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4 – The Surfing Popup

Practicing the surfing popup on land

The surfing popup is essentially an explosive pushup. This is how you get to your feet on a surfboard! To make the popup easier, practice several popups on dry land every day. This will build up your arm strength and give you some muscle memory. When it comes time to do it on a surfboard you’ll have a much easier time.

Everyone’s surfing popup is slightly different, but for all intents and purposes the popup technique is basically the same for everyone.

At the beach, you can lay your surfboard down on the sand (dig the fins into the sand to avoid breaking them) and practice your popup before you go surfing. It’s helpful to avoid getting sand in your wax =)

Easy steps to a popup:

  • Place your hands flat on the board at the bottom of your ribcage.
  • Push your chest off the board with your pelvis and upper thighs still in contact with the board. (Don’t do a full body pushup with your weight on your hands and toes)
  • Without relying on your knees, bring your front foot forward under your body to approximately where your hands are. This step is hard to explain, but your lower torso will twist a little to the right if you’re regular or to the left if you’re goofy.
  • Your back foot will naturally follow—just check to make sure that your feet are parallel to your board’s stringer.

More Tips on the surfing popup

  • Some people like to plant their back foot first and use that as leverage to slide their front foot up to the front. This is an acceptable method—just make sure you can do it with balance.

  • Some people grab the rails of their surfboard, claiming it gives them more control. Grabbing the rails makes it easier to slip off and give yourself a fat lip or botch a takeoff, but give it a try and see what works best for you. When surfing a shortboard it can help to grab the rails and pull the board under you in a steep takeoff.

  • The popup should be a single fluid motion. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly right the first few times. It will come with practice. You’ll also need to build up some muscles.

  • Try not to end up on your knees. This is a tough habit to break for some people. It happens sometimes, though, so don’t worry too much.

  • It’s easier to do a popup while you’re surfing a real wave. When you catch an unbroken wave, the action of the popup pushes the wave down the face a bit. Plus, the excitement of catching a wave makes the popup even easier.

  • When you’re just starting to learn to surf, practice popups on the floor anywhere you can when you’re not surfing. Do 20 or so a day until you can do it without thinking. It’s also great exercise and will build your surfing and popup muscles.


  1. I have some trouble with the Pop-up, O have body surfed and body boarded most of my life and have the wave knowlege. Now I’m 57 years old, my son who is 15 has learned to surf. So I got a 9’2″ board and want to join him, but I have a problem with the pop-up.I’m in good shape and have alot of upper body strenght. I keep trying and believe I will do it with more practice.

  2. when you have completed the pop upyour feet should not
    be parallel to the boards stringer but at a 30 to 45 degree angle

  3. This is what i like to do to practice my pop up. I take the fins off my board and put it on my bed. I make shur my feet hang of the bed a little and just pop up over and over again. because of this i can pop up really easily now. give this a try IT REALLY WORKS.

  4. Jumpin with yer arms shoulb be the same as with yer legs. Use those popeye muscles and keep pushin till the foremost part of yer hands leave the board, thats whats makes the difference. when ya do a legs jump your feet carry the wheight till the tip of your toe, is all about the principle. Hoh.. and fighters dont train gettin their ass kicked in the ring, first they learn the moves then work the bag till they master the moves and then they get their ass kicked in the ring. Lear the basics first

  5. i learnt to surf a year ago it was so annoying when you couldn’t get up but that first day i tried i did, i was the happiest person in the world. i didn’t have any lessons i just kept trying in the water because on the floor anywhere it is not like getting up in the water because u get in the habit of using your feet.

    i started on a soft board for 1 month then i started on my dads maul for 2 months so i could get comfortable on a fiber glass board and because you have more room to move around then on a short board. but then i bought a short fiberglass board and it is great if you are right in to surfing because it can get very annoying not being able to get up right so if your not right in to it but you are going to go surfing now and then keep going until you get to the maul’s and then stop because you do not want to spend heaps of money on a short expensive board because the can break very easy.

    Take my advise and try that because it will help you a lot more than doing it on the floor and stuff, just get straight in to it and keep practising in the water and you will soon get it

    hope you get in to

  6. I was having trouble until I finally paid for a lesson last week. My issue? I thought of the popup as a flying pushup…that doesn’t work. It’s important to get your chest off the board and arch your back…then pop your legs forward WHILE TRYING TO KEEP YOUR BUTT LOW. Concentrate on getting your feet under your shoulders, not under your waist. Hope this helps.

  7. this helped me understand the motion. kneel on carpet and jump to your feet w/out using your hands, thats the most important part of the pop up, instead of trying to push yourself to your feet, try to make space between your chest and the board and bring your feet into the open space

  8. Ya, don’t use your toes. When I was learning I used my toes…without knowing better. Eventually I could pop up fine. As I got better my pop ups were really fluid and I was riding shorter and shorter boards. But now with my newest board my feet don’t touch the end and I can’t use my toes to pop up and now I feel like I am learning all over again…very frustrating. Best to start off right from the beginning.

  9. Aaaargh, I went to one surfing lesson and they specifically taught me to get onto my knees first. Alright for catching foamies but useless in the long run. Now everytime I am catching a wave I am thinking “don’t use your knees, don’t use your knees!” Nevertheless, I land up on my stupid knees. Is the hardest habit to break ever. Stupid surf instructors wanting nothing but a reputation for getting people to their feet on the first day. Feel like I am never going to get this right!

  10. I have heard that you’re not supposed to use your toes. I’ve been practicing on carpet and use my toes. I do fine. I tried keeping my toes raised in the air and it was SUPER HARD. Really hard!

    Because if you’re in the water, your toes are dangling in the water so where do you push off of? Seems like I am over analyzing but just want to get it right.

    Someone said you’re toes are not supposed to have any contact with the ground. If you’re practicing on carpet.

  11. I agree with avoiding to pop on your knees as an in-between step.
    I’ve started surfing last weekend and I was glad my instructor taught us to pop straight onto our feet.
    Other beginners who leant to be in their knees were reluctant to leave a comfy and forward-facing stance to be fully erected and sideway.
    Try to pop straight to your feet, get it wrong many times, body board when you can’t make it and eventually it will come.

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