The Pop Up

This is wrong already.

As we progress in surfing people talk about nailing your pop up. Getting your pop up right. But that is already the essential mistake: from the moment you start surfing there is a tendency to talk about your pop-up in the singular.

'Popping up' is actually - it becomes clear - a whole set of manoevres and skills as varied as airs or bottom turns. There is the long glide into slow pop-up, there is the emergency speed pop-up as you fall down the face of a late take-off and everything in between. That is why popping up remains one of the main things you're constantly learning as you progress in surfing. When I remember learning, optimistically studying 'the' pop-up (hands under your chest, one movement jump into squatting - they say,) and I remember what an idealistic idea I had of getting to my feet: that it was something that could be 'sorted out'. Done. Learned with an end to it. I mean, my popping up is undoubtedly much improved: I will make most and have taken a healthy step towards the other end of the scale. I enjoy late drops with that feeling of weightlessness until the fins grip the face, though at my age I prefer an early take-off, planing before I pop-up and perhaps with time for a little fade before the first bottom turn. But, I know how different my pop-ups are between boards and waves and states of physical exhaustion!

All I'm saying is that if you're at the beginning of your surfing journey - just don't think of "the" pop-up as singular in kind or that popping-up a minor obstacle before you surf that wave. Getting to your feet has to become skilled, spontaneous, varied and part of surfing: you're surfing before you pop-up. Think of the pop-ups as manoevres to be enjoyed: we all know a successful late drop is ecstatically heart-warming. As you get better you paddle, you have time to look along the wave as you catch it, you're surfing now - you're a bodyboarder. Then, while you're surfing you have a split second to decide how best to launch yourself onto your feet, transform into a stand-up surfer and scoot down the face; how you do this will define your first bottom turn; how you then manage your first bottom turn will set up the whole wave.

Enjoy the pop-ups!


  1. of course if we are talking advanced pops, then a well executed fade is amongst the most satisfying!

  2. Interesting article and take on the pop-up. As a beginner, maybe im putting too much emphasis on trying to perfect it at this stage


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