How to Pop-Up as a Beginner Surfer

Mastering the pop-up is a pivotal skill for any aspiring surfer. Whether you're just starting or looking to refine your technique to progress, Wavehunters is here to help.

How to Pop Up

We’ll provide essential tips and techniques to help surfers perfect their pop-ups, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable ride on the waves. 

What is a Pop-Up? 

A fundamental skill for any surfer is a ‘pop up’ which is the way in which you get to stand on a board. Sounds simple right? But learning alone can be rather complicated, the pop-up involves key techniques that if done incorrectly can lead to common errors and stumped surfing progression. Key mistakes we find can range from incorrect foot placement causing a stance we like to call ‘the poo stance’ – I don’t think this needs to be explained, bad shoulder alignment, looking down and not ahead and even wrong hand placement when starting to push up. 

Below we have put together our simplistic guide on ‘how to pop up’, while this is a written guide head over to our Instagram for a visual guide of one of our surf instructors demonstrating a pop up


How to Pop Up:


Before we pop up: When a wave is 5 seconds away from you, turn the boards so the nose (top of the board) is facing the land, hold onto the rail (sides) of your board and slide yourself onto the board lying down. Begin paddling for the wave. 

Make sure your toes are just hanging over the edge of the board and no further. The further back you are the more you act as a ‘break’ making catching a wave nearly impossible. 

Once the wave has touched your feet, you want to give 3 more strong paddles to ensure you are on the wave.

After the three paddles, place your hands under your chest into the ‘chicken wing’ position, and look up and ahead of yourself while tucking your elbows into your body.  We suggest at this point to practise catching a few waves lying down getting a feel of being on the wave. 

From here, keep your hands still, slide your knees up and in between your hands. From palms down, raise up to your fingertips – this allows for space for the next movement. Take your front leg (left or right) and bring your foot between your hands, in a tight, lunge position. 

Whilst looking towards the shore, slightly lean forward placing your weight onto your front foot. Lift your back knee placing your back foot to the centre of the board, and twist your body to the side of the board in a low crouch position. Your feet should naturally sit at a front 45-degree angle and back 90-degree angle with your heels off the board. 

Keep yourself in the low crouch position, with your hands on the board to allow for better balance and more control. Once stable, use your feet and hands to push up into a standing position with your knees still bent and hands in front of you, and arms relaxed. It is key to keep your knees bent rather than straight to allow for control and stability on the board. This becomes imperative for future surf progression such as turning.  

And that is your complete pop-up. 


We cannot emphasise enough the importance of proper positioning, your balance and stability are all dependent on your stance. A key tip will always be to look up, looking up helps create a strong centre of balance stopping the risk of falling and also helps to ensure no one is in front of you before you take off for a wave. 

Before getting in the water, we highly recommend dry land drills of your pop-up on a board. The more you do the quicker the ‘pop-up’ becomes muscle memory making it smoother and easier to do in the water.  Practising at home, grab a yoga mat and make sure you have an arm’s length of space all around. You don’t need a board to practise just something soft to lie on. If you are practising before getting in the water, make sure you have space around you, there are no rocks an arm’s distance from you (just in case you fall) and if you are worried about your fins, dig a small hole for the fins to lie in while the board is flat on the sand. Be patient, take the skill step by step and allow yourself to make mistakes. 

At Wavehunters, our large team of experienced instructors provide personalised support and feedback during surf lessons whether it’s a group or private lesson. Our positive learning style allows for quick, confident progression. Our coaches are here to guide and improve your surf, with end-of-lesson tips for practising on your own after. Everyone is at a different point in their surfing journey, and our goal is to emphasise each milestone you hit, small victories lead to big milestones and consistency is key. 

Everyone learns how to do a pop-up in their own time, some find they have time to practise at home often and others once a week. Be patient with yourself, surfing is a fun but tricky sport that requires lots of practice. Our team of friendly, experienced instructors are highly skilled in getting everyone standing no matter your age. If you don’t fancy a lesson but need to see a visual pop-up, ask a member of our team who will always be more than happy to give you a quick demonstration before you hire some kit and practice. We have surf lessons available at Watergate Bay or Polzeath, either book via our website or contact us for more information.

Most importantly, just Get Out There and have fun!