surfing pop up technique
Min Read Time

Where should you hands be during the pop up and how to fix your pop up

This guide will explain where to place your hands during the pop up and if you should be grabbing the rails or not.

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The Full Guide

Are you guilty of overthinking your pop-up? Do you analyse all the details and how you could make it better?

Or are you slightly unsure about best practices and where your hands should be during the pop-up?

A lot of beginners in intermediates struggling with the pop-up will question this. Where should my hands be and how should they be during the pop-up?

Where should you put your hands during the pop-up?

The short and sweet of this is under your chest and where ever is comfortable for your hands to be and allow you to push yourself up into cobra pose. 

That’s it. No need to overthink it or complicate it. But if you are unsure where and what that feels like, just do a few cobra poses on the ground and feel different hand placements so you can figure out which position feels more natural for you.

Staggering your hands

I recently heard of staggering your hands just before your pop-up and having one hand lower than the other. The reason for it was to be in a better position to pop up and bottom turn the direction you are going with the lower hand the way you are going.

It’s just my opinion but I do not like this at all. I tried it and it felt very uncomfortable and unnecessary. 

If you just tried the cobra pose on the ground and tried this staggered position, it will feel less comfortable and less of a stable base. For those beginner or intermediate surfers struggling with your pop-up, a less stable base is the last thing you want.

Any benefits for going one way earlier are redundant as in a normal cobra position, as you glide into a wave you want to look down the line. As you do this your hips will adjust to find a comfortable position and open your body up a bit more to see better, while still keeping a stable base to pop up from. 

If you do use this staggered hand position, be mindful of how it may help bring you into a pooman side-on stance. You don’t want this in your surfing and it looks even worse. It will lock up your movements. Instead, you want a neutral stance, roughly front-on, allowing you to move and balance in any direction. This will also allow you to compress into a more natural lunge than a sumo squat that will just stick your bum out - hence pooman.

Ideally, you want to be working your pop-up and takeoff to a point where the cobra position initiates part of the bottom turn with a subtle lean as part of angling the takeoff. You then want to flow into a bottom turn and this is what you will see the pro surfers doing all the time on their take-offs. Not staggering their hands.

Hands flat on the deck or around the rail

Hands flat on the deck, hands gripping the rail or for very few, fists, what’s the better option?

Typically for someone learning, we would recommend hands flat on the deck. This mimics what you would normally do in everyday life and what you are used to. It’s easy and allows you to apply pressure evenly and find stability.

Hands gripping the rails is ok, but if a surfer is anxious, stressed or uncomfortable, they can sometimes hold onto these too tight, building that stress or not letting go of them properly. Not a huge issue but it can help the cycle of stress continue or create a small hiccup on the pop-up. 

A less obvious issue can be not applying even pressure on the pop-up with one hand holding on tighter than the other and pushing a rail down, causing one side to roll and move the board. Not very common but can happen.

Fists, well, if it works for you go for it but it sounds uncomfortable.

Does it even matter?

None of it matters, what matters is what is comfortable for your body and what allows it to move easily. Don’t overthink it.

If it isn’t a problem, isn’t holding you back, then forget it and move on. If you stagger the hands and it works for you, great, so long as it doesn’t cause other problems in stance or pop-up.

If you grip the rails or use fists to pop up that’s fine as well. It’s what works for you.

Don’t create a problem out of nothing and push your surfing backward trying to replace a habit that wasn’t a bad habit. If you feel like it's holding you back, play around with it and see but to be frank, you are better off investing time into improving your pop-up technique and where you are looking.

Next Week

Has this answered the question of where you should put your hands during the pop-up?

Or has it made you realise what you are doing is fine and nothing to worry about?

I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, message me in the app or send an email to anytime.

Next week I am going to dive into surfing fitness and something you can do to help your endurance and paddling.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching