Surfing is a well-known water sport in which the surfer rides waves in an upright or prone position. Surfers catch the waves and glide across the surface of the water until the wave breaks or loses its energy.
Despite looking easy, it is actually one of the most difficult and complex sport in the world. But once you catch your first “green wave”, you will be hooked.
Surfing: How to Pop Up
Pop up is one of the most basic and vital movements every time you go surfing, but take note that there is no single “perfect” way to pop up. Every surfer has their own technique. Once you grasp the basic way to pop up, feel free to modify in however you feel the most comfortable. But before that, follow these steps below:
- Paddle while waiting for the wave. Lie face down on the surfing board and use your hands to paddle through the water. The best posture for this position is with your back arched and your head lifted up and looking forward. Keep paddling until a wave approaches, and then smoothly glide with it.
- Do a push up. Also known as the “chicken wings” position, place your hands under your chest. Push your body up using your arms, and tuck your toes on the surfboard’s tail. Your legs, knees, and waist should not touch the board. This is the most efficient way to push yourself up without losing balance and toppling over.
- Slide one foot forward. Your foot should be brought at the position of your opposite knee, which is about 40 centimeters forward on your board. You may twist your body for a smoother movement.
- Slid your other foot forward and position it in the same level as your hands. Place your foot in between. Your hands contribute to the surfboard’s stability and it helps with balance, which is why you should not let go unless your balance is stable.
- Once standing up, keep your knees bent and look straight ahead. Stay on the center line of the board with both feet. This is known as “the Monk” position. Looking down will cause you to lose balance. Also, make sure that your legs are well positioned before taking your hands off the board.
- Secure your stance. A good stance has a distance of shoulder width or slightly more. The arches of the feet should be positioned directly over the surfboard’s stringer, and angle of 45 degrees should be observed on your front foot.
There are two main methods to do a pop up:
- Two Step Pop Up. Also called the “chicken wing pop up”, this is for beginners. Begin by placing one foot at the back of the board. Push yourself up, then place another foot in the front portion of the board. Use the strength of your legs to lift your body and maintain your stance. This is ideal for smaller waves and bigger boards.
- One Step Pop Up.
This is the advanced variation wherein you push your body up and pull your legs underneath your chest in one swift motion. This is commonly seen in professional surfers.
Foundations of Movement
The act of surfing and popping up relies on the foundations of whether your body is strong and flexible enough. Can your hip move freely? Do your knees have normal range of motion?
Are your core and leg muscles strong enough? These are only some of the many factors to consider when doing a pop up.
Doing a pop up has three phases: movement, performance, and skill.
- In movement, the most important aspects are your mobility and stability. Your muscles, especially leg muscles, should be strong enough. Your core muscles should be able to accommodate your body weight and balance.
- As for performance, the factors that will affect it are your quickness in movement, coordination of body parts, the strength and endurance of your body, and your overall strength. These factors, when joined together, make it easier to perform a smooth and swift pop up.
- Last is the skill. This is the sport-specific knowledge in performing movements. Mastering the moves is crucial so as to do a pop up in an organized and swift manner.
Aside from these, your mindset plays a huge role. When surfing, eliminate the variables in your mind that are not necessary. Clear your mind and be at peace, while thinking of the movements that you will do for the next few seconds.
The key to doing a good pop up is concentrating well enough to map out your motor skills in your mind ahead of time. Avoid having anxieties. Muscle memory also works best when your mind is clear and you have practiced this movement multiple times beforehand.
Common Mistakes When Doing a Pop Up
- Practicing on the wrong waves. Pop up should be practiced in smaller waves especially for first time surfers. Avoid big waves when you haven’t mastered the technique yet.
- Looking down. This is the most common mistake of beginners. Looking down makes it difficult for you to see where you’re going, and it affects your balance as well.
- Feet in the wrong position. To avoid toppling over, keep your feet in the center of the board.
- Standing too upright. Doing this will cause you to lose balance. To increase your stability, stay low and bend your knees.
- Standing up too early. This will cause you to lose speed and you may fall off of the board. Make sure that the wave is giving a consistent forward momentum before standing up.
- Wrong hand position. Avoid grabbing the rails of the surfboard as this will slow the board down. It can also cause instability which will make it harder for you to push up. Instead, place your weight on the palm of your hands.
- Leaning over with your upper body. Your body weight should be at the knees and not the upper body in order to keep your balance.
- Knees on the board. Most beginner surfers do this as it makes it easier for them to stand up, but it actually makes you lose balance.
Tips and Tricks
- Practice on the beach. Before going out in the water, try to practice on the sand first.
- Use a big soft top surfboard. Using surfboards that are too small will make it harder to learn, especially for beginners.
- Do not use your legs to paddle through the water. Instead, keep it on the surfboard’s surface. This will allow it to act as an anchor, and will help with your speed.
- Stay positive. As easy as it looks, learning to surf is actually difficult. However, do not be discouraged as the beginning is always the hardest part.
- Ask for feedback and tips from surf instructor.
Exercises for better pop ups
Just like any skilled movement, pop ups need certain physical attributes, skill, strength, and joint mobility. It also requires proper timing and the ability to interact with a wave.
The hips play the most crucial part in doing a pop up as most of the strength to be used comes from here. The muscles that attach to you hip may limit your movement if these muscles are tight or weak. To improve your pop ups, try the exercises listed below:
- Stretch your hamstrings. Hamstrings are the muscles at the back of your thighs. Stretch these muscles for at least 30 seconds before doing a pop up so as to loosen it up, especially if it is tight.
- Deep squats. This exercise will strengthen your quadriceps muscles (muscles on your thigh) as well as your glutes (buttocks). Do at least 15 deep squats everyday to increase your muscle strength.
- Push Ups. This is an important exercise as popping up is almost similar to doing a push up. To properly do this, keep your torso still and maintain your neck, spine, and lower back flat and leveled. Avoid rotating your hips.
- Swiss Ball Jackknife. Core muscles need to be strengthened as well as they’re the body parts that maintain balance and stability. This exercise also mimics the strength and control needed for pop ups. This exercise can be done with the spine completely neutral or slightly rounded.
- Out of Water Practice. Of course, the best way to develop such skills is to practice as much as you can. Figure out how to stand up without using your feet to push your body weight. Doing this will teach your brain this specific motor pattern, hence improving it. Try to do it at least 8 reps of 3 sets a day with a 90-second rest period in between.
Overall, to really develop and improve your pop up, find what is limiting your movements. Then, improve that foundation, and practice as much as you can.
If your pop up skill is frustrating you, try to clear your mind and practice more. All you need is perseverance, dedication, and proper training to achieve that smooth, organized pop up.