Learn How to Properly Fall Off and Get Back on a iSUP

The most important part of falling down (whether metaphorically or literally) is when you get back up, right? That also applies to paddleboarding! Falls will happen when you’re out on the water, especially if you’re in the surf or visiting one of St. Augustine's beautiful inter coastal rivers. Below, we cover the best practices for getting back onto your board in different situations.

Falling Tips

Sometimes it’s necessary to practice falling down. It takes the fear of “what if” away and it helps teach your body what to do in the event of an accidental fall without your mind having to instruct it. And always keep in mind that the water itself is soft, and it’s not going to hurt you. Any injury is much more likely to come from human intervention or contact with the board than the water itself.

When practicing falling off your board (as well as accidental falling), keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always try to fall away from your SUP, don’t try to catch yourself or try to stay on. When you feel your body losing balance, accept the fall and lean into it, because that way you can control it. If you try and fight it, you might fall onto the board, which could cause an avoidable injury.
  • Try to fall flat and stay shallow, don’t jump into it feet first. You’ll have a softer landing if you try and fall booty first into the water instead of feet first. You also don’t know what’s beneath the water when you fall. There could be a reef, sharp shell fragments, rocks, or downed trees just below the surface. You could hurt your feet, ankles, knees, or back by jumping into unfamiliar water feet first with force. 
  • Tether: If you’re using a leash/tether, keep in mind that the board may be boomeranging back to you after a fall, and you don’t want to get bonked in the teeth, so keep your senses alert and your hands in front of you as you come up. If you aren’t using a leash, always locate and grab your board first, then your paddle. Aside from the board being the more valuable item to lose, a paddle is pretty useless in open water without a board. You can easily paddle yourself back to shore with your hands and then buy another paddle later. 
  • Be aware of the wind and current conditions when you set out on the water. In the event of a fall, you’ll want to know which direction the elements will be pushing your board, and act quickly to retrieve it.
  • Try to hold onto your paddle with both hands if possible and keep it in front of you. If it’s only in one hand, it could pull or tweak your arm in an uncomfortable or possibly injuries way. If you let go completely, the surf or current can pull it away from you quickly and you’ll have to go searching for it. 

These are all general tips and no one expects you to remember every word as you’re falling through the air, but it’s helpful to understand the concepts and their reasoning.

Next, we’ll cover the best practices for getting back onto your board.

Getting Back on - From the Side

  1. Once you’ve grabbed your board and paddle and are ready to get back on, make your way to the side of the board and grab the central carrying handle with one hand.
  2. Use your elbows on the edge of the board hoist yourself a little higher, and reach for the opposite side rail of your board.
  3. Kick with your legs out behind you and use the motion to lift your upper body and belly onto the board. 
  4. Hold both side rails and rotate yourself to face the front of the board, bringing your legs up as you do.
  5. Move back to your knees and when you’re ready and feeling stable, stand back up.

Getting Back on - From the Back

  1. While keeping a firm hold on your board so it doesn’t float away, make your way to the rear.
  2. Press both hands firmly into the surface about 6”-12” in front of your chest (depending on your body’s dimensions) and push down to lift your chest out of the water and onto the board’s surface.
  3. Grip the outer side rails and kick your feet behind you to shimmy the rest of your body onto the board. You’ll already be facing front, so just get back up when the time feels right!

Paddling with Others

If you’ve hit the water with friends, they can make themselves useful by assisting your re-boarding.

Ask them (whether they’re in a kayak or on another paddleboard) to apply weight to the opposite side of the board from yourself, making it easier for you to hop back on. If they are also on a paddleboard, it may be wiser for them to support your board from a kneeling or sitting position, otherwise, you could both end up back in the water!

Final Tips

  • Thicker boards will likely be easier to access from the rear as opposed to the side, as they’ll offer slightly more resistance and be slightly higher for you to push up onto.
  • Keep the wind at your back when getting back on, it’s just easier and more comfortable!
  • If you are near shallow water, consider paddling over to get back on your board where you can push off from the water’s bottom. 
  • Some folks like to bring a foot rope and attach it to their central handle. It’s essentially like a dog leash, but you use it to give your foot an anchor point when getting back onto the board from the side. All the other steps still apply, but it takes some of the weight responsibility off of the upper body as you push with your lower body. 

Different techniques are better for different bodies, so try these out with your practice falls, and see what’s best for you!