How to Stand Up on a Surfboard (Easy Guide!)

How to Stand Up on a Surfboard

Are you having a hard time standing up on a surfboard? Or are you going on a surfing trip soon and have no idea how to surf and even stand on a board? Whatever your reason is, the first thing you need to learn is how to stand up on a surfboard. Standing up or what they usually call popping up on a surfboard is somehow easy to learn as long as you know the basics.

If you are a beginner who wants to learn how to surf, this is the first thing you need to learn and practice. In this article, we will show you how you can pop up on your surfboard while on land and on water. On land? Yes, you need to learn how to stand on a surfboard on land first before you go riding on the water. So, read and learn.

How to Stand Up on a Surfboard On Land

You will have to learn how to stand up on a surfboard on land first. It is easier this way than trying to learn it on water. It is recommended to practice a couple of times on a flat surface first until you get the hang of it. Don’t worry, it is easy to learn and would only need a few tries and before you know it, you’re surfing in the water already.

Find out if you’re regular or a goofy

The first thing you need to learn is to know your natural stance and the correct technique to perform it. This is more than just a style or to make you look good on a surfboard. Your stance is related and will determine your every movement on the surfboard and the wave. There are two kinds of stance, goofy and regular. Your surf coach will be able to teach you how to identify your stance.

  • Regular – Your left foot is your front foot and your right foot is on the back
  • Goofy – You bring forward your right and your left foot on the back

It doesn’t matter whether you are a regular or goofy foot. To find out what your natural stance is, stand with your feet together and try falling forward. The foot that you use to catch your weight is your dominant foot and that will also be your surfing stance.

Start with prone position

Now that you are aware of your stance, it is time to try to pop up while in the prone position. The prone position is similar to a half push-up. Lay on your surfboard with your toes touching the board’s tail. Place both of your hands flat on the board near to your chest.

Using your hands, lift your chest up with you looking straight ahead. Never look down and don’t move your head; doing so will make you lose your balance or might scare you.

Practice your pop up with your front foot forward & knees bent

From the prone position, push your chest up with both of your hands then pop up or jump into a standing position. The correct standing position is placing your feet wide apart as your shoulder, one foot forward, knees bent, and your body facing right or left position depending on your natural stance.

It is important to keep your knees bent while in a standing position as this will help you maintain your balance. Avoid leaning forward if you don’t want your board to flip over. Do this over and over again until you feel comfortable and confident that you can apply it while on water.

Popping up in a kneeling position

There’s another way on how to stand up on a surfboard, but this time you will not be starting on your prone position. Instead, your starting position will be in between kneeling and laying down on your surfboard then standing up.

To do this, move your dominant foot up to where your one knee was positioned beforehand. Bring your other foot or leg up and stand up with knees still bent a little to keep you stable. Your body should be in the middle of the board and your feet should be shoulder-width apart while twisting your hips until you are standing on the board already.

On Water

How to Stand Up on a Surfboard On Water

Now it is time to go into the water. Once you’ve had enough practice on land, you are ready to hit the waves in the water. In any surf lesson, your surf coach will always teach you on land first before heading into the water. It is important to learn first the proper position and pop-up technique on a still or steady surface.

For beginner surfers, before you get into the water there are several things you need to know.

  • Choose an easy-to-use and lightweight surfboard. It is recommended to use foam board first.
  • Pick the right beach and spot for surfing. Ideally, start with smaller waves and that is less crowded.
  • Consider the shoreline too, choose a spot that is not rocky
  • Check the weather forecast too, you would want to avoid bad weather on your first surfing lesson and experience. This will make it harder to learn surfing and is prone to accidents.

Bring your board with you in the water

It is recommended to use a leash you can put around your ankle. This way, you will avoid losing your board. When you and your board are in the water, ride on your board and lay down on your stomach flat on the board. Paddle in the water with your arms moving alternately. Start paddling through the forming waves, and go as far as you can from where the waves were only currents.

When you feel that you are ready, turn around and paddle forward. When you catch a wave, place your hand on your board and press up your body as you stand on the board. Crouch low first and slowly stand up but make sure your knees are bent a little. Put out your arms to maintain balance, stay in this position until you reach the shore.

Catching a wave

When you see a wave coming, you should paddle to catch waves. But you need to be prepared before it the wave begins to roll. As you go near the wave’s edge, raise your upper body while you keep your hands on both sides of the surfboard. Use your left foot as your front foot and right foot as your back foot if you are a regular. Vice versa if you have a goofy stance. Your front foot should help you raise your back foot. You should be riding the wave by now.

As a beginner, expect to be thrown off by the water. Don’t get disheartened, just continue practicing until you have perfected the correct techniques and good stance. Every new surfer experiences this and it is all part of your learning curve.

