How To Pop Up On Surfboard

Learning how to pop up on a surfboard is one of the most basic moves in surfing. Popping up is one of the elementary building blocks of surfing, and it is impossible to surf without learning how to pop up on a surfboard.  Most of the skills involved in popping up should be practiced on land before they are attempted in the water, so this tutorial will be broken into two portions: land skills and water skills. It will be awkward, but remember: everyone was a kook once, and you are a kook now.

Land Skills:

  1. Stance: Before learning how to pop up on a surfboard it is important to know whether you will surf with your left foot forward (regular foot) or your right foot forward (goofy foot). If you skateboard or snowboard you should already know the answer. Those new to board sports can try this trick: with feet together, close your eyes and have a friend push you from behind—the foot you step with is your lead foot. Alternatively, try popping up in each stance and decide which feels natural.
  2. Ocean Skills: New surfers should familiarize themselves with ocean and wave dynamics before entering the water. Likewise, a new surfer should be able to swim ten full laps in a swimming pool without stopping.
  3. Dry Pop-Up:  To practice popping up on land, lie prone, belly-down, on the floor. Move your arms in a swimming motion and then simultaneously bring both hands halfway down your trunk, even with your elbows, and in a push-up motion extend your arms and raise your upper body. As your shoulders rise with the push-up motion, swing your legs under your body. The lead foot should swing under the chest and the rear foot should move forward about six inches as body weight is transferred from your hands to your feet.
  4. Stand Up: Once both feet are firmly placed on the board (ground) stand up, but keep the knees slightly bent in an athletic crouch.

Water Skills:

Once you have mastered how to pop up on a surfboard on land, it is time to move those skills to the ocean.

  1. Board Positioning: Position yourself on the board so that the board is in trim. A board is in trim when it has the least amount of resistance; the board should be balanced in the water, without excessive weight on the nose or tail.
  2. Paddling: Before learning how to pop up on a surfboard you need to know how to paddle a surfboard. To paddle, extend your arms in a free-style swim-like motion. Extend each arm as far as possible and scoop water under the board for the most efficient stroke.
  3. Catching a wave: As a wave comes, turn the board and angle the board toward sure. Point it slightly in the direction you intend to turn. Paddle hard to match the speed of the wave.
  4. When To Pop: As you catch the wave you will feel acceleration and a slight weightless sensation. This sensation is the cue to pop up. Knowing when to pop up is one of the most important aspects of knowing how to pop up.
  5. Popping Up: To pop up, grab your rails as if you are about to do a push-up on the board, then extend your arms and swing your legs under your chest. The rear foot should land over the board’s fins; the front foot should be about double your shoulder-width from the rear foot.  It is important to pop-up as quick as possible.
  6. Surfing: Now you should be on your feet dropping down the face of the wave. Once you have learned how to pop up on a surfboard it is time to learn to bottom turn, but that’s a subject for a different lesson.


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