You’ve made it. You’ve managed to make it out into the lineup. You’ve caught a wave, and now you’re probably wondering what’s next.
Before your excitement overwhelms you and you ruin your stoke by falling before you’ve even stood up, you can read this surfing pop up guide and avoid all that.
Once you’ve mastered the proper method for popping up, you’ll find yourself spending less energy so you can surf longer and have more fun. Your new found stoke from all the wave riding you’ll do, but are currently missing out on, will make it hard to ever want to put your surfboard back down.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to identify when to pop up on a wave and the proper motion for getting your feet on the deck so that you’ll be surfing instead of swimming to the surface. You’ll soon be standing up like a pro and ready to progress to your next surfing goal.
How To Pop Up Surfing
The basic movement in the pop up is the pushup motion. From the basic push up, you want to then swing your legs under you in a controlled motion.
Sound easy enough? Mastering this simple motion can take years.
The most important thing for popping up on your surfboard is making sure that you are laying on the sweet spot for the board. The board should be balanced so that you are neither hanging off the tail nor slipping off the nose of the board.
Once you have the balance of your board down, you’ll be able to get up on your feet without pearling (surfer speak for nosediving) or falling off the back of the wave.
To stand up, you will want to put your palms flat on the deck of the board about even with your chest. Like a proper push up, you’ll leverage yourself up from your hands while keeping your elbows close to your body.
You do not want your elbows perpendicular to your body. This will make it harder to push up and you’ll end up wasting energy and lose balance.
Now that you have the first part of the surfing pop up down, we’ll move to getting to your feet. There are, essentially, two schools of thought when it comes to the proper method of getting to your feet. We’ll go over both of them.
The first method is to push with your feet as you push with your hands. With this method you are practically jumping from laying prone to standing up.
This method works and is quicker than the other method which can be good. But, it leaves you with a split second where you are not touching the board which can lead to you losing control.
The second method, which we at Surf Research prefer, involves sliding your non-dominant foot up the board as you push up with your arms. As your knee comes to your chest, you plant the foot and step down with it.
Once you’re on your feet, congratulations. You’ve successfully popped up and are surfing!
I hope you learned a lot from the guide above but...
That is just a very brief and short explanation of how to pop up.
You still probably need more help to fully get this technique handled.
My friend Cris Mills, from Surf Strength Coach, is by far the go-to person to learn from.
He has the best pop up training called the "Perfect Pop Up" that can help anyone master this critical surfing move.
For Cris' training click here to see the "Perfect Pop Up" page.
Exercises For Surfing Pop Up
There are many exercises that will help you perfect your surfing pop up! Many of them involve some aspect of a push up. We’ll break down some of the more effective ones that we’ve found below.
The simplest exercise is the push up. By exercising your pecs, triceps, and lats, you’ll have the strength you’ll need to push yourself up in any condition. Plus working on your pushups will give you endurance so you can surf for longer, which equals more stoke.
If you are comfortable with pushups and looking to take your pop ups to the next level, mixing your pushups with a balance board is a great way to improve your pop ups. Pushing up on a balance board mimics the instability you’ll experience on a wave so that you’ll be able to roll with any conditions the ocean throws at you.
You may be thinking to yourself, “these exercises are great, but how do I get better at getting to my feet?” Look no further, we have something for you.
Burpees are a great workout that use many of the same movements as your surfing pop up. The best part about burpees are that they take nothing besides your own grit and determination to improve your pop up.
With these exercises, you’ll find that even the latest take offs will be a breeze since you’ll have the strength, coordination, and balance to get to your feet in any conditions.
Surfing Pop Up Problems & Mistakes
One of the most challenging aspects of your pop up is hand placement. If your hands are too close together, you’ll have a hard time getting your body off the deck of your board.
If your hands are too far apart, you’ll probably find yourself slipping off the rails of your board. This can be frustrating and embarrassing at best and cause injury at worst if you lose all support with your face 18” above the board.
Be sure that you have your palms flat on the deck of the board, preferably where it is grippy, when you start your pop up.
The second most common problem surfers, especially beginners, have is placing their feet together in the middle of the board at the end of the pop up. Instead of ending up with a sturdy stance, these surfers have their feet close together and are prone to falling off their board or losing the wave as they struggle to readjust their stance.
As you stand up, you will want to make sure that either your hands or feet are touching the board at all times during your pop up. You may be tempted to jump and land on your board, but this will only make it harder to balance yourself once you are up and trying to ride your wave.
If you’ve progressed past these challenges, it can still be difficult to know when to pop up on a wave. You may have wanted to progress from riding white water or found yourself falling off the back of the wave.
When to pop up on your surfboard is as equally important as getting the motions down. Make sure that you feel your board get picked up by the momentum of the wave. Then try taking two more paddles before you pop up. The added momentum will carry you through your pop up and ensure that you will be riding the wave once you are up.
If you avoid some of these common problems, you’ll find yourself popping up with no trouble and riding waves with ease.
How do I avoid nose diving when I try to pop up?
If you are pearling, or nose diving, you are lying too close to the nose of your board. Scoot your weight back so that you can gain more speed so that your board is planing when you go to stand up. This will keep you on the wave and help your board feel more sturdy under you.
Where should my feet be once I’ve popped up?
When you have successfully popped up, you should have your dominant foot towards the back of your board and your weaker foot towards the front of the board. Your shoulders should be roughly parallel to the side of your board.
If your chest is pointing towards the nose of your board, work on shifting your feet as you stand up so that only one shoulder is pointed towards the nose of your board. Your toes should be facing the rails of your board.
If you are on a longboard, you should pop up so that your feet are roughly in the middle of the board lengthwise. If you are unsure where that is, err towards the back of your board.
What kinds of waves are easiest to practice my pop up?
The easiest kinds of waves to practice your pop up are gentle, sloping waves. The faster and more hollow the wave, the quicker your pop up needs to be. Larger, faster waves require more precision and strength when popping up and are more suited for expert surfers.
Now that you’ve read how to pop up while surfing, go out there and start practicing. For more in depth coaching we recommend Cris Mills and his Perfect Pop Up training program.
Before you paddle out, practice popping up while you are still on the sand so that you can get muscle memory of the motion. Soon you will be up and riding no problem.
Remember, your ability to pop up will dictate your wave riding abilities. As the first maneuver on any wave, it’s important to get the placing your feet in the wax part down every time.
As you improve, you’ll find yourself having more fun actually riding the waves, instead of falling. Soon you’ll be riding steeper, more advanced waves with no fear.