Popping up is one of the most basic but vital movements of surfing. It is something you will need to do multiple times during every single surf session, so it is a move you will want to master as quickly as possible. There is no singular way to ‘correctly’ pop up, and there are several factors that will influence the way you do it yourself. These factors include your weight, your height, your board size, and whether you have had any injuries in the past few years.
Whilst every surfer will tackle the pop up in a different way, there are a few techniques, tips, and methods that can help you do it easily and quickly. In this guide, we will be telling you how to do just that, pointing out a few common mistakes with popping up, and showing you a few core exercises that will help strengthen your muscles and stabilize your balance.
The first thing you will need to do before learning how to pop up is to decide exactly which stance you are going to take when stood up. There are various stances that surfers use in their pop-ups so you should simply trial and test the different options to find out which one works best for you. Probably the most common stance is to stand sideward on the board. Many surfers believe that this is the best position for finding and maintaining balance. Another version of the stance that you can do is to position your right foot towards the tail of the board, and your left foot closer to the center. This is called the ‘regular' stance. Another alternative is to basically reverse this position, which is commonly referred to as the ‘goofy’ stance.
How to figure out which stance is right for you
To determine which stance works best for you, there are several things that you can do at home. These tests will enable you to work out which stance you personally find more comfortable.
Walking upstairs: When you go to walk up the stairs, you should pay attention to which foot you chose to place on the very first stair. If you stepped on the first stair using your right foot, you are very much likely to be more suited to a ‘regular’ stance. If you step with your left, then you are most likely to be suited to a ‘goofy stance’.
Jumping in the air: Another test that you can do to determine which stance is best for you is to simply jump in the air. When you do so, you should pay attention to which leg you chose to jump off from and which leg you landed on. If you jumped from your right leg, this likely means that you are best suited to a ‘regular stance’, whilst left leggers will be more suited to the ‘goofy stance’.
Skateboard push: One great way of finding out which stance is best for you is to grab your own or your friend’s skateboard and have someone lightly push you forward on it. This will allow you to determine which foot seems most stable, and therefore which stance is best suited to you.
Finally, one more simple test that you can carry out to see which of your legs is the most dominant is to stand up straight and slowly lean forward until you feel yourself falling. The foot you use to stabilize yourself if likely your dominant foot. If you used your right foot to catch yourself, you are most likely suited to a ‘regular’ stance, whereas, if you used your left foot, you are probably more suited to the ‘goofy’ stance.
Balance and Positioning
Another really important factor in perfecting the pop up is your balance and positioning. Ensuring that you are standing in a central, balanced position is what will allow you to perform the perfect pop up. There are several things you will want to keep in mind when positioning yourself on the board. If you place more bodyweight on the front of your board, you will be able to reach higher speeds but you will also be increasing your chances of nose-diving into the water. On the other hand, if more weight is placed towards the back of the board, whilst you will likely be able to slow down the board and stabilize it during turns, this can in effect, make it a lot more difficult to initially catch the waves. Ideally, you will want to find a central balance on the board- this will enable both easy paddling and maneuverability.
To practice your balance and positioning, you should practice popping up on dry land as frequently as you can. You can do this on grass, sand, or even the carpet in your own home. You will just need to place your board flat on the ground and practice popping up as if you were in the water. After doing this several times every day, you will eventually find the positioning that’s right for you and when it comes to popping up in the water, it will come much more naturally to you.
The Perfect Pop Up
Now, whilst there are many ways to pop up onto a surfboard, this is a method that is great for surfers of all abilities, especially beginners. Whilst it may sound complicated, we promise that after a fair few tries, you will be popping up like a pro.
Step 1: The first thing you should do is position yourself so that you are lying flat and your nose is sticking out just over the edge of the board towards the water. You might want to shift your weight a little further back if you feel that you are going to lose balance. As the wave starts to take you, you should arch your back slightly to put more weight on your legs and your thighs.
Step 2: Now you have the wave, it is time to tuck your hands in near your chest with your elbows facing out. Your head should be looking up forward and your feet should be together.
