How to Master Your Pop Up and Feet Positioning on Your Surfboard

August 22, 2023

How to Master Your Pop Up and Feet Positioning on Your Surfboard

Popping up on a surfboard is the most fundamental skill in surfing! It is also one of the trickiest skills to learn for any new surfer, and even harder to master. If you are beginner, this guide will give you the fundamentals.  If you are intermediate on up this info will help you improve and refine your current approach.  In this short guide, we want to help you master the pop-up with hopes that the pop up will feel a bit less intimidating. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Before initiating your pop-up:

Before you can execute these steps, it is important to ensure that you are riding the right board! A board with little volume will hinder even the most athletic beginner in becoming proficient in this skill. As a newer surfer, choose a longer board, generally 3ft taller than your height. This will offer the most stability & wave watching ability. 

It is also important to know your proper stance – goofy foot or regular foot. A goofy foot will place their right foot forward on the board, while a regular foot will place their left foot forward. For many people, the foot you naturally start walking with from a standing position will be your front foot. 

  1. Positioning: Start by lying on your surfboard, facing the front, with your chest near the middle and your feet extending towards the tail. Make sure the board is balanced in the water. If the nose is pointing up to the sky or is too submerged, you will not be able to catch a wave to pop up or you will nosedive! (no fun) 
  1. Catching the wave: The best waves to learn the pop up are whitewater waves. Whitewater is what a wave becomes after it breaks and it is known to be a training ground for a new surfer. When you see whitewater coming toward you, turn the board toward the beach and paddle in to catch it! Remember to paddle in smoothly. 

3. Timing: As the wave approaches and begins to propel you forward, it's time to start the pop-up motion. This takes practice to get the timing right, so don't be discouraged if you miss a few waves in the beginning. This is perfectly normal and is overcomable as you begin to decipher the right time to initiate the pop up. As a general rule of thumb, the right time to pop up is right when you can ride the wave without having to paddle any longer.

4. Pop-up motion: Here's how to execute the pop-up:

Place your hands flat on the board under your shoulders. If you hands are too far up the board, you will not be able to properly push up to get your feet under you. If they are too far down, you will fall forward and not be able to pop up.

Push up firmly and quickly, using your arms and upper body to raise your torso off the board. This is similar to a push up position. 

Simultaneously slide your front foot forward, landing it near the center of the board while your back foot stands near the tail of the board (but not too far back or else you will lose momentum, more on this in step

Before standing upright, stay low until you have your balance. One of the most common mistakes is standing up too quickly and losing your balance, so sometimes you may want to keep your hands on the board to ensure stability before going upright. You will also want to make sure your body is over your hips. Sometimes people will lean to the left or to the right which can throw you off the board. 

Key Tip: The water will be moving quickly around you; the key is to remain calm and smooth amidst the power of the wave. Remember these pop up steps.

5. Stance: Once you are ready to stand in the upright position, bend your knees slightly to stabilize your balance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Depending on the board you are riding (most likely will be a longboard if you are learning the pop up), you will want to keep your back foot about a foot or two away from the tail. If your foot is too far back, you will lose speed because the weight distribution will be off center. Your front foot should be close to the center, or a little past the center of the board. of the board. Similar to paddling, you will want the board to be flat on the water. You will learn quickly if you are too far forward because you will likely nosedive. 

As a general rule, strive to land your feet centered on the board. You can move up and down the board if the wave calls for it after you get the basic pop up. If the wave slows down, you can move further up the board to gain speed. If the waves speeds up or if you are trying to perform a sharp turn, you can move further back. Remember that as you move up and down the board, you should always keep your feet about shoulder width apart. You don’t want to keep your foot far up if you move your back foot further back, this will cause a frog stance and it will hinder performance & style. 

Note: As you start riding smaller boards, this will change. Your foot will gradually move toward the tail for quick turning. 

6. Balance: Keep your weight centered and your core engaged. Use your arms for balance, keeping them out to the sides as needed. There is no need for your arms to be up high at this stage, so keep a relaxed posture. 

7. Look ahead: Look in the direction you want to go, which is usually towards the beach or the open face of the wave. Where your eyes are looking, your body will follow. This will also help you anticipate bumps in the wave or other surfers. 

8. Practice: Popping up on a surfboard takes practice and persistence. Spend time in the water catching waves and perfecting your technique. It is also important to practice at home or on the sand. Eventually, muscle memory will kick in and the pop up will become second nature to you. 

Most importantly, remember to be patient with yourself; surfing is a challenging sport that requires time and dedication to improve.


-Practice your pop up at home on the ground.  Doing this will help you develop the muscle memory you need before you hit the water.  We have found this simple exercise alone will signifcantly improve your pop up.

- Practice on a beginner-friendly surf spot with small, rolling waves. Also make sure the water is deep enough as to not drive the fins into the sand!  If you are beyond the beginner stage you know what to do so just follow the key points explained and work on improving what you already know what to do.

- Don't rush the pop-up; focus on smooth and controlled movements.

- Keep your weight centered to prevent nose-diving or losing speed.

- As a beginner, it can be helpful to take a lesson from an experienced surf instructor.

- Repetition is key to propel muscle memory

Surfing is all about having fun and enjoying the ocean. Embrace the learning process, and with practice, you'll become more comfortable popping up on your surfboard & riding waves!




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