Learn the two ways of pop up in surfing

Typical pop up mistakes and correct form — pop up with more confidence

One of the hardest things for beginners is the pop up.

This article will show you how to get yourself from a prone position to standing on your surfboard — this is where the fun starts.

Learn how to pop up better practicing this simple drill at home.

Also, I created a simple worksheet that you can download here to track your pop up progress. (it even has videos to make it easier)

There are two methods for the surf pop up:

1, For beginners, there is the two step pop up — this is when you plant your back foot first on the board, while you push yourself up and then put your front leg . You are using the strength of your legs to put your body in the correct surfer stance. Surfers like to call this the “chicken wing pop-up”. This is feasible with smaller waves and bigger boards and can help you to get more confidence

2, The advanced variation is the one step pop up — when you just push your body up and pull your legs underneath your chest. This is what you see when you are watching surfer videos.

Quick analysis — typical mistakes while learning to pop up

There are a few mistakes that most beginners make. Read below and check if you have issues with any of these:

  • Arms— palms position: You dont want to grab the rails or push up on your elbows
  • Legs during paddling: Beginners always paddle with their legs spread wide open. You don’t want to drag your legs in the water. This acts like an anchor and significantly reduces your speed.
  • Hip-knee position during pop up: You shouldn’t bring your knee over your board. There is not enough space in between your body and the board

The proper form of the pop up

How to practice the surf pop up at home

Popping up is one of the easiest exercise to practice, but possibly the hardest to improve. To drill it in, you can do this simple exercise at home:

Create a line on the floor by using masking tape or a rubber band/string. Lie down on the line in the correct paddling position, as it were the center line of your board:

1. Assume standard paddling position and paddle a bit

The best posture for paddling is with your back arched and your head up looking forward.

Always keep your legs close together along the center line of your board (aka the stringer).

2. Place your hands right below your lower ribs („chicken wings”)

Very important to have your hands under your chest. This is the most efficient way to push yourself up form the surfboard.

3. Start pushing yourself up to the cobra position

4. Bring your leg and place your back foot right over the center line. Bring your knee over the side (rail) of the surfboard

As you push up yourself turn your hip and pull your back feet on the center line of the board. Push with the arms and the back feet and bring the other knee right underneath your chest. Always keep your knee outside of the rail during the first step of the pop up

If you are a regular, place your right leg up. For goofy stance do the mirrored version.

5. Push up with you back foot and bring the other leg (knee) underneath your chin

6. Assume the proper surfer stance (aka “The Monk”)

You want to end up on the center line of the board with both feet

Do the entire movement again. Check yourself — did you do everything with the proper form as described above?

It is okay to practice this very slowly. You want to make sure that you are doing everything fundamentally correct.

To help master with this, I created a simple worksheet that you can download here to track your progress. (we even shot videos for you to make it easier to understand!)

Print it out and put it somewhere where you can regularly see it (e.g. on the fridge door or on your dining table). This will nudge you to do this exercise more. You will see your progress clearly.

By following the instructions on the worksheet, you will turn more securely, ride waves longer and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

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

Let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at [email protected]



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