How to fix nosedive while surfing, aka Superman vs Chicken Wing

Gershon Borlai
Nov 20, 2016 · 4 min read

Why your fear of falling forward prevents you from standing up more on the surfboard and what to do about it

This short article is about correcting one of the common mistakes of beginner surfers, the nosedive.

Don’t be the average beginner

Most beginner surfers, who already stood up on a board a couple of times start to know what to do in theory, or at least they think they do. Paddle, pop up, surf to the shore. Sounds so easy. But when the wave comes, their board nosedives while they are trying to stand up. They get washed out and they paddle back. Then they repeat this many more times until they give up exhausted. They may catch a lucky break here or there, but they are not consistently getting up and staying up on the board. There is a simple and counterintuitive reason why these nosedives happen so often.

Looks familiar? Don’t worry, we all started like this.

The classic nosedive situation

Quick analysis: Why you are a nosediving “Superman”

Here is what is happening when you are trying to get up on a wave:

  1. Riding a wave requires that your board must first slide down the face of the wave. This means you will be sliding down a steep wave, head first.
  2. You will instinctively place your hands near your face on the surfboard to protect getting punched when you wipeout.
  3. The surfboard (which is now sliding down the wave) will already be about an arm’s length away from your face.
  4. Thus, your arms would already be fully extended, giving you zero leverage to push yourself up. This is what we call the “Superman posture”

Fight your natural instinct and stand up more with “chicken wings”

So what you need to fight is your natural instinct of protecting your face. To do this, you need to

Position your hand by your lower ribs

That’s it. By simply lowering the position of your hands away from your face or chest during your pop-up, it will physically make it possible and easier for you to stand up on your surfboard. They also call this the “chicken wings posture”. If you place your hands right by your lower ribs on your surfboard, your arms would be at right angles, allowing you to Push yourself up to a lunge position, and Create room for your leg to slide under your body.

Superman vs Chicken Wing

To drill this in, you can do this simple exercise at home:

1, Lie down in a push-up position on the floor

Use a broom, or masking tape to make a straight line that helps you position your hands.

Exaggerate the movement of placing your hands right below your lower ribs.

Stuck your elbows up in the air (like chicken wings).

2, Push yourself up to a cobra position

Extend your arms so you are in the cobra position. Notice how much easier it is to do this, as your hands are below your shoulders and not in front (this is the only circumstance when you should be happy that you are not Superman anymore! :)

3, Pop up

As you push up yourself, slide your leading leg underneath you into a pop-up position. (we will deal with the right pop up position in a later post)

If you do this 15–30 consecutive days before your next surf trip, you can commit this to your muscle memory. This way it will be pretty automatic next time you will try to get up on your surfboard.

So, overcome your automatic fear of falling by putting your hands by your lower ribs. You should be riding double the amount of waves in no time.

Using this simple drill, my students usually more than double the number of waves caught per hour from 2 to up to 5 waves per hour. Once you fix this, you will ride more waves and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

Because fun in surfing = catching the most waves during your session.

Enjoy and let me know if this was helpful.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store