Hopefully by now you know how to pop up to your feet, but now comes the more nuanced technique of when?

When to pop up surfing - and when not.

You see, people think it's a binary process: catch wave, pop to feet,  but there's so much more to it than that as we'll uncover in this post.

Keep reading to find out more...

DIFFERENT WAVES, DIFFERENT TIMING

There is a big difference in the timing between popping up on a broken whitewater wave, vs popping up on a green unbroken wave. 

In fact the two techniques couldn't be more different. 

For that reason, I've broken down this post into two sections: one for beginners surfing in the whitewater, and one for intermediates and above surfing out the back.

Skip to the section that's relevant for you.


WHEN TO POP UP SURFING WHITEWATER WAVES

Timing the pop up on whitewater waves is a relatively binary, straightforward process. 

As broken waves move to shore, simply paddle and get picked up by the wave, and once you're connected and moving with the waves energy - that’s your cue to pop up. 

Pretty simple, pretty straightforward. 


COMMON MISTAKES


POPPING UP TOO EARLY

Oftentimes beginners will paddle for a wave, wait for it to hit them, and at the moment the wave touches their feet, pop straight up. 

This leads to popping up too early, with the wave passing by underneath you - without you on it. 

To remedy this wait for the wave to push you forward first, before committing to popping up to your feet. 


POPPING UP TOO LATE

The flip side of the above is a when a surfer will paddle for a wave, wait for it to pick them up, then keep waiting and waiting before popping up to their feet. 

By then the wave has fizzled out and there’s nothing to ride - don’t be that guy. 

Instead, as soon as you feel the forward propulsion of the whitewater pushing you towards the beach, use that as your new cue to pop up to your feet. 


WHEN TO POP UP SURFING UNBROKEN WAVES

Popping up on unbroken waves is when things start to get much more complex, and much more nuanced. 

So let's break down a few key points before we move on.


CATCH IT AS EARLY AS YOU CAN

The way to increase your make-rate, and have more success all round is to catch waves as early as you possibly can. 

Catching waves early reduces the severity of the waves' steepness making it much easier to pop to your feet.

CATCHING THE FOUR STAGES

Doing this right will rely heavily on your timing and positioning in the lineup - something that can take years to master.


TOP POP THEN DROP

When popping up on green unbroken waves its important to pop up to your feet at the top of the wave, not at the bottom. 

Why?

Well, popping up to your feet at the top of the wave is good for a number of reasons:

  • Safer: Popping up to your feet at the top of the wave puts you in control. 
  • Easier: It’s easier to pop up to your feet at the top of the wave as you're moving slower than at the bottom of the wave having ridden down the drop.
  • More fun: Riding down a wave on your feet is way more fun than doing it on your belly.
  • Less nosediving: Popping up at the top of the wave allows you to add weight to your back foot, decreasing the chances of nosediving.

COMMON MISTAKES


TAIL LOW TAKE OFF

When you take off on a whitewater wave the surfboard is horizontal, we call that a tail low take off, and that's the opposite of what you need to do when popping up on an unbroken green wave. 

Instead, you actually want to encourage the tail of the board to raise with the wave (Tail High Take Off), as this helps connect your board to the wave enabling you to catch more waves, far easier.


BELLY DROP FLOP

We touched on this a little earlier, the idea of riding down an unbroken wave on your belly first before popping to your feet. 

This is not the way things are done. 

Popping up like this is dangerous, increases your chances of nosediving and injury, and makes things much, much harder. 


THE ZERO POINT

The Zero Point is an analogy to help you understand the exact moment of when to pop up surfing - notably on green unbroken waves. 

Let me break this concept down for you below:

When you’re paddling for a wave and it begins to pick you up you’ll notice that you begin to rise up ⏫ the oncoming wave. 

And subsequently, once you’ve caught the wave, you proceed to move back down ⏬.

First rising up the wave as it picks you up, then moving down once it’s caught. 

That brief moment whereby you are no longer rising up, nor falling down, is what we call the ‘Zero Point’, where for a split second you’re weightless, and completely stationary. 

This is the perfect time to pop up.


CONCLUSION

The perfect timing for when to pop up to your feet surfing is a very nuanced affair, requiring high degrees of sensitivity for when to time it right. 

I'd love to be able to give you a formula you could take away with that'd work for every wave you catch, but unfortunately that's not possible. 

Take what you've read above and apply it to your surfing, test it out in different types of wave breaks, different environments, and get aquatinted with the sensation of the waves energy transferring to your board, as that's your moment to go. 

Hope this helps.

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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