How to 'Pop Up' on a Surfboard
The Correct Technique For Popping Up

The 'pop up' is one of the most essential skills when learning to surf. Basically you want to move from laying down to standing in the surfers stance as smoothly as possible. It is not difficult, but you need to practice to build up your pop up muscles. It's all about strength, technique and being flexible.

Practice popping up on land first

Always practice the 'pop-up' technique on dry land before you try it in the water. Start by doing it slow and practice until you are not thinking about it anymore and you have your pop up action nice and smooth. Once you can pop up smooth and without thinking then you can start speeding it up.

Stand up on a surfboard

  1. Lay down on the sand placing your hands at your side near your ribs and close to your body, elbows up.
  2. Push your chest/waist up off the ground and bring your back foot up to around where your knees are.
  3. Your front foot should go near where your hands are.
  4. Still keeping your knees bent, take your hands off the board.
  5. All these steps should be done while looking forward.

It takes a bit more effort doing this out of the water, but it will help you to build up your pop-up muscles and get the action going smoothly.

Watch this quick video on how to pop-up on a surfboard

If you are aware of the 'chicken wing' approach to Popping up, please forget it, it is not how surfers pop up on a surfboard and creates another bad habit to overcome.

Do not kneel; go straight to your feet. Both feet need to be under you at the same time, one in front of the other, with the toes pointing perpendicular to the center line of the board.

Popping Up on a Surfboard

Going to your knees first is not the same action as going to your feet. Kneeling just develops a bad habit that you will need to overcome later on, so start with the right technique of going straight to your feet. Normally going to your knees first is because you have used your forearms and elbows to push up rather than your hands on the deck.

Another point is to rotate your hips, if you don't, you will be in a stance similar to riding snow skis, there is no way you can maintain your balance in a ski stance when you are on a moving surfboard.

At about this point you'll really know whether you want to be a regular-foot or a goofy-foot.

Look Where You Are Going

In the beginning you'll want to stand further up the surfboard, as you will be riding whitewater waves, this will allow you to glide all the way to the beach.

Most modern surfboards are meant to be ridden with 1 foot on the back (tail) of the surfboard, but this comes later when you are riding green waves on the open face.

Other Surfboard 'Pop Up' Tips

Where you look is where you go

If you ask most surfers how they do those turns, they will most likely answer "you look there and you go there". Although this is a bit vague, it is actually a great surfing tip!

Look out in front where you are going, don't look down at the board, or at the wave, as it dramatically affects your ability to balance. Look down, you go down!

Look Where You Are Going
Look Where You Are Going

It's why surfers always get great in the water shots, as they are looking forward into the camera 🙂

standing on a surfboard

Practice until you get it smooth

The first time you try this, do it slow and stay in a low crouching position, when you let go of the board. The action should be controlled, not a jump.

Jumping has 2 main setbacks;

  • Jumping jolts the surfboard, causing it to momentarily slow down, many times enough to stop you continuing on your ride.
  • There is no guarantee on where your feet will land.

At first the goal of practicing to stand up on a surfboard is to get it smooth, without interfering with the glide, direction and momentum of the surfboard. Once you get it smooth, then you can start to look at making it faster.

Next >>> Falling Off Your Surfboard

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