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Surf Like a Pro: How to Pop Up


Now that you know whether you’re a regular or goofy rider, it’s time to learn how to pop up on a surfboard. This is probably the most difficult part of learning how to surf but once you learn the proper pop up technique, you’ll be able to catch a wave like a pro!

Here are the 4 steps to popping up, which you should practice on dry land before entering the water. You can lay on a surfboard, or draw one in the sand. Heck, you could even do this in your living room. The point is, get familiar with the process so you can replicate in the water.

how-to-pop-up-surfing-starting-position1. Starting Position

Step one in learning how to pop up properly is positioning yourself on your surfboard correctly. Lay face down in the middle of the board. Point your toes. They should reach the end of the surfboard. Your feet position will determine where the rest of your body goes. Most surfboards have a stringer — a centerline that runs the length of the board. Your nose should be on that line. If there’s no stringer, use your best judgment. You can also use some sex wax to mark a center point.

how-to-pop-up-surfing-cobra2. Cobra

The second step in learning how to pop up properly is the Cobra. Place your hands on top of the surfboard at your ribcage, spaced out to the edges of the board. You should feel like you’re about to do a pushup. The first step to the surf pop up is cobra pose. Push away from the surfboard, raising your head and chest off the board while bending at the lower back. It’s important to distribute your weight evenly between your hands so you don’t tip the board to one side or the other. 

how-to-pop-up-surfing-runners-lunge3. Runner’s lunge

The third step in learning how to pop up properly is the Runner’s Lunge. Once you’ve raised your chest off the surfboard, the next step is to bring that lead foot up and plant your back foot in one fluid motion on the center of the board. Be sure to stay as low as possible during this transition. Some boards have a traction pad where your dominant foot should live. If your surfboard doesn’t have a traction pad, keep your dominant foot near the back end of the board. Aim to place your front foot right where your nose was in the starting position. Your form here should look like a sprinter in the ready position on the block.

how-to-pop-up-surfing-lock-in-stance4. Lock in your stance

The final step in learning how to pop up properly is locking in your stance. At this point, all there is left to do is stand up and find your balance. Avoid opening your front foot: keep it perpendicular to that center line. Be sure to stay slightly crouched. This will help you keep a low center of gravity to “absorb” a wave’s shock when the ride gets rocky. Check out Surf Edukators for more information, and take their advice on shifting feet. Every skilled surf rider shifts their weight constantly, and footwork matters!

Master this technique on the beach before you get in the water. Begin in starting position, throw down a few practice paddles, and hit each step of the pop up. When you’re comfortable doing it on land, you’ll be able to replicate it in the water.

After you’re comfortable with the pop up, it’s time to learn how to paddle out.

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Joel Cesare is one of StokeShare's cofounders and a lifelong searcher of the ultimate ride.

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