How to Fall and Get Back on Your Paddle Board

Falling off your board is why a lot of people won't even bother trying to attempt paddleboarding, but we're here to show that although it's probably going to happen to you it's nothing to fear.

Here's our best tips and tricks on how to fall and get back on your paddleboard.

There are a few things in life that are inevitable: death, taxes…and falling off your SUP. The adage in skiing holds true in SUP, “if you aren’t falling you aren’t improving”.  

Remember, it’s just water and you will most likely be fine but falling can cause injury if you aren’t careful. 

Let us teach you the correct way to fall and get back up on your board again.  If you are brand new to paddle boarding, you may want to start with our article: "SUP Tips for Beginners". 

Fall Away

stand up paddle board

Always fall away from your board.  

This may seem like the most intuitive thing you have ever read but you would be surprised how many people will try and land on their board rather go in the water. 

This a fine way to twist a knee or break a rib!  Another common instinct is to reach out and grab the board with your arm as the rest of you heads into the drink. 

Grabbing for the board is yet another opportunity to do some heinous damage to your arm or shoulder.

 

Belly Flop Backwards

paddle boarding 

The idea here is that you want to fall shallow since you may not be aware of what obstacles are hiding near the surface of the water.  

Leading with your butt as opposed to your head is going to be the safest course of action when falling of your SUP.  Landing as flat as possible will help keep you from dropping too quickly into the water as well. 

Water acts as a natural cushion but if there is a rock or tree branch a foot or two below the water’s surface, falling flat will keep you from colliding into it with too much momentum. Wearing a PFD is also recommended in that it will help you fall shallow as well.  If you are in shallow water with a rocky bottom, it is recommended that you wear water shoes to protect your feet.

Wear a Leash

Keep in mind that you have two items to keep track of when you fall from a SUP: your paddle and your paddle board.  Wearing a leash means that you don’t have to worry about the board and can just focus on the paddle. 

If it’s a windy day, it also means that you won’t have to swim to reconnect with your paddle board.  

Just be aware that the leash may cause the board to snap back towards you so guard your face with your hands because no one will believe that your SUP gave you that shiner!

 how to fall off a paddleboard

Careful with the Paddle

If you choose to hang on to your paddle, make sure that the blade doesn’t land flat on the water as this could cause unnecessary strain on your arms and shoulders. Instead let the paddle “knife” through the water butt end first.  If you let go of your paddle, make sure you don’t fall on it, then get back on your board and prone paddle with your arms like the surfers do to find your paddle.   You will also want to test your paddle from time to time to make sure that it hasn’t become waterlogged.  You really don’t want to be diving to find your paddle every time you fall in. 

Instead let the paddle “knife” through the water butt end first.  If you let go of your paddle, make sure you don’t fall on it, then get back on your board and prone paddle with your arms like the surfers do to find your paddle.   You will also want to test your paddle from time to time to make sure that it hasn’t become waterlogged.  You really don’t want to be diving to find your paddle every time you fall in.

Dress for a Swim

You never know when you might end up in the water so dress for the weather outside as well as the water temperature. 

No one wants to finish their SUP excursion wet and miserable so wear water resistance materials when possible and consider a wet or dry suit if you are in cold conditions.  Keeping a change of clothes in your vehicle is always a good idea, especially in the non-summer months. 

Keeping a change of clothes in your vehicle is always a good idea, especially in the non-summer months.

how to get back on a paddleboard

Flipping your Board

If your board has flipped over in the fall, you are going to need to flip it back.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to go to the tail where the board narrows and reach for the rail (side of the board) that is furthest from you with your non-dominant arm. 

Use your dominant hand to push up on the rail that is closest to you.  Your other arm will act as resistance to keep the board from moving away while you are pushing up.

If your board is too heavy for you to flip, you will need to swim it to shallower water so that you can use the water bottom to gain leverage. The leash will come in handy here as you can swim ahead of your board as you drag it via the leash.

Getting Back on Board

It’s best to have mastered getting back on your board in shallow, calm water as it is an important skill that you don’t want to figure out on a breezy day when you are far from shore.  If you are still holding your paddle, place it lengthwise on the SUP. 

Now grab the handle of the board with one hand and the rail that is the farthest from you with the other.  Preferably the rail will be closer to the tail of the board as the tail is narrow and it will be easier to reach across the board.  

Make sure that your feet are positioned behind you and not under the board. 

Now give a couple hard kicks for momentum while pulling yourself back on the board.  Once in the prone position, steady yourself and get on your knees. 

While on your knees, keep your eyes on the horizon to help with balance and put both hands on each side of the SUP. In one quick move, jump/hop to your feet, making sure that you have your paddle in one hand. 

Get the paddle blade in the water as soon as possible for stability and start paddling.

Conclusion

Even the best paddlers among us will fall from time to time, whether you catch your fin on a log or are surprised by a meaty boat wake or just caught the wave of a lifetime!

Because this is the most likely time to injure yourself on a SUP, it’s best to be aware and have practiced these simple precautions to ensure a safe and productive paddle session.