The “standard pop up” is the most popular take off technique amongst experienced surfers because some conditions such as fast peeling waves require surfers to get onto their feet as fast as they possibly can. This technique is the fastest way to get to your feet, but it can be challenging for some surfers as it requires a good amount of core strength and mobility.
Frequent Question: “Should I bring both feet on the board simultaneously?”
Before getting into the steps of the take off, let’s address a very frequent question for this technique: should you try to bring one foot after the other, or aim to land both feet on the surfboard simultaneously? Some surfers land with both of their feet on the board at exactly the same moment. From what we have seen through hundreds of analyses, most advanced surfers, including professionals, bring their back foot first, and then their front foot on the board. They do this so quickly that unless you watch a video in slow motion, it looks like they bring both feet at the same time.
We strongly recommend our students focus on bringing the back foot first, and then the front foot on the surfboard. We frequently see beginners and intermediates wiping out when trying to swing both their feet on the surfboard simultaneously. This is mostly because they lack the experience to bring both their feet to the right spot at the same time. By bringing one foot after the other, surfers have a bit more time to place their feet, making sure they are balanced on the board before standing up. Additionally, bringing the back foot first will help you create more space to bring your front foot on the surfboard, in between your hands.
You can compare both options at home. Lay down on your chest, and see what is physically more demanding to you: either popping up and bringing your back foot forward on the board or popping up and swinging both your feet in the correct position, with your front foot landing approximately in between your hands and your front knee arriving under your chin. Rarely do we have students feeling more comfortable with bringing both feet at the same time, but if this is your case, then you could consider trying it out in the water. When trying this at home, make sure you are not actually using your toes to pop up, as this could mislead you into believing that you can easily bring both feet in the correct position simultaneously.
Push up, swing the knees & land on the back foot
The first step for this technique is to push the upper body up, swing the knees forward & land on the back foot. This might sound like multiple steps but it should be done in one fluid motion. To verify if you’re able to do this step, lay on your belly with your hands below your pectorals. Push your upper body up. As your thighs lift off from the floor, see if you can swing both knees up and forwards without them dragging on the floor and have your back foot land towards where your tail would be. Often, surfers will have the toes land on the surfboard’s tail first, which is fine.
Make sure to swing your knees up and forward by using only your hands and knees as spots of contact with the floor or surfboard. You can purposely lift your feet from the ground before taking off, to prevent you from using your toes. We often see surfers practicing this technique on land using their toes as points of contact on the ground, which is easier. If you are riding a shortboard or a fish, you need to avoid practicing this way. In the water, your feet will be hanging further off the back of the surfboard, so you won’t be able to place your toes on the board to pop up.
Push higher to create space
The next step is to push your body up to create more space. Once you’re in this “one-legged push up” position, the rest of the process is much the same as for some other take off techniques such as the chicken wing. Push your whole body up and over the surfboard. This creates the necessary space between your body & the surfboard for the next step: bringing your front foot forward.
Bring the front foot forward & stand up
The last step is to bring the front foot and stand up. Throw your front knee forward towards your chest and place your front foot on the surfboard. The knee slides close to the surfer’s chest during this step. Your front foot should land straight over the surfboard’s stringer, in between your hands. Remember to look towards where you want to go during the take off, and to use your hands to keep your speed and to maintain balance.
This article was purposely divided into multiple steps in order to clarify the body mechanics of the take off. In reality, the standard pop up is done quickly in one fluid motion, often with the back foot landing only a small fraction of a second before the front foot. Surfers don’t pause in between steps as those have become automated for them through practice.