Riding the wave

In order to stay stable and maximize your ride on the wave, there are several things to remember.

  • Bring your front foot close to the chest line all the time and directed across the deck. Your legs should be a little wider than your shoulder width. So, it is important to place your back foot a little farther to the rear to help keep your legs slightly apart.
  • Pushing your hips forward will assist you in transferring more weight to your front leg. If you want more style and keep a comfortable stance, slightly dip in your back leg.
  • It is best to keep your centre of gravity lower. This will help you stay stable on your board. To do this, always bend your knees while riding the wave.
  • Your head should always be looking forward with your chin high. Never look down as this will keep you unstable.
  • Your front arm should always be outstretched like reaching for the surfboard’s nose. Same with your back arm but focus more on your front arm.

Staying in the moment

Once you’ve caught a wave, it is important to keep your momentum. To do this you need to stay in a surfer’s position to give your ride direction. The position of your head needs to be 3 or 4 feet from the nose of the board and your hands should be half the length of the board. Keeping your hands up and putting enough weight or pressure into your front foot will help you steer in the direction you want to go.

Things to Remember When Surfing for Beginners

Things to Remember When Surfing for Beginners
  • Know the surfing rules, especially the surf etiquette, this will save you from a lot of trouble while surfing.
  • Choose a lightweight board, preferably foam boards.
  • Practice your pop-up on land first before diving in the water.
  • Choose a less crowded spot if you are still trying to learn to surf. Find a sweet spot on the beach where you can learn freely without being a hindrance to other surfers.
  • Don’t start with bigger waves yet, try smaller waves first.
  • Work on your upper body strength, you’ll need to have a strong upper body when surfing.
  • Avoid nose diving as much as you can.
  • Always remember the correct paddling position, your arms should move alternately on the side. One arm at a time and not both arms at the same time.
  • It is recommended to learn first with a regular-sized surfboard, rather than a shortboard. A professional short boarder normally started to learn on a standard board.

Improve Your Surfing Skills By Avoiding These Bad Habits

Improve Your Surfing Skills By Avoiding These Bad Habits

One common bad habit to avoid is paddling blind and keeping your back at the wave

While paddling, make it a habit to look behind you to check on the wave from time to time.

Getting into the habit of doing the wrong stance after a pop-up

Know your correct stance first before you pop up. Find out first if you are a regular or goofy and your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Not arching the back when paddling on the board

Many surfers make the common mistake of paddling with their bodies lying flat on the surfboard. Your back should be arched a little and the weight is on the lower part of your rib cage.

Holding the rails when preparing for a pop-up

Never hold the rails when popping up. Push up with your hands flat beneath your chest and not on the rails.

Transitioning to a shortboard too early

Try to catch as many waves as you can before you move on to a shorter board. Catching a lot of waves makes you a better surfer. Transitioning to a shorter board will hinder your progress in surfing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Stand Up on a Surfboard On Land Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard to stand up on a surfboard?

It is not that difficult to stand up on a surfboard as long as you know the basics and you avoid doing the common mistakes most newbies do. It is important to identify your stance first and to practice your pop-ups on the sand.

Where should I stand on my surfboard?

Your feet should be equally positioned on the side of each stringer. Your back foot should be away from the tail or back of the surfboard about 2-3 feet.

How do you stand up on a shortboard?

The first steps are somehow similar to a regular-sized surfboard where you paddle first and pushing your chest up. Next is to put your back foot in the board’s tail pad, then press up with the help of your hand and back foot, then bring your front foot forward. When you feel that you are ready and in a comfortable position, you can now stand up.

How do you know when to pop up surfing?

You need to be very attentive and observant when surfing to know for sure when it is time to pop up. When you feel that your board is becoming to feel lightweight, then it is a sign to pop up.

How to maintain speed when surfing?

If you want to generate and maintain more speed when surfing, traverse between the top and bottom of the wave closer to the power pocket. This will also allow you to do bigger turns.

How do you keep your balance when surfing?

Your arms play an important role in keeping you stable on your board. Aside from that where you stand on your board also matters. Your one knee should have a slight angle forward-facing to the direction where you want to go with arms stretched out to keep your balance.

Can you practice surf pop up at home?

Yes, you can. It is recommended to practice popping up on land first. You can use a yoga mat to master your stance and pop up first before trying it on the water.


Are you ready for your first surf lesson? Finding out How to stand up on a surfboard is not that hard as long as you listen carefully and practice. As a beginner, your ultimate goal in surfing is to catch and ride your first wave. It doesn’t matter how many tries, as long as you keep your body in the right position, keep your chin high, your knees slightly bent, your arms up, and you maintain good balance, you’ll be surfing steeper waves in no time. Work on your muscle memory to improve your surfing skills by practising even without the waves. But most importantly, master your pop up first before you try other surfing tricks.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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