These two yoga moves dramatically improved my Pop-Ups in the surf


Pop-Ups are one one of the hardest aspects when learning to surf. A powerful, explosive pop-up can be the difference between setting yourself up for a clean ride, or diving to the depths of a potentially rough nose dive.  It can be a long process to master, and practice and patience are two keys things you'll need to nail this one. 

A proper pop up requires two things: shoulder strength and core stability.  It wasn't until I got serious in my yoga practice that I noticed a genuine difference in my surfing. I had the skinniest, weakest shoulders for most of my life and combining the strengthening aspects of yoga and surfing helped me understand how to use my own body weight as an advantage.


Here are two yoga moves you can try every day to build that strength for your pop-ups:



Tiger-curls will work your entire core muscles and help you strategically place your foot on the board when you're paddling for a wave.

  • From a downward facing dog, kick your right leg up. Try to keep a closed hip ( right hip rolling down instead of splaying open -- remember proper form is key!)

  • Press into your hands and  bring your knee into your chest. Stack your shoulders directly above your wrists. Try and press your knee as high up into your chest as you can -- the trick is to have a really rounding back, (think: angry cat) so pretend you're trying to press your heart up to the ceiling (as in image 2). 

  • From your tiger-curl, without lifting your hands off the mat, try and place your foot between your hands. This will take some practice, and the more core strength you get, the more you'll be able to create the space for your knee to step forward. This is exactly the same motion you replicate in a pop-up, you need to be able to have enough space between your chest and the board for your foot to land in the right spot.

  • Do the same thing in reverse by lifting your knee back up into your chest (remember to puff your chest up to the ceiling) without lifting your hands off the ground-- then try with your other leg. 


All photography by @mxmsurfphotos

High-To-Low Plank transition to Upward Facing Dog 

Form is really important to do this pose correctly, so you may need to drop down to your knees and gradually build the strength to do this in a full plank.

  • Start in plank pose. Make sure your elbows are directly above your wrists, quads (legs) engaged, and your lower back isn't dipping, (you should have a long line from your head to your butt, as pictured below)

  • Keep your core switched on as you start to lower down to low plank , squeeze your back muscles to avoid dumping into your shoulders (image 2) -- You'll want to stop when your shoulders are directly aligned with your elbows (this isn't picture in the series but you'll get a good idea of when they are aligned). When elbows and shoulders are aligned in low plank, pause. Try and hold it for one breath just to get the sensation in your arms. 

  • Push up to Upward Facing Dog by pushing your chest forward, engaging your legs and pressing into the tops of your feet (see image 3, this part is really important!) -- Think shoulders back and away from your ears. Your legs shouldn't be touching the ground. 

  • To transition back to downward facing dog, use your core to lift your hips, while you flip over your toes and press into your hands to send your hips back and up. This is a great core strengthener and also asks that you use the stability in your shoulders to lift your hips.