How to Pop-up & Drop In

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Aside from paddling out and paddling into waves, popping-up is the next obstacle you’ll face before riding waves.

The pop-up is essentially an explosive push-up/burpee-like movement. It’s best performed smoothly, quickly, and in one quick, deliberate move. It’ll take some practice to refine, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become second nature.

To pop-up and stand on a surfboard:

  • Paddle into the wave.
  • Wait until you feel the energy of the wave start to propel you forward.
    • If you try to stand too early, the wave will pass you. Too late, and you’ll either end up over the falls or too far ahead of the wave.
  • Place your hands on the deck beside you at around chest level. Try to avoid grabbing your rails.
  • Press-up (like a push-up) quickly and swing your legs under you.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent. Standing straight up and locking your knees will likely cause you to loose your balance.
  • Adjust your footing as necessary – with practice, your feet will find the right spot naturally.

Some things to keep in mind when dropping in:

  • Avoid being too far forward on the board – this will cause you to nosedive, or pearl.
  • Avoid being too far back, or you’ll have trouble catching the wave.
  • Try to get up to your feet in one motion, trying to stagger up from your knees can be difficult and cause you to loose speed, balance, and control.

How to Drop Into a Wave

Dropping in and popping up on a surfboard go hand in hand. One dictates the other.

As you’re first starting out, there probably won’t be much of a “drop-in.” You’ll likely be learning to paddle into and pop-up on slower, mushier, rolling waves. For this scenario, just focus on perfecting the pop-up and staying on the board for as long as possible.

When you’ve got that down, you’re ready to start turning and riding with the wave instead of running out in front of it. This comes down to performing turns for the most part, but also depends on how you drop into the wave as you catch it.

Once you’re ready to surf steeper, faster waves, you’ll need to think about how you’re dropping in.

You may need to drop in at an angle to set your line as you catch the wave, or you may need to adjust the radius of your bottom turn to be bigger or tighter so you can keep in the pocket and make the section.

If the wave is particularly steep and fast, you may need to think about where you’re putting the weight on your board. A steep, fast wave may require you to weight yourself a little further back.

If the waves are weak and rolling, you may need to wait to pop-up and drop-in a little longer than you normally would, even if it may feel like you’ve caught the wave.

How you drop in and set your lines can also depend on the type of board you’re surfing. If you find yourself nosediving over and over, it may be worth a try dropping in at an angle or shifting your weight.

Pop-up Training for Surfing

The pop-up is something you can practice and perfect out of the water.

Simply find a space on the floor, and perform the move as you would on a surfboard.

If you feel you’re lacking the upper body strength to get it down, some push-up training can help too. You can perform push-ups anywhere, and if you do them frequently enough, you’ll find your strength improves quickly.

Be sure to maintain proper push-up form by:

  • Maintaining a strong core – don’t sag or arch your back.
  • Moving in slow, controlled motions.
  • Keep your spine, neck, and head aligned.

As you get better at standard push ups, you can try some of these exercised to work on your pop-up strength too:

  • Incline pushups.
  • Decline pushups.
  • Explosive/clap pushups.
  • Weighted pushups.
  • Burpees.
  • Jump squats.
  • Jump lunges.
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