The one thing we all want to do when we're learning to surf is improve.  Not only that, but we want to do it as quickly as possible.

This is awesome don't get me wrong, but sometimes investing the time to get the basics right first will speed up your progression down the track.

Solid foundations are the mark of all good surfers.

One of the key fundamentals you absolutely can't afford to overlook is the Pop-Up.

It's not the most glamorous of topics but you'd be surprised how many surfers I see every day stunt their progress because they're making these 3 simple mistakes.

So, before you push forward to master cutbacks and floaters, take a quick second to make sure you've mastered the fundamentals first.

Let's break down each one.


This was something my sports teacher drilled into me at school.  I hated him at the time, but he was right.

"Wherever your eyes look, your body will follow".

And, one of the biggest mistakes beginners make with their pop up is looking down at their feet.

Let me explain.

Looking down at your feet encourages your body weight to move forward, making it difficult to stay balanced, and oftentimes resulting in you wiping out.

Not good!

How to avoid looking down at your feet as you pop up.

Changing this habit isn't going to work overnight, however, there are a few simple things you can do.

Here's what I recommend.

As you're in the water ready to catch a wave line yourself up with a marker on the beach .  This marker is going to be used as a guide.

When you're paddling for a wave and about to pop up keep your eyes fixed to this marker (and whatever you do don't look down).

In beginning this will feel totally unnatural, and you'll probably stack it numerous times.  But, don't give up!

As you practice this movement you'll begin to develop a muscle memory, and after a few (hundred) times 🙂 you'll finally begin to "Look up, on your pop up".


It makes sense at first I know, but sometimes it's bad habits like this that are the hardest to break.

I'm talking about popping up to both knees before you get to your feet.

Now this is a common problem among beginners -- oftentimes due to dubious coaching -- and in many cases to rectify the problem means taking two step backwards before you take the next step forward.

Here's why it's not a very effective method for popping up.

If you're catching a wave and bringing both knees up to the centre of your board as you get to your feet, it's going to slow the pop up action down, drastically!

And, if you want to progress further and catch steeper waves, bigger waves, and just generally increase your make rate all round, then the speed at which you pop up is crazy important. 

Not only that, but when you pop up to both knees it creates an unsteadiness on the board and the leap from knees to feet becomes far more challenging.

How to avoid the double knee pop up

Step 1. Place your hands on the deck of the board near your pectorals. Make sure your back is nice and arched.

Step 2. Bring your toes to the tail of the board and push up. Begin to bring your back foot forward, closely followed by your front foot.

Pro tip: Lift your knees up as you make your way through the pop up.

Step 3. Keep your hands on the deck until both feet are in the correct position.

Pop Up Surfing Mistake NO.3: THE LEADING ARM

This one is kind of at the very last stage of the pop up, just as your about to stand up.

I see it time and time again.

Here's the problem...

As you pop to your feet both arms are on one side of the body (this is very common, so if you're guilty of this one don't worry).

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if the majority of your weight is focused on one side of your board, you're more than likely to fall over to that side.

And this is where you're leading arm comes in. 

Get the position of your leading arm right, and the rest should all drop into place.

How to position your leading arm correctly

Here's how it's done.

Ok, so your leading arm is the arm on the outside of your front heel (ref image below).

This is the arm to place close attention to.

For optimal balance you must make sure that your leading arm and your trailing arm are balance over each side of the board.  

This even distribution will align your weight over the centre of your board, and you'll be far more stable as a result. 

Unlike the other two pop up mistakes, this one can be remedied very quickly.


Avoid these three biggest pop up mistakes and soon you'll be taking off on steeper waves -- and making them -- with ease.

And remember, I'm here to help, so if you have any questions let me know in the comments below!  

With love,