exercises for surfing pop up
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Exercises for Surfing: Pop Up Practice

In order to perform a successful pop up, you first need to build a solid foundation. In this article we guide you to the perfect pop up, step by step.

exercises for surfing pop up

It all sounds nice and good on paper, as simple as can be, but when it comes time to actually rise to your feet while a liquid monster is tailing you, things get a bit more difficult to pull off. 

No matter where you are in your surfing journey, you can always improve your pop ups. If you overthink the motions, you are bound to fail. However, if you don’t put any thought into it, you probably won’t be able to pop up at the right time and catch the apex of the wave. 

Patience is key here. Beginners will get frustrated because their body just won’t go along with what they’re trying to accomplish, and veterans will be frustrated with themselves if they hit a bad pop up streak. 

Nevertheless, a little patience goes a long way on pop ups. For the most part, it’s about the mental aspect of the move as it is about the move itself. 

Building a Foundation

First things first; you have to have your fundamental movements down. There is no way that you’ll be able to make last-second adjustments when the going gets tough if you don’t have a solid foundation to stand on. 

Your core has to be up to par with the movement. Yes, it will take for you to push off the board and pull in your hips, but without a stable core, your balance will suffer while you’re popping up. The bending pattern of the movement can develop hand in hand with your skillset only if your core can support you and provide a balanced foundation.

Surfers usually neglect this part and focus all of their attention on developing their technique and skills. You will not be able to get anywhere if you don’t have a foundation to attach those skills to. 

So, please don’t take the long road on this one. It’s one of the most basic moves in surfing and one that you will need to count on time and time again. 

The Pop Up Movement

Yes, the movement itself is considered a skill, but it takes a solid foundation in order to pull it off. The body has to support the commands given by the brain in order for the whole ordeal to work.

You won’t be able to do a proper pop up until the movement is second nature to you. 

We’re pretty sure that most of you will attempt or have attempted their first pop ups in the water. And while this is not inherently wrong in itself, it might set you on a path of frustration because of your lack of progress. 

If that seems to be the case, move out of the water and head out to shore. You can start building up your pop up skills by making use of foam rollers or any other surface that isn't stable. Pay close attention to which parts of the movement cause you the most difficulty. Narrow them down and address them properly. 

Once you feel that there are no weaknesses in your movements, that you’re fundamentally sound, and that your body is apt for the job, then you can move into the skill territory of things. 

Remember that you don’t need to get fancy at this stage. Don’t overdo the movements so that they look good on film—there'll be plenty of time to do that once you’re up and running. Keep your focus where it should be and just concentrate on the movements and how they feel. 


exercises for surfing pop up

One of the most important factors in order to nail this move is flexibility. Have you seen those old-timers stretching out for an hour by the shore? Have you found them funny? Well, that’s likely you someday if you do things right. 

Check on your body’s flexibility before you go for the pop up. While you’re on the shore, rep some deep squats. How is your lower body feeling? Are there any pops and cracks? 

Are your joints feeling ok? 

We’re going to assume that you haven’t suffered any serious injuries that might need extra attention here. If you have, you’ll need to set a longer and more meticulous warm-up routine before you get going. 

Seek professional help when natural movements cause you pain and discomfort. Yes, we know that it’s probably nothing and that it will probably go away on its own, but you might be causing yourself a great deal of pain or a major setback in the long run. So, make sure that you check up on everything and anything that’s bothering you. It’s simple body maintenance. 

Core Control

It’s not out of the question for surfers to be flexible and have their body running smooth but lack the strength to pull off the movements. 

If this looks like your case, then you should start working on your upper body. The pop up motion mostly falls on the core and the hips. You will need to integrate your core straight into your movements.   

Keep in mind that it’s not the movements themselves that count, but rather how you are performing them. This rings true for practicing as well. It’s not how many reps you put in, it's the quality of the reps that counts. 

Always be sure that you are doing quality movements that build good habits. Most of the exercises that you’ll be doing will be aimed at straightening your pelvis, hip, and spine area. What do all of these have in common? They are attached to the core.  

While you are doing the exercises carefully, go through the motions and see how they affect your body core. 

It’s important to switch the focal point between strength, durability, and motion control. Don’t drill only one aspect of the exercises to no end. 

Upper Body Focus

The most common exercises to fix this problem are some slow and controlled push-up exercises. Everyone should be able to do perfect, clean, core-controlled pushups.


You will need to make it a bit more difficult for yourself if you find that the way you do push-ups just doesn’t cut it. This will be obvious when the time comes to pop up in the water. 

Start at a point where you can manage the exercise and ramp it up as you go along. Keep in mind that your core has to be integrated into the movements, and if it isn’t, then you’re probably doing something wrong. 

You can increase the difficulty of the push-up exercise on a couple of fronts. You can do more reps and focus on your endurance, add some extra weights on you in order to improve your strength or perform the exercises on unstable surfaces. 

Sometimes surfers lack explosiveness in their movements. If this is you, then you should apply shifts as fast as you’re doing the push-ups. Don’t get stuck in one gear—move from slow to fast, back to slow, and everything in between. 

How to Practice Pop Ups?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is not rocket science. While we’re stressing the quality of your exercises, not everything has to be perfect for the best results. One of the best things that you can do is ask yourself how you can modify your exercises to address your weak spots. 

Don’t be surgical on movements—the ocean will never throw you the perfectly inlined wave. Things will fluctuate, and you will need to adapt to different situations and circumstances. 

Land Practice

Dry land is a good place to start exercising your pop ups. At this stage, you’ll be able to gauge which exercises affect you best and which one causes you soreness. It’s all about muscle memory at this point. You aren’t training your body as much as you are training your brain. You are introducing your brain to new patterns that it has to call up when the situation calls for it. 

You don’t want to overdo your reps when starting out because you could end up building some bad habits to cause yourself minor injuries. Yes, you should practice the motions until you’re tired, but don’t go beyond that. Keep your eye on the threshold.

Another thing that you don’t want to do is take long breaks between sets. So what’s a good rest time between sets? 90 to 120 should be enough time for your body to center itself, readying your nervous system for another round. 

In order to achieve the best result, you should alternate between exercises as much as possible. This will not only make your workouts more efficient, but it will also minimize the chance of developing bad habits.  

Always remember to pop up with both legs. You can develop all aspects that will make for a great pop us technique, but at the end of the day, if you keep dragging one foot in front of the other you won’t be doing yourself any favors. 

Bosu Ball Pop Ups

Bosu pop ups are an exercise where the surfer makes use of a Bosu ball in order to develop their balance and reflexes. Because the surface beneath you is unstable you will be having a harder time with your pop ups. Consider giving this a shout only after you have your motions and down. 

A Few Words Before You Go…

So when it’s all said and done, you will need to develop a strong and stable core

through pop up exercises that will take your pushing strength to the next level and improve your  actual skill. Things that you should definitely have a grip on are the deep squat position, hip mobility, hip pull, core integration, and planting your feet smoothly.

That being said, remember to also target all muscle groups. Yes, core strength is at the root of it, but once you feel like you’re plateauing, start expanding on the basic movement. Try straightening the front leg and single arm planks, develop a better opening maneuver, more challenging push-ups, and even a more challenging standing position.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching