The Four Count Surf Method

The Four Count Surf Method is a great process for all beginners learning to surf. The system or strategy links body movement to four counts from paddling to the finish standing up position.

Why The Four Count Surf Method Works?

Students taking surf lessons or people trying to learn on their own have little idea of how precise the fundamental timing and motions are to keep the surf board balanced while popping to the proper stance.

Consider that a relatively light piece of technology relative to your weight is going to catch a foam wave and move to the beach at 15 mph while you try to go from a lying to standing position. Factor in that if this surfboard is ridden properly it has almost all the high performance capabilities of tricks you see in the movies.

New students have to move in a rhythmic precise motion to keep the

the four count surf method
A balanced bottom turn

board balanced and pointing straight. Each movement occurs in a sequence to accomplish this feat and rhythm is more important than speed.

I have students counting out loud so that they slow down the much faster account that occurs in their racing mind as it tries to comprehend everything that is occurring around them compounded by just a little anxiety and panic.

Students who count out loud though this process have testified over ten years of my instructions that it definitely makes a difference in setting up their rhythm. With the process, most students are surfing within a half hour or even the first time run to the beach.

What Are the Counts in the Four Count Surf Method?

The Four Count Surf Method isolates or narrow’s the student’s focus to four movements that occur in the middle of many influencing forces. The idea is not “to think” but to move the body as suggested by each count.

The first movement is paddling. On the count of one when I push beginner students into waves, I want them to say out loud “one” and paddle until they catch the wave. When a surf board catches a foam or real wave there

is a feeling of it “taking off”.

The second movement is a transition from catching the wave to doing a pop up. It is placing hands on the board under the chest in a man’s push up position. This is the count of two I want students to say out loud. It is also an “assessment” moment (one or two seconds) every surfer needs. Is the board level, am I in the wave, is my body right on the board?

The third movement is the beginning of the pop up. While lying flat on the board with the chest up and the arms not yet extended (crucial), the student pushes up in an explosive movement as they bring the front foot under the chest and place it in the spot between where the hands were placed. (I will explain the finishing posture soon).

On the fourth movement, the student is standing up right in the finish posture and riding to the beach in a foam wave or ready to bottom turn to the pocket in a real (green) wave.

What is the Finish Posture in the Four Count Surf Method?

This finish posture takes issue with many of the finish postures taught by instructors and demonstrated on YouTube. Experience has shown that students who have learned in these lessons do much better once they begin this “posture”.

the four count surf method
Not the finish posture we want. Student needs to move left hand forward in front of his face to square shoulders

The body is on the surf board with feet shoulder width apart. The student’s weight is equal between the front and back leg and the upper torso is upright between the two legs. (no leaning forward so head is over front foot)

Most important is the hips and shoulders are squared to face forward as opposed to having the butt over one rail or riding sideways on the surf board like snowboarders. One way to keep the shoulders and hips facing forward is to keep both hands in front of the body so that the arm opposite the front foot keeps that shoulders squared.

Every child from six years old up can learn to ride the surfboard to the beach if they assume this posture.  (My video below demonstrates).

In this finish posture, the knees are flexed (slightly bent) and the body is loose so that it can absorb turbulence under the surf board as it heads for the beach. From this posture, a student can easily learn how to start carving.

Catching Waves in the Four Count Surf Method

The timing in the method also includes catching the wave. The method is occurring while the wave is approaching, impacting, and then pushing the surf board.

The timing in each of these three phases is very important.

the four count surf method
ideal beginner riding posture

First, the approach of the foam wave. Surf boards like to be moving before the wave impacts the surf board. Students should roll over properly onto the surf board when the wave is about 20′ away. The student paddles easily to get momentum and checks over their shoulder until the wave is about five feet away (depending how big, bigger waves require earlier starts) and then paddles hard for three strokes before the wave impacts the surf board.

Second, the impact on the surfboard. At this point, beginners without instructions jump up immediately before the wave is pushing the board and fall off as the wave continues to the beach. The correct timing in foam or real waves is to continue paddling hard for three more strokes (depending on the size of the wave) and when the board takes off, the student puts their hands on the board.

Now, the wave is pushing the surf board so the student can make a smooth transition to standing up. At this point in the Four Count Surf Method, the student is going to execute counts three and four.

Physical Conditioning Required to Execute the Pop UP

Certain sport specific muscles and capabilities are needed to execute smooth pop ups. First, students need to be flexible. Athletes that never stretch are going to be tight in the hamstrings, buttocks, and lower back. (or if you sit at a desk all day and never stretch).

Upper body strength is important for pushing off the board in count three. This is often called the power to weight ratio. People that are over weight have most likely tilted the ratio in the wrong direction as they have probably stopped exercising. Push ups are the first “go to” remedy.

Core strength is helpful as the student pushes up and brings their front foot forward to place between their hands.

Finally, stamina is important so students can practice for an hour lesson. Many sedentary students are finished in fifteen minutes.

Practicing the Four Count Method Pop Up in Your Living Room

The pop up can be practiced out of the water before and after lessons. Lay on your living room floor with hands under the chest in a man’s push up position. Place a book where the hands are touching the floor next to your body.

When practicing the four counts of the Method, counting out loud, be sure the front foot reaches the book on the pop up. Secondly, notice how your shoulders are situated. Is one shoulder more to the rear than the other? The ideal posture has both shoulders even facing front.

If shoulders are not squared, notice how hips and shoulders square when

you move the hand opposite the front foot as far forward as you can reach. This is the shoulder and hip posture you want.

When students can achieve this posture and incorporate the Four Count Method, they can ride the surf board the first time up. It happens in my classes all the time.

Tweet: The Four Count Surf Method for All Beginners.


If you want Surf Lessons or surf camps in Oceanside see the Home Page

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Put it all together in pop up demonstration video:

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