Surf Tips – How to do the perfect pop up

We’re proud to introduce the second of our Surf Tips Series, which we’re releasing in conjunction with pro coaches from around the world.

Complete with photos and videos of pro’s in action as well as top tips and common mistakes, the series promises to get you in the water and improving your surfing in no time.

In the second of our 3 multimedia instalments, Chris Bond from Ticket to Ride Surf Adventures talks us through how to execute the perfect pop up.

The perfect pop up

If you are reading this it is either because you are struggling with the pop-up, confused about the pop-up, or I guess just interested. Reasons for confusion would be validated as there are many different ways to get to your feet. There is no ‘right’ way as the feeling of surfing is what we seek. Having said that you do want to have a way that is consistent, quick, and gets your feet in the right place. Different people have varying levels of fitness, flexibility and of course body shapes, so if needs be alter it a bit to make it work for you.

The reason I have used this technique to demonstrate is not because it is necessarily the easiest way to get to your feet, or may not initially appear to be the quickest, but it is a way where the better you get at it the faster it becomes from a total beginner through to being a pro surfer (with slight variation). GB junior team member Jake Elkington gives us a demonstration.

The first thing is lying in the right part of the board, your nose should just be sticking out the water. The next step is of course catching the wave, and all I’m going to say is paddle hard with control don’t get up too early! When you have caught the wave it is time to pop-up!

Step 1: Put your hands tucked in next to your chest with your elbows out, your feet are together and your head is up looking forward.

Step 2: Now you can do a half push-up lifting the font half of your body with your knees remaining on the board*, still looking forward.

Step 3: This is where it really starts, you bring your back forward so that your toes are just in front of the knee and the heal up (see pic). Regardless of the size of board you are riding if you were lying in the right place you will end up standing in the right place. Keep looking forward.

Step 4: This is where you step your leg through and place it just behind the ‘line’ between your hands. It is important to note that you should have turned a bit to help your foot land sideways. Ideally you will keep your hands (or fingertips) on the deck of your board when your foot lands to help keep your balance, but if you can’t then still stay nice and low as you put that foot forward and keep your hands there as long as you can.

Step 5: Now you come up slowly into your standing position. I say slowly because you still need to remain low and keep your legs bent to help get you going. If you were to draw in an invisible line from you head to the board it should be roughly between your two feet. Your weight should be central or slightly on the front foot if you are a complete beginner in the white water. Your front arm should be up to help steer you and your back arm also up to help keep your balance (and steer as you get better).

So, it’s as easy as that! The reason this is such a great technique is that you can take 15 seconds at the beginning to do it, or using the same procedure can do it in a second, so you will keep progressing and never get stuck! Before we sign off though, I’ll share some of the most common mistakes that surfers make who are struggling with their pop-up.

Common Mistakes

  1. One of the most common mistake people make is to look down at their feet during the pop-up, if you look down you have the water rushing past and it is easy to get a little dizzy, feel like everything is a rush and to lose your balance. Looking up also helps you get your foot through.
  2. Another very common mistake is actually to do with the timing of the popup, especially as a complete beginner you have to make sure you catch the wave before you popup. Wait until the wave is actually pushing you along and then get up.
  3.  A third common mistake is people wanting to get going with riding the wave before their feet are in the right place. If your feet are wrong this will impact every other aspect of your surfing tremendously, so get your feet right first and then worry about the wave!


  1. Don’t get up too early! Wait until you feel the wave starting to push you along and then get up.
  2. Your feet don’t have to be perfect, you can always shuffle them a bit afterwards to get them in the right spot and at the right angle.
  3. Some people prefer to put their one hand further forward on the rail than the other one which helps make sure you twist to land sideways (and incidentally is a technique used by surfers like Kelly Slater when taking off in the barrel on the backhand).
  4. Don’t worry if you can’t put your foot down without lifting your hands, but make sure you keep your weight there.
  5. Don’t rock the boat. The overall position a board lies in still water without you on it is the same as it should lie with you on (ie not nose sticking high up or under water). So when you are learning to stand you need to also be careful that you don’t ‘rock the boat’ and keep that weight central over the exact same area where you were from lying to standing!

So, there you have it and there are many other tips which you may have so please feel free to share them below, there is an exhaustive list in my head and each person may need a slightly different piece of advise.

And remember, there are many different ways to pop-up, none are right or wrong but this is one that is proven and helps cater for all individuals.

Having taught hundreds of surfers I may be able to help you out without seeing you surf, so if you are struggling then please feel free to ask below and I will respond.

Check out: Surf tips #1: How to do a forehand cutback
Coming soon: Surf Tips #3: The Aerial – dropping 10/08/14

Words and Photos Chris Bond @seabond

Ticket to Ride run Surf Courses, and Surf Breaks in South Africa, Mozambique, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Morocco. All their trips include surf coaching to the highest, with most being run by ex-WCT and WQS surfers. They cater for all abilities, and are widely regarded as the best organisation to improve your surfing dramatically in a short period of time.