Surfing can be a difficult sport especially when it comes to mastering specific skills. A key skill that surfers must learn is how to ‘pop up.’ Popping up consists of moving from laying down to crouching.
Popping up is a skill that has to be learned and mastered. It takes practice and dedicated time for a surfer to be able to perform this movement swiftly in a single fluid motion.
For a beginner, mastering this manoeuvre can be daunting especially if they are struggling to get the motion right.
Popping up is more than technical movement, it also involves the consideration of timing and knowing when to pop up and when to stand up. It also requires that an individual be fit in several areas.
This post will go through all the information you need to help you master your pop up. It will offer valuable tips and helpful techniques to assist you.
Surfing pop up technique
The pop up can be difficult to execute flawlessly. What people struggle with the most is making this motion fluid in a single stroke. Mastering this takes time and dedication.
There is no one way of popping up. There is no correct way to pop up. As everyone is of different physical abilities, flexibility, and skill sets, what may work for one person may not work for another.
So when it comes to surfing, everyone has their unique flow and they will pop up differently.
However, the one constant requirement of a good pop up, no matter how the pop up is done, is that the movement is fluid, controlled, and smooth throughout, resulting in a steady landing in a crouched stance.
You will find that whilst different people have their pop up, there are similarities in their techniques.
If you are a beginner, there are a couple of rules you will want to master to get the technique right before you start adding your own spin on things.
- A key rule is to always stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize, focus on where you want to go rather than laying on the board wondering what you should be doing next
- Another key rule is to keep your legs crouched. When you bring your legs beneath you in a crouching position during a pop-up, keep them crouched for as long as you don’t want to extend your legs straight away. Keeping your legs bent and crouched allows you to stay centered and stable before you straighten your legs.
How to pop up on a longboard
- Paddle until you catch the wave, continue to paddle until you begin to glide with the wave. When you have caught the wave, position both of your hands flat on the surfboard next to your chest.
- From there, move into a push-up stance with your toes tucked on the surfboard’s tail. Your knees, legs, and waist should be elevated off the board.
- Slide your back foot forward, bringing it to the position of your opposite knee.
- Slide your front foot forward towards the top of the board and position it between your two hands.
- Once you’re ready, stand up, making sure that your feet are well positioned before taking your hands off the board. Your feet should be a little more than shoulder-width apart. Make sure that when you are standing up, bend your knees, compress your knees and lower body into a low stance and focus on where you’re going.
How to pop up on a shortboard
The chicken wing technique:
- Start by paddling with wide strokes. Make sure that you keep up with the speed of the wave. Paddle until you catch the wave.
- Once you have caught the wave, give two extra paddles to keep up with the speed of the wave.
- Push your chest up and plant your hands flat on your board on either side of the board. From there, you’ll want to push your upper body up (your shoulders and chest) with your lower body laying on the surfboard.
- With your chest and shoulders still up, slide and bend your back knee out to the side.
- Once your back foot is firmly planted on the tail of your board, push your whole body up and over the board. At this point, you should only have your back foot and your two hands planted on the board with your other leg bent and hovering.
- Throw your front knee forward under your chest and plant your front foot down on the board between your hands.
- When you’re ready, stand up. Keep your knees slightly bent with your hips low and focus on where you want to go.
- Keep an eye on your stance, your feet should be hip-width apart with your front foot no more than 45-degrees open and your back foot solidly planted in the same position.
Knowing when to pop up
Popping up at the right time requires intuition. It can simply come down to being used to the surroundings and knowing when it feels right.
But if you’re a beginner, a good rule of thumb is to know that you catch the wave at the point when you match its speed and that when you pop up.
A good rule of thumb is to pop up when you are about 2/3rd of the wave’s height, this will ensure that you are definitely on the way but also that you are on the wave before it gets too steep.
Knowing when to stand up on a surfboard
The best time to stand up on a surfboard is as soon as the wave hits. Waiting too long could lead to the wave breaking.
But, don’t get up too early, make sure your timing is right and wait until you feel the wave push you along, and then get up.
Surfing pop up slow motion
A common mistake that beginners make is to throw both of their feet onto the surfboard at the same time. A misconception is that this is what professionals do.
But even professionals plant their back foot on the tail and bring their front foot forward onto the board. As professionals have mastered this maneuver, they flow through the movements in such a way that it looks like a single motion.
Watching yourself back isn’t the most fun thing to do but it’s a great way to assess your performance. You’ll be able to see areas you need to improve in finer detail such as your foot placement and overall stance.
There are a couple of things to look out for when you watch yourself back:
Is your core engaged? When your core isn’t engaged properly during a push-up, your hips will begin to dip. Make sure to keep your hips raised to give you more room for your legs.
Are you using your legs more than your arms in your pop-up? When you’re performing a pop-up are you using your legs to do the pushing up or your chest and arms?
Putting your weight into your legs to do a push-up will lead you to the risk of losing your balance. Make sure to drive your energy through your chest and arms when popping up, weather than your legs.
What direction are you looking in? Is your head looking down at what your legs are doing or away in a completely different direction? Keep your line of sight ahead of you. Make sure to focus and look straight ahead of you.
Surfing pop up problems
- It’s common to get hit by fatigue but if you feel like you’re struggling to lift your weight, assess your limitations, is there a mobility problem or lack of practice. Maybe you feel like your arms are weak which is stopping you from achieving a flowing pop up movement. Why not work on building your upper body strength endurance.
