how to pop up surfing


A new feature on the Swell website; every few weeks Swell will bring you a new “how to surf” tutorial on various surfing techniques that are useful when you are learning how to surf. It is not meant as a replacement for going on a learn to surf holiday (like we at Swell offer) but rather as a reference with visuals to make learning easier.

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We offer luxury surf holiday experiences for people who want to learn how to surf in the Caribbean. We focus on a structured approach in our surf lessons that are taught by ISA qualified surfing instructors.
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  • Place hands flat on your board under your chest
  • Push up: Arch your back,  weight on toes and hands
  • Twist into positions to free up space & move your back foor into position
  • Move front foot into position, place front foot between your hands
  • Stand up , keeping center of gravity low with your kness bend & looking forward


caribbean surf campThere are various ways on how to do a successful pop up on a surfboard, below is the approach we use the most at Swell in our surf lessons at Playa Encuentro.

This approach to the pop up is only suitable for beginners learning how to surf on big surfboards (anything over 8′ and ideally on a soft top with plenty of volume and stability)

For best results this technique is best practised first on the beach, so you have extra stability, then when you have mastered it at the beach, practise in small mellow waves, like we have on the inside waves at Playa Encuentro.

The following images show the pop up technique for a surfer with a “natural” stance ( riding with left foot forward), If you are goofy footer (right foot forward), the technique stays the same just move the other foot as opposed to how it’s show in these images.


Practise on the beach, then go out on small ‘white water’ waves. White water of about 30 to 50 cm is ideal. Enough power to give you the thrust forward to power you.

Paddle hard enough to catch the wave, and feel the force of the wave pushing you forward fast. When you gain speed the board actually gets a bit more stable. Now place both hands flat on your surfboard under your chest ( don’t grab the rail of the surfboard)


Now arch your lower back  – by doing a push up movement. Only your toes / feet and hands should be touching the board, look up / forward, not down at your board.



Now slide your back foot ( right foot if you  are a natural footed surfer = left foot forward). Back foot should move about 35-45 cm forward. Twisting your body will make this easier as it creates space.



Move your front feet towards your hands, but stay low to maintain balance.



The final part of the pop-up, releasing your hands from the board but making sure to keep a low center of gravity ( = better balance) by bending both knees. Look forward and enjoy the glide!



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Practise on the wrong waves: the pop up technique should be practised in small white water waves, not out in the lineup (out the back) for first time surfers. Don’t go out in big waves, or crowded surf spots.

Feet in the wrong position: Your feet should be pretty much in the centre of the board, over stringer  ( center line made of wood in the board)

Wrong hand position: Don’t grab the rails of the surfboard, it will slow the board down and will also make  the board a lot more unstable for the push up

Knees on the board.  A lot of beginners do this, it might make standing up on your first waves ‘easier’ but it’s a bad technique and correcting it later takes more time, so skip the knees on the board part.

Looking down: A very common mistake in people learning how to surf is to look and see what they are doing, so looking down at their feet / board / water. It make keeping your balance very difficult and you cannot see where you are going. Keep looking forward!

Too early: Don’t stand up too early. Make sure the wave is properly giving you forward momentum. Stand up too early, and the board will lose speed, you miss the wave and will fall off.

Standing too upright. You have done all this hard work to stand on the board, and now you want to stand tall! Don’t do it! By staying low and bending the knees you have a lot more stability.

Leaning over with upper body. The knees should be bend, not to upper body. When you bend / lean over with your upper body, keeping your balance is practically impossible.


Use a big soft top surfboard. Sure those little boards look cool, but learning on a board that is too small will make learning to surf about 20 x harder and will take forever. Big soft tops are stable and safe.

Practise on the beach. Before going out in the water, practise 15-20 pop ups on the sand.

Watch other surfers. See how they do it.

Ask for feedback. Ask your surf instructor for tips.

Stay positive. As easy as some surfers make it look, learning to surf is not easy ! Don’t get discouraged when you make mistakes, we were all a beginner once.

Once you have mastererd the surfing pop up on a longboard you can start trying the technique on smaller boards. The video below shows how the top pros do their pop up in slow motion on a shortboard at the Surf ranch.


Here is another good instructional video of the do’s and don’t to master the pop up surf technique


how to generate speed

We hope we made it as clear as possible for you. But feel free to send us a message if something is not clear, or if you want to join us in the Caribbean for a learn how to surf holiday, where our qualified surfing instructors teach you the above steps, and will help you with any questions you might have.


Located on the scenic north coast of the Dominican Republic is our purpose built surf resort

We cater for surfers of all levels, from beginners to expert surfers who are looking for an active surf holiday

Swell offers full surf packages holidays


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  • Think of Swell as the anti-surf camp. There’s plenty of surfing, of course, but the similarities to other camps end there. For starters, the rooms are stylish — more boutique hotel than reggae-loving surfer digs. Then there are the legendary breakfasts (omelets, pancakes and crepes, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and fruit bowls). Structured surf lessons take place each morning, with an instructor alongside you and the head surf coach watching from shallow water, ready to offer learn to surf tips between riding waves.”

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