One of the biggest challenges for beginner & intermediate surfers is to consistently pop up with their feet in the proper position on the surfboard. There are multiple techniques to help you go from a prone position to your proper surfing stance.
In this article, we will analyze 4 of them. We’ll cover the reasons why surfers decide to use them or not, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
Sliding the Knees
For the “sliding the knees” method, the surfer slides both knees forward and onto the surfboard. He then brings his front foot forward, in between his hands, and then stands up.
During the push-up technique, the surfer does a push up to lift his upper body up from the surfboard. He then brings his back foot forward and finally the front foot before standing up. Note that this technique can only be used on bigger surfboards such as longboards or foamboards because the surfer needs to be able to plant his toes onto the tail. On shorter surfboards, the surfer’s toes float in the water in the back of the tail.
The Chicken Wing
The “chicken wing” technique works on any type of surfboard. The surfer first slides his back foot forward onto the board, in the chicken wing position. Once the back foot is firmly placed on the board, he pushes his upper body upwards and brings his front foot forward before standing up.
The Standard Pop Up
The “standard pop up” is probably the most known of all and it is the fastest way a surfer can get to his feet. When using this technique, surfers “pop” up using only their hands and knees or lower thighs as points of contact with their surfboard. Once they “pop” to create the space between themselves and the board, they swing their feet onto the surfboard in a fast, fluid motion, with the back foot usually landing on the board just before the front foot, although some surfers land with both feet at the same time. Some consider that since the vast majority of surfers eventually use the “standard pop up”, then this should be the one to learn from the start.
In our opinion, the technique you decide to use should depend on your mobility, strength, surf experience and goals.
Mobility and Strength
Let’s start with mobility and strength as these can automatically dictate which technique is right for you. If you struggle to do a push-up or if it’s quite difficult for you to get in a cobra pose, then sliding the knees could be the technique for you.
If you’re able to do those, we strongly recommend you choose one of the 3 other techniques, as sliding the knees is the slowest technique and isn’t ideal when dropping in steeper waves. The next test you can try at home is to check if you are able to lift all of your body up in the air, throw your knees forward and land on your back foot. This should be done by only having your hands and knees touching the floor. While laying 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.
If you aren’t able to do this, then you probably should start by using one of the other take off techniques. If you are able to do it, this means this technique “could” be right for you, but it doesn’t mean that you absolutely “should” use it.
The fastest the take off technique is, the greater the levels of strength and mobility are required. The same goes for surfing experience. From what we have seen, the standard pop up is often challenging for novice surfers because it is done very quickly. Often, beginners end up bringing their feet at the wrong spots on the surfboard and fall off when trying this technique. From our experience, we’ve had more success with the middle techniques like the chicken wing, as it gives beginners a bit more time to pop up. This being said, we’ve also had complete beginners starting right away with the standard pop up with success.
An important question you need to ask yourself when choosing a take off technique is: “what is your objective”.
If, for example, you are an intermediate surfer that often takes too much time to pop up and ends up getting caught in the white water, then you could consider practising the standard pop up. This technique would probably be the most helpful to you if the waves at your local break are quite steep and peel very fast. If you are a beginner surfer, speed should likely not be your main objective. You should focus on consistency first and speed second. This means you should choose the technique with which you can get to your feet in the correct position with the highest success rate, without taking too much time. For many of our beginner students, this often is the chicken wing technique or the push-up technique. With a consistent take off, you fall less often and get to practice other things like your stance and weight distribution, therefore you progress faster and have more fun.