July 17, 2021 7 min read

When it comes to taking on surfing, there is a lot that needs to be considered before you can hit the waves. To start with, you need to know how to get up on a surfboard – the entire activity is based on your ability to do so.

Knowing how to pop yourself onto your surfboard is the foundation of it all. It is something you will need to do every time you decide to go surfing and it is therefore important that you master the technique of doing so. We will take a look at some of the most important aspects to remember when it comes to getting up on your surfboard.

The great thing about practising the pop-up is that it can be done almost anywhere. We recommend starting on the floor to get the basic technique down and get your body used to the movement. It will also condition your muscles in the process to ensure that you are able to pull yourself up.

As with all new activities, the effort you put into understanding the basics will show in the end results. You cannot try and fast forward to the fun part, it is not likely to happen when it comes to a sport like surfing, there are too many things that need to be considered.

How to jump on a surfboard

The things you need to be able to do to surf are fairly simple and we will discuss this further to help you get up and hitting the waves in no time. We have compiled a checklist of things you need to work on if you have any hopes of getting onto your surfboard.

What is your stance?

Before you can stand on the board, you need to determine what your preferred stance is. We recommend standing sideways and experimenting with different stances while doing so. Once you feel comfortable, you have found your stance. The most commonly used stance is positioning your right foot behind you, close to the tail, while the left foot is positioned towards the front, but more to the centre of the board. Again, the idea is to be comfortable, so take the time to figure out what is comfortable for you as it will increase the time spent on the waves and ensure a longer ride.

man walks with surfboard

Tips for finding your stance:

  • Keep your eyes on the direction you are looking to go and be prepared to start shifting your weight to maintain the direction. Looking forward will also help to keep you stable and balanced.
  • Stand sideways with your left foot in the front and right foot at the back, keeping your body and hips centred.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to the board, shifting your weight to balance the board. The wider apart your feet, the more balance you will have.
  • Use your arms for balance and to guide your direction.
  • Lean back to slow down or turn the board and lean forward to speed up.

Practice your technique on the ground, and slowly progress to the shallows to continue working on your technique. Try to come up and surf some of the waves. Once you have gotten the hang of it all, you can head out to the bigger waves for some real action. You need to paddle into the wave and gain some momentum before you can lift yourself off of the board.

Position yourself

When you get onto the board, you will more than likely be lying down. While this sounds simple, the way you position yourself while lying down will play an important part in ensuring that you balance when you pop yourself up. The key is to try and find what many refer to as the sweet spot, where you are perfectly balanced on your surfboard.

If you add weight to the front of the board, it will increase the speed. It will also increase your chances of nose-diving. Adding weight to the back of the board improves balance and control. It also slows the board down. Finding the perfect spot in between is the goal as it will give you both speed and control.

How to push yourself up

When it comes to looking at how to get up on a surfboard, this is the most important part. Your pop-up technique is what will push you off of the board and into a standing position.

man jumps on surfboard

This is what gets you up from a lying down position and can be described as a powerful push-up.

We recommend practicing on a dry, flat surface first to work on your technique.

Once you have found your sweet spot, you can start looking at hitting the water.

This will take some time to master, so do not expect to get it right the first time. And even once you have gotten it right, keep on practising to strengthen your muscles and keep your form.

The starting position

As already mentioned, you will start by lying flat on your board – head facing the nose and feet positioned towards the tail. Position your hands beside your ribcage, board’s width apart. From here, you will begin to arch your back, pushing your chest away from the board. Your thighs and pelvis need to remain on the board.

To push yourself up, use a short, explosive motion. You need to use your upper body strength for this, avoid trying to push forward with your toes. It is a lot harder to do, so work on your core strength beforehand. You will be able to gauge your strength and fitness level while practising on dry land.

Once you have begun lifting your body, bring your front foot forward to about the same position as your hands. This will twist your lower body and both feet will be lifted off of the board at the same time. They should also land on the board at the same time. By landing in the middle of the surfboard, it will balance the board and it will stay flat. You can release your hands and stand up, keeping your feet parallel.

As you move up, twist your body. Keep your knees bent in a low position and use your arms to balance yourself. Once in a fully upright position, keep your eyes focused on where you will be going, shifting your weight accordingly. To turn, lean onto your back foot. To go faster, lean on your front foot.

An easier way about it

If getting up onto both legs is proving to be too challenging at first, try stepping onto your back foot and using a less explosive movement to push yourself up. To do this, start in the same face-down position. Push up with your arms, sliding one foot to the back of the board. This will put you into a kneeling position. Bring your other knee forward and place it in between your hands. Push yourself up and twist your feet to become parallel with the surfboard.


man learns to surf
Another beginner-friendly, easier way to get up onto your board is to get into the half pushed up position, bringing your back foot slightly forward to open the hips. Move your front foot forward towards your hands and the centre of the board. Push down with your hands and twist your hips.


Things to avoid

  • Do not hold onto the rails of the board, it is more difficult to balance and creates unnecessary drag. Rather position your hands alongside your body on top of the board.
  • Keep your hands below your chest when pushing up. Pushing your hands too far forward will make it near impossible to push yourself up. Unfortunately, this can be a subconscious behaviour, so try to be mindful of this when first starting out.
  • Bring your feet forward, not your knees. This is a common issue that makes it more complicated than necessary to push up. It makes it more difficult to quickly pop up for steep waves, so rather make it a habit not to do it while you are still learning.
  • Start by moving your back foot and then your front foot, this will maintain the speed and keep you going along with the wave.
  • Keep your knees bent, do not try, and straighten them. Straight legs will result in you losing your balance. This is a common beginner mistake; you need to keep your knees bent to stay balanced and in control of the board.
  • While your knees should be bent, your upper body needs to remain straight. Many beginners bend forward to try and get closer to the board. Unfortunately, this will result in you falling off your board as you lose balance and cannot see where you are going.
  • Do not slow down when paddling with the wave, you need to keep up with it to lock into it.

Do not be discouraged, surfing is an ongoing process

The truth is, you will not become a start surfer overnight, nor will you be able to prop yourself onto your board the first time. It is an ongoing process of determining what works for you, paired with a whole lot of falling into the water – it is the cold hard truth.

Take your time to get it right and enjoy the process. Surfing is an incredibly fun sport, and the more your practice, the better you will get.

So, what are you waiting for? Head on out to the garden and start working on that push off – there is no time like the present to get started on what could be a lifelong hobby.

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.

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