Step 3: Next, you do push your body up halfway, lifting the front half of your body whilst keeping your knees on the board. At this point, you should still be looking forward as this will allow you to sustain your balance.
Step 4: Here, you should bring yourself back so that your toes are placed slightly in front of the knee. And yep, you guessed it, keep looking forward!
Step 5: Now you should be stepping your leg through and placing it almost directly in between your hands. By now, you should have shifted yourself to the side a little bit so that your foot will land sideways. You should try and keep your fingertips on the top deck of the board when your foot lands to ensure that you maintain your balance. If this isn’t possible, then you should simply try and stay down low- this will work to improve your stability.
Step 6: Finally, you will come up slowly but surely into your stance position. You will need to remain to bend your legs and staying low to ensure that you keep your balance and you don’t fall off. Your bodyweight should be more or less central on the board, but if you are a beginner, you may find it helpful to distribute a little more weight on your front foot. Your arms should be raised to help you to both maintain your balance and steer your board.
You should practice this technique with your board on dry land, but once you have mastered it, it’s pretty much a foolproof method.
How to practice and improve popping up at home
There are actually a number of ways you can practice and improve your pop up technique from the comfort of your own home. These exercises help you strengthen your body and better your balance which will in time, allow you to pop up with efficiency and stability.
As a surfer, your abs are pretty much the foundational support system of the rest of your body. These exercises will work to strengthen your muscles so that you end up with a robust core.
Dumbbell push up- This exercise requires you to hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into a push-up position. You should then perform a classic push up, return to your original position, and repeat.
Swiss ball push up- For this exercise, you will need a stability ball. You will need to get into a push-up position but with your hands resting on top of the ball. You should lower yourself down, return to your initial position, and then repeat.
Knee tucks- This a very basic move but it can have great benefits. You will again, start off in a push-up position, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. You will then bring your left knee up to your chest until they almost touch, hold it for 2-3 seconds, and then return to your initial position. You should then repeat this move alternating your legs each time. This exercise will directly improve your ability to pop up quickly.
Alternating overhead dumbbell press- For this exercise, you will need your set of dumbbells. You should start by holding them at shoulder width with your arms shaped in right angles. Using alternating arms, you should push the dumbbells above your head and return to your original position before repeating. Whilst you are doing this move, your back should be straight and you should be sucking in your belly button. This will work to engage your core.
Single leg squat- This exercise is a great way to improve your balance whilst strengthening your hamstrings, quads, and core. You will need to stand on one leg, find your balance, and then squat down as low as you can. If you are struggling, you can hold on to something to start with. You should return to the initial position and then repeat.
There are a few common mistakes that riders often make that hinder their abilities to perform the perfect pop up. One of these is to do with the timing of the pop up. Many beginners will often attempt to pop up before they have gained momentum. You will need to make sure you have actually caught the wave before you pop up and you should wait until the wave is actually pushing your foreword before standing up.
Another common mistake that people make is wanting to stand up before ensuring their feet are in the correct position. If your feet are not positioned in the correct place, your wave riding performance will be hindered massively. Once your feet are perfectly placed and balanced, you can begin to stand up.
Another thing that particularly beginners tend to do, is to look down at their board and feet during the pop up. If you look down towards the water, it can be easy to lose your balance. On the other hand, if you look directly up, you will be far more likely to stay focused and balanced.
- You should try and keep a low center of gravity- this can be done by bending your knees so that you are closer to the water. Staying low like this will allow you to gain speed whilst increasing your stability.
- Don’t pop up too early- this is a very common mistake with beginner surfers, but if you do this, you will not be able to maintain momentum. You should wait until you feel the wave pushing you through the water until you pop up.
- Try and stay as central as possible- when you are learning to surf, you should try and perfect keeping your weight as central as possible. If you rock the board too much during the process of popping up, you are far more likely to lose your balance and fall into the water.
- You can place one hand further forward on the rail of the board- this is a technique used by many professional surfers which helps you to land sideways whilst popping up.