The soft, spilling waves of southwest Costa Rica are perfect for learning to surf. Even so, many beginning surfers struggle for a while before mastering the art of standing up on the board. Whether you are surfing in Costa Rica or anywhere else, learning to “pop up”, is the first challenge in surfing.
To pop up successfully, you will need to put your best foot forward. The question is: Which is your best foot? You will need to determine if you are “natural”, meaning you balance better with your left foot forward, or “goofy”, with your right foot forward. It’s not a simple matter of being right-handed or left-handed. Many right-handers, for example, are more comfortable balancing with their left foot forward.
To figure this out, imagine what you would do if you were walking on ice. Most people will slide one foot forward in order to maintain balance. Which foot is it? That’s the foot you will put forward when surfing.
“Popping up” is getting to a standing position on your surfboard with the correct foot forward as quickly as possible. It is the key to successful surfing. To pop up successfully, grab the edges of the board just above your rib cage. Arch your back and lift your shoulders and chest. If you are a practitioner of yoga, the position you are in before popping up is similar to the cobra pose.
Keep looking forward. Then in one fluid motion, bring your correct foot forward placing it on the board where your belly button was. Turn your back foot down to your instep. When you stand, you will be facing out to one side. Remain in a low crouching position and ride.
Keep in mind that the correct motion consists of bringing your foot forward to be under your body. If you find yourself kneeling on the board you are probably shifting your weight back over your feet. To avoid this, try to keep your butt down and your head high.
Before heading out to the waves, practice popping up on the beach. Use a stick to draw the shape of the surfboard in the sand. Lie down and try it a few times.
Once you head out to the waves don’t get too discouraged if you don’t master it right away. Most beginning surfers experience a rite of passage when it comes to popping up. Keep at it and you will master it in time.
Few beaches are as forgiving to beginning surfers as the beaches of southwest Costa Rica, but even surfing in Costa Rica will be a challenge until you learn to master the art of popping up.