Surf like a monk to stop falling into the water

Master the counter-intuitive formula of hand placement to surf those waves longer

One of the most common problems my beginner students struggle with when learning to surf is falling back into the water within 5 seconds of standing up.

There is so much going on for a beginner surfer when trying to catch a wave. Paddling, catching on the wave, avoiding the nosedive (see Chicken wing vs Superman), standing up and then trying to stay on the board.

Today, we will be focusing on (re)gaining the balance after standing up, so you can enjoy that hard-earned wave a little longer.

To help us, we have another superhero to teach us, The Monk:

The Monk

A Surfing Monk- notice the mellow hand posture 🙂


Quick analysis: Why you are not a “monk” in the water instinctively

Here is what is happening when you are trying to stay up on your freshly caught wave:

bad posture when standing up

  • Having a stable balance after standing up is key to riding the waves longer
  • When caught the wave and stood up, beginners use their torso for balancing instead, of arms
  • The natural instinct is to put both arms in front of you on one side. This leaves you to balance by moving your upper body front or back (or poke out your ass) to shift your center of gravity.
  • Your board will wobble and are likely to fall into the water within a few seconds.

Luckily, there is a quick drill you can do at home to fix this.

Fight your natural instinct and be a monk!

So what you need to fight is your natural instinct of putting both arms in front of you on one side and spread your arms on both sides.

Check out this Chinese monk’s arms while he is running on water:

The conclusion is simple, young grasshopper:

You want your arms spread out for balance on the sides

That’s it. By consciously thinking about where you are putting your arms after popping up, you will instantly have greater balance and ability to recover it. We call this the “monk posture”.

good vs bad surf posture

The above small change in arm posture will do wonders for staying on the board longer while surfing.

To drill this in, you can do this simple exercise at home:

1, Lie down in a push-up position on the floor

surf stance

Place two chairs (high or low, doesn’t matter) on both sides.

Exaggerate the movement of placing your hands right below your lower ribs.

Stuck your elbows up in the air (aka the “Chicken Wings”, like you learned here).

2, Push yourself up and pop up

Gershon doing the cobra while popping up

As you push up yourself, slide your leading leg underneath you into a pop-up position.

3, Place your arms on the two chairs

Arms spread out nicely for more balance — you can do this with any chair in your home

It seems easy —but you will not do this instinctively, unless you commit this to muscle memory.

Additional tips for better turns and more control:

  • Your leading hand must be outside your heel “rail”/edge of your board. (see above picture)
  • Leading arm should never cross over your body and your board!
  • Wether you are trying to do a turn or shifting your bodyweight forward (to get some speed), or backward (to slow yourself down) arms should always stay on the sides
  • Pay attention to your upper body (chest pointing forward — the direction where you want to go with your surfboard)
  • During turns — use your front (leading arm) where you want to go and your body will follow you

Don’t just read and click on the next link — lie down on the floor and do the above exercise 5 times. Then repeat it for 15 consecutive days before your next surf trip and your muscles will remember it instinctively.

Using this simple drill, you will ride more waves and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

Because fun in surfing = catching the most waves during your session.

Enjoy and let me know if this was helpful.



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