Learning to pop up quickly is the first major hurdle we come across in our surfing life. It is the first time we realize that some things aren’t quite as easy as they look.
What I noticed is there are heaps of different ways the pop up is taught, both in surf schools and online. Some are better than others, with some methods producing bad habits that will hold your surfing back in the long run. Using your knee to stand up is a perfect example of a bad habit that is taught in some surf schools that will need to be corrected if you are serious about progressing your surfing.
So who can we trust? The first thing to realize is that everyone, including top pros, will have slight variations in their technique. Some will put their hands in different places, twist their shoulders a bit more, or time things differently. Instead of breaking down the pop up into a long list of complicated movements to remember, let’s try and look at the principles, the key things that need to happen to be quick and steady with our pop-up.
You’re sitting in the lineup, enjoying the scenery and a wave comes. Let’s say you are in the spot, and let’s say the wave is big enough to get your heart going at a good tick. Add a bunch of other surfers splashing around you and now you’ve taken a relaxing situation and turned it into a bit of a frenzy. In this moment the advancing surfer needs to calm their mind and maintain focus on the task at hand. It’s the classic paradox; you need to think about what you’re doing while also letting things happen and not thinking at all.
In the video I talk about 3 fundamental principles in a good pop up so you can develop your own method. You’ll use your method and continue to practice at home to turn the movement into something instinctual and natural. There are no shortcuts, you will need to repeat your method until you can accurately get into a good surfing stance without thinking.
The 3 principles to a good pop up:
Setup. Good position and timing on the takeoff will make the pop up a lot easier. This will take time to learn so be patient. Our aim is to catch the wave as early as possible, before it gets too steep. You will need to put yourself in the right place and paddle as hard as you can at the right time to make this happen.
1. Keep your eyes up. Looking down at your board won’t help you. If your eyes are looking up, you can see what the wave is doing next and get yourself there. Also, when your eyes are up, your inherent balance will kick in and your body will do its best to keep you upright (try riding a bike while looking at the front wheel and see what happens).
2. Feet come underneath your weight, not the other way around. You need to keep the bulk of your weight over the middle of the board, whether you are paddling or standing. Your feet should come right underneath your chest. Don’t move yourself back and stand over your feet.
3. Stand sideways. The most common mistake I see when teaching is people will try and stand with their toes pointing toward the nose of the board and fall shortly after. This is because when we are lying down, our hips are pointing this way (perpendicular to the stringer). We have to rotate our hips 90 degrees and get our hips parallel with the stringer and our toes pointing at the rails of the board.