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My mom tore me a new one when, while teaching my little sister some snowboarding tips, referred to her stance as "Goofy". I told her it was the common term used in snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, but she was convinced that this was just another one of my cunning attempts to undermine the confidence of her dear daughter.

Wikipedia is clear on the fact that there is no negative connotation to the term, but offers little insight (and no references) on how the term came about, or whether there's ever been a more favourable technical term for 'right foot leading'.

She threw the book at me, so I'd like to throw a couple back her way. What's the origin of "Goofy"?

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The Disney character of that name began life c.1929 as Dippy Dawg. etymonline.com/index.php?search=goofy&searchmode=none The root of "goofy" (as well as of the noun "goof," meaning "silly or stupid person") is the much older and now largely extinct English word "goff," which first appeared around 1570 and meant "fool." The exact origin of "goff" is uncertain, but it appears to be closely related to similar words in French ("goffe"), Spanish ("gofo") and Italian ("goffo"). –  Elberich Schneider Apr 16 '12 at 21:51

5 Answers 5

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The original terms goofy-foot and goofy-footers (later shortened to goofy) appear to have become popular in surfing during the early sixties. I agree with FumbleFingers: it's likely both the surfing term and Disney's Goofy character comes from the earlier goofy meaning of stupid, silly, daft.

In fact, after watching the 1937 Disney animation Hawaiian Holiday, Goofy surfs with whichever foot forward makes him face us. He attempts to surf three times. The first two are unsuccessful and he can't stand up on the board. The third time is (more) successful: first he surfs left-foot forward (regular stance) towards the right, so his body is facing us. Then he turns and surfs right-foot forward (goofy stance) towards the left, again so his body is facing us.


The earliest instance I found in print is Desmond Muirhead's 1962 Surfing in Hawaii: a personal memoir:

People who put their right foot forward are called 'goofy foots'.

2007's The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English agrees with 1962:

goofy foot noun a surfer who surfs with the right foot forward. Most surfers surf with their left foot forward. AUSTRALIA 1962


A 1963 Paradise of the Pacific magazine defines some surfing terms:

As or the language, it is probably altogether as intelligible to the unpractised ear as Kurdish might be in Kansas City. In the lexicon in use by the cult, a surfer is a cork top, beginners are gremlins or kooks, a loudmouth a hodad; a goofy foot, a strange type; a hot dogger, an expert.


A May 1963 Billboard picks out Shean and Jenkins with their Goofy Footer Ho-Dad single (listen on YouTube) as a winner in their novelty spotlight of the week, selected for "potential to become top sellers".

Two very funny sides that could attract play and sales. ... Flip is somewhat on the surf kick with a sort of beatnik poeatry narrative. Funny material, well carried off.

A June 1963 Billboard magazine lists a record by The Lively Ones called Goofy Foot as a four-star single (listen on YouTube).

The four-star rating is awarded to new singles with sufficient commerical potential in their respecitive categories to merit being stacked by dealers, one-stops and rack jobbers handling that category.

These show the term was becoming more popular and widespread.


An early etymology is suggested by the 1970 Studies in English by the University of Cape Town's Department of English says:

Surfers who have a right foot forward stance are known as goofy-footers, or simply goofy surfers. This is doubtless derived from the older American expression "goofy", which means "ridiculous, silly, . . . nutty".

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So many angles and references - hooray! –  Alain Apr 17 '12 at 13:10

According to the Goofy Foot Surf School:

"Goofy Foot" is one of the oldest terms still current in surfing jargon. It describes a right foot forward surfing stance and was coined from a Walt Disney film in the 1950s [actually, 1930s] in which Goofy surfed with his right foot forward. The phrase has made its way into use in all boarding sports distinguishing the stance from a regular or natural foot which has the left foot towards the front of the board.

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There was also a popular Extremely Goofy Skateboarding computer game from the 90s (my son played it a lot); it's still around: amazon.com/DISNEY-Extremely-Goofy-Skateboarding-Windows-Pc/dp/… –  JLG Apr 16 '12 at 22:00
    
In Disney's 1937 Hawaiian Holiday, Goofy surfs with whichever foot forward makes him face us, so he does both regular and goofy stance. –  Hugo Apr 17 '12 at 11:43

I think there's no real justification for thinking the Disney character (or some cartoon sequence where he surfs goofy) had any special role in the origin of the surfboarding usage.

OED: goofy (slang) 1: Stupid, silly, daft. 2: (surf-riding) goofy foot, footer, surfer, one who rides a surfboard with the right foot forward instead of the left.

The surfing usage arose in the mid-60s, and fairly obviously it was based on the earlier sense - as indeed was Disney's character, since the word was common long before the cartoon.

Wikipedia: left-handed has many slang terms, including lefty, southpaw, goofy.

The fact that Wikipedia is at pains to point out there are no negative connotations to a cack-handed (or should that be cack-footed?) surfing stance may owe something to a wish not to offend. In boxing or snooker, for example, right-handed/footed players may well take a somewhat jaundiced view of their opposite numbers, because they're more likely to be caught off-guard by them.

I'm no surfer, but I find it easy to imagine one might be slightly nervous of surfing near a goofy foot. Apart from anything else, there might be more chance of a collision. I don't want to overstate that, but it seems more than enough to have allowed a "potentially" derogatory usage to catch on.

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I happen to skateboard goofy-foot; you can chat face to face with a regular rider, or blindside each other. I should note that snowboarders can swap ends and thus front feet rather easily, so the term probably has little meaning for them. –  Gnawme Apr 17 '12 at 4:35
    
@Gnawme: You should know then! Doesn't blindside there imply you both have to be a little bit more careful, since unless you're actually facing each other, neither of you sees the other very much, so you could feasibly collide? –  FumbleFingers Apr 17 '12 at 12:52
    
While expert snowboarders have little difficulty alternating between their natural stance and 'switch' - they still very much have a concept of 'goofy' and 'regular' referring to foot they are most comfortable leading - or even simpler, the foot they tend to leave in the binding when they have one foot detached. –  Alain Apr 17 '12 at 13:09
    
@FumbleFingers Actually, peripheral vision isn't a normally a problem; and when you're propelling yourself, it's with your lead foot, and then you're facing forward. –  Gnawme Apr 17 '12 at 15:42
    
@Alain Yeah, that would stand to reason for novices. I only tried snowboarding once, and once I was able to swap ends without doing myself bodily harm, I was comfortable with either leg in the lead. –  Gnawme Apr 17 '12 at 15:44

As you note, the Wikipedia page doesn't cite any sources, though it does mention a Disney film Hawaiian Holiday. That reference was added on June 19, 2011. I found a similar reference on news blog Sidetracked dated December 30, 2008. This wouldn't be the first time a cultural term found roots in fictional works. Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and others have invented words (and even entire languages) that have become part of common speech.

I think this particular term isn't sufficiently documented to be able to provide a conclusive answer, but the Disney reference provided is likely all we'll receive unless someone wishes to investigate more fully.

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It's amusing to note that in the poster for Hawaiian Holiday, both Mickey and Donald are surfing goofy-foot. –  Gnawme Apr 16 '12 at 22:57

I started skating in 1985 and that term I was told was from the goofy surfing movie. Point being, the lore of its origin coming from the goofy surfing movie is long ingrained in board sport culture.

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