Learning to stand-up on your surfboard (the “pop-up”) is often regarded as the most difficult thing for new surfers to master. If this is you, know that you’re not alone! There are a few basic tips that you might be able to implement that’ll help you start standing up on your board.
Remember to be conscious of your form while you practice, forming bad habits early in your surfing career will hinder your long-term improvement:
BELOW, WE’VE CREATED A LIST OF STEPS THAT WILL HELP NEW SURFERS IMPROVE THEIR STAND-UP.
MASTER THE “PRONE” POSITION
By the “prone position,” we mean lying down on your stomach as if you’re paddling. Surfing starts from the prone position. Therefore, it’s important to master because it will affect all elements of your surfing (including your pop-up).
Master your balance and find the sweet spot where the tip of your surfboard is not sticking up into the air or dipping down into the water. If your nose dips, you’ll be at risk of nose diving and crashing headfirst into the sea; if your nose is sticking up in the air, you risk slipping off the back of the board. Ride a few waves while you’re prone to help get comfortable with this position and find your balance.
Pro Tip: While lying flat on your stomach, your toes should nearly touch the tail of your surfboard. If you notice your toes are more than an inch or two from the rear, you’re probably sitting too far forward. If your toes are hanging off the back of the board, you’re too far back.
KEEP YOUR PALMS FLAT
Most beginner surfers tend to grip the sides of their board when they attempt to stand up. This position might feel more comfortable or stable, but in reality, clutching the sides of your board often destabilizes you. Instead, keep your palms flat on top of the surfboard, with your fingers pointed towards the beach. Imagine how your hands are positioned while doing a perfect push-up (palms flat, fingers forward), the starting position for your pop-up should feel remarkably similar; so next time you’re popping up, imagine doing a pushup.
Often, new surfers get busy staring at their hands while they’re trying to stand up. It’s easy to get caught up with looking at your hands when you’re new, but it’s a bad habit that won’t help you at all. How often do you stare at your hands while driving a car? Hopefully, never!
Instead of looking at your hands, focus your attention out ahead of you. Pick a spot on the beach that you like to see, and look there until you’re standing up. Eventually, looking forward will become a habit.
STAND-UP AT HIGH-SPEED
Most new surfers attempt to pop-up when their wave is moving slowly. It’s important to remember that popping up is when you’re using the momentum of the wave, and the wave has the most momentum when it’s traveling quickly. If you find yourself being timid and bailing off waves that feel they’re moving too fast, you might be losing out on the speed you need to stand up. It is better to err on the side of caution but be sure to remember that sometimes momentum is your friend!
BEND YOUR KNEES
After you’ve popped up, don’t stand up straight like a pencil. If your pop-up into a perfectly upright position you’re not going to be able to balance. Bending your knees allows you to adjust your bodyweight quickly, and you’ll find it significantly improves your stability. Bending your knees will help you land your pop-up, and will keep you riding the wave once you’re in an upright position.
PRACTICE ON LAND AND SEA
Nothing beats practice. It’s one thing to read/talk about practicing your pop-up, but like most physical activities, you’ve got to get out there and do it if you want to be a good surfer. On land, practice doing “surfer burpees” where you fully replicate your pop-up (lay flat on the sand, and jump up to your starting position). In the sea, be conscious of your form and utilize the tips we provided above. The best way to improve is by consistently practicing, so get out and surf as much as you can!
Learning to master the pop-up can be difficult, and all new surfers struggle before they can effectively stand-up on their surfboard. By following our six tips for improving your pop-up, we hope that we’ve made the learning process a little bit easier for you.
After you find your sweet-spot and get comfortable in the prone position, you’ll be ready to start standing up. Remember to keep your palms flat with your fingers forward, as if you were performing a perfect push-up. Rather than getting busy staring at your hands, look forward and focus on a spot somewhere on the beach. Whatever you do, don’t pop-up like a pencil! Bend your knees the moment your feet land on the board. Only practice makes perfect. So get out there and go for it.