to push the bookings on the left.”

But what’s the percentage of goofies to regulars? There’s not much reliable data on this. I mean it’s not as if there’s anything in the way of specialist equipment needed for one stance or the other – except for Asymmetricals and leash plug placement.

Bodysurfing Urbnsurf in Melbourne
The only way to avoid going backside is by bodysurfing or bodyboarding. Photo by SurfChimp

A quick look at the current top 20 ranked male and 20 female surfers on the WSL gives us a figure of only 22.5% being goofy. But do these surf legends ring a bell? Gabriel Medina (3 x World Champ), Mark Richards (3 x World Champ), Occy (1 x World Champ), Tom Carrol (2 x World Champ), or cool cats like Gerry Lopez, Joel Tudor, and Rob Machado? And while they all certainly ooze style, power, and flow, all are members of the right foot forward brigade. 

But still, lefts be dammed, almost everyone wants to keep going right in the pool.

“At our facility, surfers can usually ride an equal number of right and left waves in a one-hour session,” says Shunichi, who works at Surf Stadium in Japan. Though he readily admits, “However, we rarely sell lefts only sessions because we have so many users who prefer the rights. We sell much more right sessions than any other.”

But it’s the Aussies at Urbnsurf who, recognizing this phenomenon, have incentivized bookings by offering discounts for anyone wanting to go left. Cleverly marketing it as a pre-Indo practice session (think of the number of lefts in Indo), they’re currently offering 20% off for sessions on the left during the week. Fewer people and a cheaper session, blessed be the goofy footers.

So until the rest of you learn that lefts are best, you’ll just have to battle it out on the rights with all the other regular footers. Or . . come join the dark side. It’s way more fun. Oh, did I mention I’m a goofy myself? Not that it matters or anything.