- Push up with your hands in front of you will cause you to lose balance. Make sure you push up near your pectoral muscles.
- Avoid bringing your knees up first before your feet. This is a bad habit that will catch you out when you come to tackle bigger and steep waves. Instead, bring your feet in first.
- Having your chest too far over you will cause you to fall. Make sure you don’t fold at the hip but instead keep your knees bent and lower your hips.
- When you notice that you are slipping off your surfboard, your natural reaction will be to look down. However, at this point, you need to completely trust yourself and continue to look straight ahead. Looking down could cause you to lose your balance and control and fall off the board. Whilst, looking straight ahead, will enable you to recentre.
- Throwing both of your feet on the board at the same time can lead to you losing your balance and falling off your board. Remember to focus on your movements in slow motion, having your back foot on the tail pad and bringing your front foot forward towards the top of the board.
Surfing pop up training
The movement of popping up is difficult, it requires rounds of explosive movements, strength, and core balance. It is essentially a skill, a skill that takes practice.
The best way to practice a movement is through repetition, this will build up your muscle memory to make for a more fluid and natural movement.
Remember that surfing is a sport, you need to keep your body agile and in the right conditions.
Surfing requires mobility, strength, and power as well as having awareness of the movement of the waves. Always think and look ahead.
When you practice the pop up maneuver, mimic the movement, pattern, energy, and timing of a real pop up.
Out of water practice
Using a foam board out of the water, start by practicing 4-8 reps in 3-5 sets. This is a good way to help your brain memorize the motion until it becomes fluid.
Take a 90-second break between reps to give your body a rest. Break up the sets into training sessions to spread them out.
Alongside this training practice strengthening your core and strengthening your upper body through yoga.
From this practice, your body will begin to remember this maneuver and the movement will come naturally when you’re next in the water.
Yoga for surfing pop up
Yoga is a great way to keep you fit, strong, and flexible. Yoga focuses on strengthening the core, which is what you need when it comes to surfing. A powerful pop-up comes from a solid core, shoulder strength, and stability.
Tiger curls are a great yoga movement that works your entire core muscles.
- Begin in a downward facing dog position kicking your right leg up in the air keeping it straight. Make sure to keep your hips closed to maintain good form.
- Pressing into your hands, bring the same knee into your chest as high as you can. Make sure your shoulders are stacked directly above your wrists and your arms are strong. Keep your hips elevated and your back arches like a cat.
- From here, keep your hands on the mat and place the foot on the tucked leg down between your hands. From frequently practicing this move you will eventually be able to step your foot into position in a fluid forward step. This is the same motion replicated in a pop-up.
- Try the same maneuver on the other leg and keep practicing.
Low plank transition to upward facing dog
This yoga exercise is a great one for checking your form.
- Begin in a standard plank position with your core tight and your elbows directly above your wrists. Engage your quads and ensure that your lower back is strong and straight.
- Start to lower yourself into a low plank keeping your chest above the floor. Stop when your shoulders are aligned with your elbows. Pause to hold the pose for a couple of seconds and push up.
- Move into an upward facing dog and push your chest forward. Make sure to keep your legs engaged and press into the base of your feet for stability. Bring your shoulders back and from your ears. Your legs should remain elevated.
- Now, transition back into a downward facing dog using your core to lift your hips. Continue by flipping over your toes whilst pressing your hands firmly into the ground to push your hips back and up.
How to pop up on a surfboard faster
How do I increase my pop up speed?
Performing a faster pop up in a quick and fluid movement will allow you to stabilize faster. Performing a slow pop up will result in the risk of breaking or getting wiped out.
If you’re looking to pop-up faster, a shortboard would be the best option.
Before trying to pop up on a shortboard, practicing on a larger board could be valuable as the wider board has a larger sweet spot which will allow you to land firmly after popping up, helping you master your technique.
Another way to improve your pop-up speed is to practice your pop up technique on land. Practicing on land will allow you to improve your upper body strength which will come in handy when you transfer to the water.
Another tip to increase your pop up speed is to practice your timings. Learning to pop up on different wave stages to help you get a feel for the wave.
Tips for beginners
- The best way for beginners to learn how to stand up on a surfboard is to begin by practicing on a longboard as a shortboard can be difficult to learn on as it has less volume and requires harder paddling.
- Make sure to keep your hands in the same position throughout this maneuver. Strong positioned hands help you maintain your speed and balance as they provide extra stability. However, don’t grab the rail when you try to stand up. Whilst this is a natural reaction as a result of a need to recentre our balance, this can cause you to lose your balance altogether and tip over.
- Don’t give up too soon! Learning to pop up is difficult and takes time and practice. Each time you practice, the movement will become easier.
Popping up on a surfboard can take time to master, it requires plenty of practice and dedication. But with practice comes perfection.
If you follow the tips above you will be able to avoid common mistakes and take on board valuable techniques. The information provided for you will help you advance your technique, build your confidence and help avoid pitfalls.
With practice, you should be able to master this maneuver as it will become engrained. Before you know it, you’ll be a natural.
It’s important to also keep in mind that other than practicing the technical movement, surfing requires flexibility, upper body strength, and core strength, so you will need to maintain regular exercise to maintain your fitness.
As mentioned above, yoga is a great way to do this.