6 January, 2023
A strong pop up is the most important part of any surf session. Without it, you won’t be able to get onto any waves!
However, it’s also one of the hardest techniques to master as a beginner. It’s also where many people pick up bad habits which can slow down your long-term progression. But once you build that muscle memory of quickly jumping to your feet, it will soon feel like second nature. Here’s how you can improve your pop up to maximise your wave count and have a super fun session!
The prone position is when you are lying flat on your stomach, like when you’re paddling. Every wave you take will start with this position, so it’s important to stay engaged here to set you up for a snappy pop up. Keep your legs together as you paddle for the wave, engage your core and lift your chest. Check that your toes are almost touching the tail of the board – not too far forwards (this will cause you to nosedive) or dangling over the tail (your weight is too far back and you’ll lose speed and miss the wave).
When you’re first starting to pop up, it can be hard to bring your eyes away from your hands on the board. After all, you want to make sure they’re in the right position (palms flat on the board, fingers pointing forwards). But as soon as you look down, the weight of your head will drag the rest of your upper body down and you’ll fall! Lift your chin, keep your head up and direct your gaze to where you want to go – down the line if you’re surfing along the face of the wave, or towards the beach if you’re riding the whitewater.
One of the most common mistakes people make when popping up is to do with their foot placement. Many beginners pop up onto the ball or big toe of their back foot, which gives them a much smaller surface area to balance on. Make sure you are placing the whole inner part of your back foot flat onto the board to create a stable base before you try to stand up. Twisting your hips as you move from prone position to pop up will give you more room to bring your feet forward.
As soon as your feet find the board, keep your knees bent. If you stand in an upright position straight from your pop up, you’ll lose balance and fall. Bending your knees will help you to land your pop up, as well as keeping your weight and centre of gravity low to increase your stability and balance. Remember, you’re not bending from your upper body or your hips as this will knock you off balance.
Of course, the best way to improve your pop up in surfing is to get out in the water and keep trying! But it’s also a good idea to practice your pop up on land to build up strength and muscle memory. You can do this anywhere – on the beach or at home! Draw a line in the sand and practise a few pop ups before heading out for a surf. At home, you can place a strip of tape on the floor and practise popping up over and over again, making sure the arches of your feet land on the tape every time.
Training exercises like push-ups, forearm planks and burpees will help to strengthen your core and upper body for more paddle power and pop up precision. If you’re progressing onto the straight pop up (where you jump straight from prone to standing without using your knees), working on your lower body mobility and flexibility will help you to bring your front foot far enough forward on the board between your hands.
Try some hip-opening yoga poses like sitting in a deep squat with your elbows pressing against the inside of your knees, or in a butterfly pose with the soles of your feet together and your knees dropping out to the side. The more you practise opening your hips, the more muscle memory you will gain and the easier your pop up will become!
If you’re still struggling to get to your feet, join Women + Waves for one of our epic Beginner Surf Coaching Weekends or international trips
Welcome to Women + Waves. We’re a women’s surf society that is passionate about surfing and the ocean. We have an incredible community open to women of all ages and abilities.
Our aim is to bring women together through surfing all over the world.
Whether you want to learn to surf, or improve your skills, Women + Waves is here to support your surfing all the way.
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