how to improve your pop up
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How to make your pop up more consistent

If your pop up isn't consistent or you are feeling uncomfortable on bigger, faster and steeper waves, these two techniques will improve your consistency.

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The Full Guide

Is your pop up holding you back?

Do you sometimes go for a wave, wipe out and think, what just happened?

Or is your pop up running hot and cold, where sometimes it’s totally fine and others 

Assuming you have no issues with physically doing the movement, most of the time, people have two issues with their pop-up.

It’s either a looking problem and you are looking down or it’s a mental thing and you are negatively responding to the surf.

This is all about increasing the consistency of your pop-up by ejecting your mind with this simple hack you can do in your next surf.

This will also help with where you are looking but I won’t dive into the full breakdown of how that impacts your pop-up in this guide.

What’s impacting your pop up

Most surfers aren’t aware, but they are negatively responding to the stimulus in the surf, whether that’s someone in your way, crowds, the wave suddenly standing up, a lack of confidence or fear and anxiety.

The mental side of surfing

Surfing is distracting, we are creatures of habit and we constantly go into fight or flight mode or DIPI.

DIPI stands for:

  • Danger
  • Interesting
  • Pleasurable
  • Important

And is somewhat of a priority system for information that comes through us and how we naturally respond to it. With dangerous things overcoming pleasurable things.

This is a whole other conversation and something we go into in our programs but the point is, that you need to manage all that information and how it can control you.

Saying maybe tries to take that thought of something dangerous and try to lower it down to pleasure, fun or something less controlling. We will always respond to danger first and asking maybe or reframing the conversation is all about taking control of that information. If you don't control your mind, it will control you.

People often struggling with inconsistency in their pop up will tend to be subconsciously dealing with some stimulus causing them to lose focus or overthink the pop up and end up stuffing it up.

How to implement this in the surf

The next time you find yourself being held back, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Maybe
  • This could be really fun
  • I could get a heap of speed here / this could be an insane drop

The only thing here is shifting to possibilities and allowing yourself to be surprised by what you can do when you try.

Try this surf hack to fix your pop up

Saying maybe is great, but there is an even better way to just completely shut part of your brain out during the pop up.

Why would you want that though?

Well, you already know how to move and do the pop up. You’ve done it a million times.

In this instance where things are distracting, you want your body to just act, to do what it needs to do without you complicating it.

I want you to next time do this to eject your brain and go into autopilot.

There are two methods, both near identical but they work in two different scenarios and are based on what you want.

Psych yourself up for heavier waves

This is amazing when the waves are more hollow, closing out, you are distracted and looking at the bottom of the wave or when you feel any fear.

This is all about turning that fear into fun and ignoring it.

Hell Yeah or Nah

What you do is when you see a wave, don’t question it, make the choice of only “hell yeah” or “nah”.

There’s no in between, it's 100% commitment or nothing.

So hell yeah all the way. You commit, you start paddling to position yourself and go for the wave.

While you are doing this, you need to block out every instinct in you that says don’t do this, or what can go wrong.

You do this by sticking your tongue out and making the most obscene noises you can.

Your focus is then on sticking your tongue out and making the noise and not on what may or may not happen. It becomes a scenario where you are just doing.

It sounds stupid, you may think you will feel stupid doing it, but I guarantee once you feel it and have success with it, you won’t feel stupid.

You are hijacking your brain to expel positive energy and making that noise so loud that it will drown out all the crap that normally enters. 

Your body knows how to pop up, just move aside and let it do it.

This also changes your expectations and forces you to be in a mode of lets have fun and just doing is fun. It’s infectious and now whatever happens is fun, there is no expectation other than committing and making the take off.

In one stupid moment, so much is internally going on that is positive for you, your surfing and just having more fun.

Most people will look at you and just think they are having a lot of fun, wish I was enjoying it that much.

Take pressure off yourself when you feel stressed

The second method is very similar but is entirely different. It is for when you feel stressed or pressured.

A good example of that is surfing in the wave pool. Every wave has a cost to it and you have the old peanut gallery staring at you. It’s an artificial stressful situation and the best thing you can do is block all that out.

So like the previous method, it's very similar except instead of psyching yourself up, you want to destress and practically say I don’t care what happens here.

We do this by letting out a full body sigh, loud and long. Very loud, very long, like you’ve just been asked to do the most annoying thing in the world.

You do it, exactly the same way, paddle for the wave and as it approaches or you are about to get to your feet, let out a full body sigh.

While you are doing it, think, ok come on, if I have to, let’s just do this thing. It’s this negative attitude of I don’t care but we are using it for a positive gain.

It is surprisingly effective and no one ever notices you doing it.

The power in it is that suddenly you don’t care if you make it or not, you are just going with the flow like some invisible force is pushing you to do this.

When you go to do your pop up, it’s not about all the stress and more about ok, let’s get this over with. 

When you get to your feet you can then go, what now. If the pressure is still there, keep going in the same mindset or do it again.

Releasing tension

Both of these techniques are fantastic, but what most people will miss, is they are also removing tension in you and your body.

It’s exhaling air out and softening the body. 

Tension is the enemy of all surfing and will cause you to lock up, move ineffectively and your style will go out the window. 

In these scenarios where there is fear or doubt, tension will be manifesting one way or another and is a good way to quickly kill your pop up.

It’s a whole other topic on its own but the less tension you can surf with the better. Think Steph Gilmore or Mikey February, cool and calm.

You should always be trying to remove tension in your surfing and body, it will be there whether you are aware of it or not.

Doing this will start the wave off better and allow you to just act.


Let go of the distractions and eject your brain so your body can just act. It knows what to do, so move aside and let it.

We are our own worst enemies.

If you need to psych up or deal with fear, it’s either hell yeah or nah, 100% commitment and then as you paddle into the wave, stick the tongue out, make the most obscene noises you can, look as mad as you can and just go for it.

Trick your brain into having fun.

If it’s a stressful environment, do a full body extended and loud sigh, tap into negative energy to create a positive outcome. Treat it like you don’t care what happens and you are just going to go a long with it all.

Next Week

Is this something you are going to do?

Is it something you’ve seen someone do before or something you do?

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

Next week, I will follow this up and how you can nail those steep take offs.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching