The pop up technique in surfing sets the basis for everything you do on a wave. 

And, you're ability to do it effectively in the long run will determine how fast, and how far you're able to progress in the sport. 

But, so many people get it wrong - time and time again, and the result is bad pop-up habits you'll have with you for life!

Don't be that guy.

Much better to learn with the correct technique, set a solid foundation, and build from there, rather than plough ahead entrenching bad habits that are difficult to get rid of. 

In this guide you're going to learn the four different types of pop up techniques, for the four different levels of surfing, so that you can be working on the right technique for where you're at right now.

WHAT IS A POP UP IN SURFING

The pop up in surfing is the process of going from the prone position (lying on your belly on the surfboard), to the standing position. 

Sounds easy in theory, but with a wave propelling you forward, an uneven surface, and a surfboard that's wobbly as hell, it's more tricky than you might think. 

Sure, it is possible to clamber to your feet in any which way you like, but popping up like this will have little success rate over the long term. 

That's why surfers have developed pop up techniques that are fast, efficient and minimise unnecessary steps. 

We'll be going through the different surfing pop up techniques in just a moment. 


WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

An effective pop up technique is important as the speed in which you get to your feet impacts the way that you can ride a wave. 

If your pop up takes ten seconds to complete, you'll have missed out on the best parts of the wave, however if you can pop to your feet in under half a second, you're able to maximise every aspect of the wave. 

In short, an effective pop up forms the backbone of all good surfing, and it's a damn important part of the puzzle to get right.


DIFFERENT POP UP TECHNIQUES FOR DIFFERENT LEVELS:

Not all surfers have the same levels of agility, dexterity, or strength, and as such there are different pop up techniques that can be used to find success for any/all levels. 

We'll be outlining each of the pop up techniques in detail below:


LEVEL 1: KNEES METHOD

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DIFFICULTY LEVEL

PROS

CONS

  • Slow, and ineffective in green unbroken waves.
  • Cumbersome.
  • Can only be done on large surfboards.

KNEES POPUP METHOD EXPLAINED:

The 'Knees Popup Method' is the easiest of all the pop up techniques in surfing. 

The process involves going from a prone position, then to the knees, then proceeding to rise up to your feet from there. 

Here's a step by step breakdown for you: 

  • Lying on your board, bring your hands up to the chicken wing position (hands either side of your chest, resting flat on the board)
  • In one motion, rise up and bring both knees into position between your hands.
  • Whilst maintaining a connection to your surfboard with both hands, bring your front foot through your arms into the centre of the surfboard, resting at a 45 degree angle.
  • Once the front foot is in place, rise up into your surf stance position.

For a comprehensive video course on this technique click here.


LEVEL 2: PUSH UP TECHNIQUE

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DIFFICULTY LEVEL

PROS

  • Good for longboarding.
  • No knees involved. 
  • Effective on soft rolling, small green unbroken waves. 

CONS

  • Can only be used on surfboards above 7ft.
  • Multi step process, so not the fastest.
  • Ineffective in steep, powerful waves. 

PUSH UP TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED:

The 'Push Up Technique' is something that is often used by longboarders, as it's an effective technique on bigger boards. 

The process itself is multi staged, going from prone position to standing in a number of steps, and is a relatively successful strategy for beginner surfers. 

If you're looking to surf shorter surfboards in the future it's likely not a technique you'll want to concentrate on for too long, however it can be a good stop-gap method as you're progressing. 

  • Lying on your board, bring your hands up to the chicken wing position (hands either side of your chest, resting flat on the board).
  • From here, rise up into a push up position to create space between your chest and your board. 
  • Next, step your back foot up the surfboard into position, followed subsequently by another step to get your front foot into position.
  • Once both feet are locked-in and ready to go, rise up to your feet and ride the wave.

For a comprehensive video course on this technique click here.


LEVEL 3: AUSSIE POP UP TECHNIQUE

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DIFFICULTY LEVEL

PROS

  • No knees used.
  • Fast and effective.
  • Good stepping stone for surfing on shorter surfboards.
  • Reasonably effective on steep waves. 

CONS

AUSSIE POP UP TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED:

The 'Aussie Pop Up' technique is the first in this list that has a degree of success on shorter surfboards, and can be used relatively effectively in steeper more challenging waves. 

It does require a reasonable degree of upper body strength and mobility to perform, but if you have that in your locker, this is the one to really push for as it'll set a solid foundation from which to improve moving forward.

  • Lying on your board, bring your hands up to the chicken wing position (hands either side of your chest, resting flat on the board).
  • From here, you'll need to bend your back leg (lizard leg position), making sure that the foot is aligned in the centre of the board. 
  • In one motion, drive up with your arms in an explosive push up, and put your front foot in between your two front hands whilst maintaining continual contact to the deck of the board with both hands.
  • Once the front foot is in place, keep your eyes looking forward and and rise up into your surfing stance. 

For a comprehensive video course on this technique click here.


LEVEL 4: PRO-POP TECHNIQUE

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DIFFICULTY LEVEL

PROS

  • The fastest way to your feet.
  • Works on all surfboards, of all sizes. 
  • Great in steep, powerful waves.

CONS

  • Requires considerable strength and agility. 
  • Takes time to master. 
  • Difficult.

PRO-POP TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED:

The 'Pro-Pop Technique' is the method used by elite level surfers, the ones you see on the videos doing crazy tricks. 

Of all the pop up techniques on this list, this is the only one that truly encapsulates the term 'pop up' as you're required to go from prone position lying down, to your feet in one motion, rather than a staggered climb like all the others. 

It's a difficult one to master, and an even more difficult one to explain, however if you're dedicated to getting better at surfing, this is the technique you'll want to practice over the long term.

  • Lying on your board, bring your hands up to the chicken wing position (hands either side of your chest, resting flat on the board).
  • From here you're going to perform what can only be referred to as a type of reverse caterpillar (told you it was going to be hard to explain). 
  • All the 'pop' in this technique is going to come from your thighs, not your toes! The pop you generate from your thighs is going to create the space for your legs to pop into position.
  • As you explode through your thighs, at the same time you must explode through the push up process too.
  • With thighs and arms working in unison you're able to pop your whole body off the deck of the board creating the room necessary for your feet to land in position.
  •  With feet in place continue rising up into your surf stance position. 

WHICH POP UP TECHNIQUE IS BEST

The best pop up technique to use is the 'Pro-Pop', however it's also the most difficult.

So if you're not quite there yet with your strength or range of movement, concentrate on one of the others to build up and steadily progress from there. 

There's no right or wrong though so don't beat yourself up if you aren't able to do the more challenging techniques, it all takes time, and we all progress at different rates.


HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR POP UP

I used to call B/S on land training and drills in years gone by, having never been a big fan myself. 

But my outlook changed dramatically after a student - of his own accord - went on a mad pop up challenge at home, diligently practicing his pop up ten times each day. 

The results after a three to four week period out of the water, with no surfing whatsoever, were incredible!

This student went from barely getting to their feet, to popping up successfully almost every time. 

This was the biggest transformation I had ever seen for not having actually surfed, ever. 

So, if you want to improve your pop up, do some training at home, and obviously hit the surf as much as you can too. 


CONCLUSION

The pop up is the most fundamental part of surfing. 

Get it right and you'll have success surfing waves you never thought possible.

Yes, it'll take time to perfect. And yes, there'll likely be some stumbles along the way.

But if you can take one thing away from this article it's this, prioritise good technique over everything else, and the rest will follow, I promise. 

Yew!
Rowan. 

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.

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