When you’re learning to surf, the pop-up is the first thing you’ll learn, whether you’re taking lessons at our Costa Rica surf school or elsewhere. A good surf instructor, like those on our team in Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador, will walk you through the step-by-step mechanics of a proper surf pop-up on the beach before you paddle out. While it may seem like something you can learn on the fly or develop as you progress, mastering proper pop-up techniques is vital to your ability to improve your surfing. Your pop-up dictates how your ride will go. An improper pop-up typically leads to missed waves or, at minimum, an inefficient ride. To find out how we teach our students to pop up, continue reading below for the Safari Surf Guide to Mastering the Surf Pop-Up. 

Position Yourself to Catch the Wave

surfing nosara

Before you pop up and begin your ride, you have to catch the wave. It’s no secret that surfing is 99% paddling and paddling effectively and positioning yourself correctly will ensure you have the best opportunity to catch and ride the wave. As we have mentioned in previous surf tip blogs, catching a wave at its peak is critical to ensuring a successful ride. The peak of the wave is the highest point of the incoming swell, where the wave first begins breaking. While it’s tempting to try to catch a wave on the less steep area of the shoulder, it’s far more difficult. Catching a wave at its peak will ensure you have the best opportunity to get into the wave early and take the easiest drop possible.

Paddle Hard

family surf vacation panama

Once you position yourself at the peak of the wave, paddle hard to match the wave’s speed. A lot of surfers struggle to paddle hard. Dig deep with each stroke, and once you feel the wave lift you, paddle a few more strokes to ensure you’re fully in the wave.

Start Your Surf Pop-Up by Raising Your Chest

surf pop up

The first step to a well-executed surf pop-up is to raise your chest like you’re performing the upward dog yoga pose. Place your hands under your chest like you’re going to do a push-up, and then raise your chest off the board. When you raise your chest, your weight will shift toward the back of your board, stalling you high on the wave’s face, allowing you ample time to get to your feet and drop into the wave.

Look Down Line

surfer dropping in

With your chest raised like you’re in the upward dog yoga pose, turn and look down the face of the wave in whichever direction you aim to ride. If you’re taking off on a right, look to the right before initiating the rest of your pop-up. If you’re taking off on a left, look to the left before getting to your feet. In surfing, the direction of your gaze will dictate where your board goes. If you turn your head and look down the line, your shoulders and hips will follow.

Bring your Back Foot to the Tail of Your Board

surf lessons

With your chest raised off the board, bring your back foot to the tail of the board, bending your knee over the board’s rail.

Push through Your Back Foot & Bring Your Front Foot Forward

surfing pop up

Once your back foot is placed on the tail of your surfboard, push through your foot and raise your whole body to a pushup position with your back foot on the tail and your hands firmly on the deck of the board. Next, bring your front foot forward, plant it under your chest, and rise into a crouched, athletic position. Before rising fully to your stance, look down at your feet and make sure your stance is slightly wider than shoulder width.

Stay tuned to the Safari Surf blog for more surf tips. If you’re a new surfer or an intermediate who wants to brush up on your technique, visit our Costa Rica surf schools and learn from the best instructors in the business.