The pop up is the starting point of any wave we ride, making it an essential skill for all surfers. If you want to become a master of the pop up, then taking the time to practice surfing pop up exercises, even when out of the water, is the best method for reaching mastery of this critical aspect of our sport.
The pop up requires a combination of strength, power, flexibility, and balance. Surfing pop up exercises are movements and physical activities all aimed at building the foundation of your pop up through enhancing these physical attributes.
New, beginner surfers will need to ensure that their pop up is mastered from a technical standpoint more so than experienced surfers, but regardless of your surfing abilities, it's never a bad thing to make surfing pop up exercise an integrated aspect of your surfing fitness routine.
For newer surfers, one of the best things you can do is to practice your surf pop up at home to reiterate the movements into your head, so they become second nature. The more you do something, the more your muscle memory begins to take over, which is key to mastery.
If you have a foamy or an old longboard laying around, take the fins off and place the board on a patch of grass or your carpet.
After reading the first article, "The Surf Pop Up: How to Get it Right", take the information contained within and practice it with consistency on your board. Perform the motion repeatedly, and because you aren't in the water, take your time doing so. As you initiate your pop up, remain cognizant of any bad habits, such as using your knees to help you up, and work on avoiding them to the greatest extent. As your motion becomes smooth, you can increase the speed at which you do it, turning it more into a workout where you repeat the pop up a certain number of times in a given timeframe.
What's great about the ability to practice surf pop up at home is that you aren't feeling rushed and overwhelmed by a wave. You can set up your phone nearby to record your pop up on a surfboard, and this allows you to watch back and ensure that you are not practicing any bad habits and to visualize what you are doing right/wrong to adjust accordingly.
Performing push-ups continues to engrave the beginning of the pop up motion into your head while building strength in the muscles used during a pop up on a surfboard. Some individuals have difficulty with their pop up because they lack arm strength, and push-ups will help to fix this.
For the best results, perform different variations of the push-up to target all the required muscles. Place your hands closer to the inside of your chest for one set, and then spread them further apart for another.
To really mimic the feeling of surfing, try doing push-ups on unstable surfaces, such as on a medicine ball or a yoga ball. Your surfboard isn't stable on a wave, so this helps to build comfort in utilizing arm strength when on a wobbly surface.
Surfing pop ups need to be powerful and quick, so surfing pop up exercises that require the same are ideal. The clapping push-up is perfect because it requires an explosion of strength followed by a quick clap that requires mental awareness and physical skill.
As you rest your hands on a surface and bring your body lower, pause when your arms are bent to their full potential and when your chest is close to the ground. From here, initiate one movement with as much strength and power as possible, jolting your body upwards with your chest and arm strength just as you would when dropping in. Clap your hands together quickly before coming back down, and catch yourself as you slowly bring your body lower again for another rep. Remember, form is everything, so the second your form begins to falter, take a break or move on to other surfing pop up exercises.
Burpees are great because they are an explosive movement, and they target both the upper and the lower body and the core. They are super similar to pushing yourself up into your surfing stance and a great strength-training exercise.
To perform a burpee, start in a squatting position with a straight back. Bring your hands down to your feet, and extend your legs out into a push-up position. Then, perform a controlled push-up. After your push-up, you want to propel your knees towards your chest to frog jump yourself (see the similarities to the pop up here?) back up to a squatted position. Next, jump in the air while lifting your hands above your head, and land into the beginning squatting position to do it again.
To make this even more geared towards surfing pop up exercises, as you frog jump after your push-up, mimic your pop up by bringing the knee of your front foot underneath you first, and twist your body into your surfing stance instead of a squat.
When engaging in a surfing pop up, more of your weight will be placed onto your front foot, and lunges are amazing because they require weighted balance on singular legs that will get you used to this sensation.
To perform a lunge:
Once your front knee is fully bent and engaged, use the power of this front foot to lift yourself back up into a standing position, and do this again on the other side. To up the intensity, hold weights in both of your hands as you lunge.
Knees to the chest is a great workout to practice surf pop up at home, as it builds core strength while in the pop up positioning. Place yourself in a push-up position, back straight, and butt down.
From here, bring the knee of the chosen leg towards your chest while lightly twisting your body from the shoulders, and extend it back into the push-up position once completed, then transitioning to the other leg. This exercise can be performed quickly and with high repetition and is a great exercise to get that twisting motion of your front knee under your chest down, just as you do when popping up.
Any variation of a squat will make for excellent surfing pop up exercises. Although a lot of your pop up requires arm strength, it also requires a powerful core and strong legs, as the second after you pop up, you begin engaging your lower body.
You can perform simple bodyweight squats, or if you're feeling it, you can hit the gym to work on weighted barbell squats. If you have a pair of dumbbells lying around, however, this will totally do the trick.
You can hold one dumbbell close to your chest as you squat, or you might want to try lifting two dumbbells above your head as you come out of a squat to further work on arm strength, too.
Toning your core is guaranteed to make a pop up on a surfboard a hell of a lot smoother and more effortless. Quite literally, any abdominal workouts are excellent surfing pop up exercises, but a few of our favorites for surfing include:
Yoga is an absolute gem for increasing your balance capabilities. Not only balance, but it helps with breathing, awareness, and strength, which all cater perfectly to the entire ecosystem of surfing. If you really want to become a better surfer, then signing up for a yoga class, even if it's online, or following the instructions of a yoga app/video are our best suggestions.
Take your time practicing yoga, as the experience and patience are what it's all about, and really tune in to your body awareness and each singular movement you execute. This awareness is precisely what you need to navigate a quickly breaking wave, and this helps you to think calmly in adrenaline-inducing situations.
You'll notice that certain positions, such as cobra positions, mimic the bodily movements of a pop up on a surfboard, and you'll quickly begin to see how all of this is related.
Balance boards don't necessarily help you with the bodily motion of a pop up, but they do help you with balance, that's for sure! The thing about a pop up is that your body goes from a stable, laying down position to a completely unstable standing position in a matter of a second. And with this, if you aren't balanced, you're going to go down.
Spending some time on a balance board, or even something similar, like a YOW Surfskate, will do your balance wonders over time. Balance IS a learned skill, and just like popping up on a surfboard, the more you practice it, the better you get.
An extra focus on balance capabilities is one of the best, albeit more under-the-radar surfing pop up exercises, and will ensure that your pop up is actually a successful one.
Surfing isn't just physical; it's hugely a mental practice, as well. Practicing your pop up also means learning more about popping up on a surfboard. Watch videos of the pros dropping in on both small, clean waves and large, steep waves. You will visualize how their body navigates the varying wave conditions with each style of pop up, and you can study what they do to replicate it to the best of your abilities when in the water.
Watch live action from the sand, as well, if you are a new surfer, to see a pop up first hand. Take as many mental notes as possible, and if you have questions about it, ask them! There's always someone out there who is willing to help you out (including us!), and asking questions is the only way to seek the answers you need.
Work on these surfing pop up exercises with consistency and determination, and remember- although the best practice will always be in the water, the best surfers are those who center their life around surfing and who do things that increase their wave riding prowess even when they aren't near an ocean. So if you want to be the best you can be, go and get it by implementing a dedicated pop up practice routine and you'll be killing it in no time.