Foiled Knees - is Pumping Good or Bad?

I’ve got some bad knees and recently re-injured one. It’s a long and boring story, but the short summary is that I stopped all impact type activities such as running, and increased non-impact activities like cycling. Decades of this has restored my knees to feeling 100% fine until this latest injury.

I’m recovering now and can foil again but it’s painful after I do a lot of pumping. Question for the community, is foil pumping an “impact” activity like running or more of a restorative activity like “cycling”? It seems to me like it’s somewhere in the middle but curious to hear from anyone else foiling on jacked knees and their thoughts.

I’ve got tired knees from too much abuse and not enough conditioning, I worry that foiling is doing more harm than good as it’s so asymmetrical, never good I don’t think. After a long SUP or DW SUP session my knees are also super tired from all the jerky balancing.

I’m considering learning to switch dockstart to begin the motions of switch pumping… shitty journey to go down but I think useful for the knees. Pushed skateboard switch for the same purpose.

Maybe it goes the way of cycling, where initially I found it tiring on the joints but as you build the muscle memory it takes less effort, the muscles support the joints and ligaments and you don’t notice it as much.

Another alternative is to go pump until your knees are super tired and then go see a physio and get them to assess what is taking the brunt of the strain to condition that.

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I have garbage knees. 6 lateral meniscus surgeries to date. Also a herniated disc blah blah blah. No problems since I started foiling. Pump my brains out, boosting winging, etc. Any kind of impact activity kicks my ass but foiling is great!


This is good news to hear :smiley:

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As long as your knees aren’t caving inward during the pump I would say it’s more like cycling.
For me the post foil knee pain usually comes from overly fatigued quad muscles.

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I do the “thekneesovertoesguy” workouts on my off days to “bulletproof” my knees. He’s on IG and gives a lot of his workouts out for free. He did a good podcast on JRE too explaining everything


Pumping is fairly low ‘impact’ but in general not a well rounded whole body exercise like SUP paddling. You absolutely have to learn to ride with either foot forward or you’ll wear out your hip and knee on the back foot side (my personal experience). It took a long time but my goofy foot wave riding is coming along and can even pump (marginally).


@Matt tiring or painful? I think tiring is totally fine and expected but painful, especially sharp or long lingering pain afterwards is a sign of trouble. And ya, that switch foot thing is a path I don’t think I can go down until I exhaust all other efforts! I can see it happening on winging but not prone.

@TooMuchEpoxy that is epic to hear! I also have had multiple meniscus surgeries from a long time ago and foiling was also fine until this last tweak but hopefully it just needs more time to heal and i’ll be back to where you are. Super encouraging, glad you are able to send. Care to say how old you are? I’m 54 and i’m almost bone on bone.

@Matt agreed, I really like the answer from @TooMuchEpoxy!

@dillionaire ok I’ve heard about that guy, I’m gonna dive in and see what it’s all about. Thanks for the info.

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arghhhh @Bonifacio, I don’t want to learn to switch but might have to face reality. My bad knee is my back leg (sigh).

Yup, it’s awkward at first with plenty of crashing but t’s allowing me to take less ibuprofen :roll_eyes:

It’s also helped me see how much pumping is really necessary since I suck goofy and often just have to glide to connect. I’ve been wasting energy over-pumping on my good side.


I’m 36! I don’t work out or really do any “exercise” besides things I do for fun like foil and MTB. If it hurts…I don’t do it…so snowboarding, running, the gym, etc are out. Core and balance are good for my knees and back so foiling is good for me!

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Gotcha, I added yoga/stretching in my late 40’s and feel like it’s done a lot of good, that might be in your future to preserve your stoke. It sucks at first but once it becomes a habit, it’s very enjoyable and erases soreness after a session and allows you to wake up feeling restored.

Good point about the over-pump, pretty sure I’m doing that as well and have been working on it. Congrats on your switchfoot journey, that is hard core! I would never attempt it on regular surfing but foiling is so awesome that it might be worth the struggle.

My knee is starting to improve and I credit some of this to the physical therapy folks I’ve been seeing. They’ve been coming up with lots of exercises that appear to simulate foiling so I can get back in the water. They probably are not too difficult to figure out on your own, but it’s nice to have someone else thinking about it so I can just show up and do them.

I wanted to share one of the movements that I really enjoy and seems beneficial: Stand on an upside down Bosu ball, use your same foil stance. A narrower stance is more challenging so adjust it accordingly. Have someone throw a tennis ball to you in random locations so you have to reach for the ball and catch it, throw it back. It feels like foiling and allows you to test yourself in a controlled environment before getting back into the surf.

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That’s a good one (had to google bosu ball), I do recall using one after an ankle injury years ago.

Interestingly the inside of my right knee (rear leg) just started hurting as well. I’m betting it was from using my bigger light wind board and foil two sessions in a row a few days ago. The 105cm span foil is a beast to move around and pump compared to my small stuff. Again the over-pump thing came into play. Have to concentrate on " doing less" and letting the foil glide.

I know another guy who’s currently getting PLP therapy in his rear knee. I’m ‘assuming’ due to a recent switch to downwind supfoiling where of course one generally maintains the same stance throughout a run.

Good to hear you’re seeing some improvement :call_me_hand:

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great thread! foiling definitely has some unique knee issues IMO… forces from below and above to manage simultaneously… scissor lifting motions = ACL disadvantage… unlikely most other sports where forces are predominately with gravity… agreed low impact is a big WIN! and physio/movement training should improve pain / +50% of the battle… i’m 47yo lifelong skier = 3x knee surgery - ACL, meniscus, tibial osteotomy (no cartilage)… knee is 8/10 for skiing after a LOT of work but foiling does cause pain surprisingly for me… bad knee is back leg riding regular so that is part of the battle

would love to hear what’s working for people PT/physio exercises… i would think most back chain (calves, hammy, glutes) strengthening, one legged strength and mobility stuff while also being unstable (bosu/balance board/etc)…

FWIW, ACL and other knee instability injuries shouldn’t be underestimated given the speed/forces and moving parts above/below the knees when foiling… and crashing :oP

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