8 Important Tips for Falling Off and Getting Back on a Paddle Board

8 Important Tips for Falling Off and Getting Back on a Paddle Board

Whether you’re a competitive seasoned pro, or a total newbie, falling off your paddle board comes part and parcel with the sport. You are on the water after all so expect to get wet.

In truth, I can’t think of one sporting activity where training and practice aren’t part of the deal. The same goes for paddle boarding. Not only do you want to take all of the necessary safety precautions and develop a proper paddling technique, you also need to properly understand how to fall off your board and then how to get back on.

As silly as this might sound, it may be the difference between a serious injury or even worse, so do take the time – practice makes perfect as the old saying goes. Not knowing how to properly fall off and get back on to your board can actually put you in danger particularly if you are in rougher waters or are some distance from the shore.

Feet Up Falling Off SUP

First Things First – Play it SafeAM24 Paddle Board PFD

While I appreciate that many experienced SUPer’s do not wear a PFD (Personal Floation Device), and to a lesser extent a Leash, it’s particularly important that you prioritise your safety. In many jurisdictions PFD’s are required to be worn by law so if nothing else understand your local safety regulations.

You may take an unexpected fall that takes you by surprise and subsequently suffer an injury. You may even collide with a hard or sharp object and hit your head (another paddle board, rock, floating debris etc.). Your PFD will ensure that you stay upright in the water and your leash will ensure that you and your board do not get separated. Many of the modern PFD’s are streamline and actually look quite cool. Better safe than sorry.

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Falling Off & Getting Back on a Paddle Board Graphic

How to Fall off Your Board

Whether you intentionally fall off (taking a quick dip) or you simply lose balance and take a spill, its important that you remain calm and don’t hurt yourself hence the reason for practicing in a controlled environment.

Man Falling Sideways Off SUP

1. Fall Away From Your Board

While epoxy (solid) paddle boards are harder than inflatables, you can still hurt yourself if you land on the board. Its therefore important that you fall sideways or flat and almost push yourself away from your board.

If you’re calm and comfortable in the water you will be able to resist the urge to grab your board whilst falling and potentially hurt yourself. You should have your leash on so you will still be attached to your SUP.

Falling sideways will also help reduce the chance of injury in shallower waters or if there are submerged underwater objects that aren’t visible. If you were to dive into the water head first for instance you may suffer serious head or spinally injuries if the waters are shallow or if there are unseen submerged objects.

2. Your Paddle

Your paddle might well be light-weight, but it is still a hard object so can do some damage if you land on it. While it’s always good if you can hang on to it during a fall, don’t get too concerned if you let go. Virtually all paddles float so you will be able to retrieve it once you are back on your board. Remember, you are connected to your SUP by your leash so your board should always take precedence over your paddle.

If you are still holding your paddle, keep it away from your body and try not to ‘slap’ it as you enter the water. Your blade is flat for instance so if the paddle enters the water horizontally and slaps the surface, it can jar your body and potentially even dislocate your shoulder. As much as is possible, try to ensure that either the handle or the blade enter the water first. Not necessarily vertically but on an angled ‘slicing’ motion for want of a better word.

3. Resurfacing

You may well become disorientated under the water particularly if visibility is poor or you are in wavy or choppy waters. Its therefore important that you resurface with your hand first. You might be under your board for instance so coming up head first could cause a nasty head injury.

Man Falling Off SUP an Losing Paddle

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How to Get Back on Your Board

Okay, now for the slightly harder part, getting back on.

4. Locate Your Board

Reorientate yourself, make sure that there are no oncoming boards, boats or other water traffic and then swim back to your board. If you are in windy or rough water conditions, then you can use your leash to pull the board back to you.

5. Position Yourself

Once you have swum back to your SUP, position yourself in the middle of your board. If it has flipped over in the fall, rewrite it before you attempt to get back on. It’s easier to turn the board over from the nose or tail as they are narrower so easier to grip. If you are in windy conditions or there are waves, get on your board with the waves or wind at your back. If you attempt to get on from the opposite side, the board will likely flip up in your face – not pleasant and rather frustrating.

Falling Off and Getting Back on a Paddle Board

6. Climbing Back On

With one hand, hold the centre carry handle and with the other, hold the side rail. If you can reach the opposite rail, better again as you will be able to use more arm strength that way. At the same time, use your legs to kick and your arms to pull yourself up on to the board.

It’s important to remember to keep your legs out from under your board as you might well flip it over. They should be behind your body as this will help you get some thrust as you kick. You will only need a few strong kicks as you pull with your arms and you should then be able to slide back up on to the board on your chest. A tip – it does happen but make sure you’re facing forward once you are back on.

If you still have your paddle with you, then lay it across the board prior to climbing back on. If you let go of your paddle as you fell, simply lay in the prone position (on your chest facing forward) and then paddle with your arms to retrieve it.

ii. If you find it too difficult to get on your board from the centre i.e. you’re a small person or your board is too wide, then you can get on from the tail of the board as it is far narrower. Simply grab both sides, pull and kick as above and then shimmy your way along the board back into the same prone position.

iii. If you are wearing a PFD, bear in mind that some of them can be bulky so make allowance for this additional width as you climb back on board.

7. Kneeling Up

From the prone position, hold your paddle across the board in front of your chest. While you are looking at the horizon, push with your feet and move back up on to your knees. If the water is a little rough or too windy, you can secure your paddle blade under your chest and paddle with your arms until you reach calmer waters. You can also continue to paddle on your knees until the water is calmer if you prefer.

8. Back to Business

Once you are comfortably on your knees, take a few deep strokes to get up some momentum before standing back up. Put your paddle across the board again, look at the horizon and then push yourself back up and away you go. Until your next splash that is!!

<< The Atoll 11′ Inflatable SUP is a great option if you’re thinking about that purchase >>

Easy as That (Sort of…)

It might sound a little more complicated than needs be but its important that you gain a level of comfort with both falling off and getting back on your board. It will eventually become second nature so practice and give yourself some time to get it right. If for some reason you aren’t confident or simply can not do it however, then you shouldn’t be out there. Safety first please.

We hope you found this article of interest and as always would welcome your thoughts. Please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.

Until then, stay safe and get wet.

6 thoughts on “8 Important Tips for Falling Off and Getting Back on a Paddle Board”

  1. Very practical and useful instructions here, Jason! I find that most of us are scared of the fall itself. But once we’ve actually taken a tumble a few times, we overcome the fear and learn how to fall safely. That’s why your #1 step, “Fall Away from your Board” is so important!
    Thanks again! Let’s get ready for summer!

    • Hi Andrea. Sounds like you’ve taken your share of spills as well. All part of the sport but some commonsense tips can always help.

      All the best – Jason.

      • Hi Jason,

        Very useful. What approach do you suggest if you can’t locate your paddle after a fall? I can paddle and I have been practicing for more than 3 yrs both on a river which has a slightly strong stream, and in the sea, with wind / waves, so I’m not quite a beginner.

        • A logical question Alice. Safety first so its best that you head for shore straight away. Once you’re back on your board, take the prone position (lay chest down), or get comfortable on your knees and then paddle with your arms. Arm over arm if laying down or with a dual arm motion at the same time if on your knees. If your paddle floats and it washes ashore great but if not better to always play it safe and get some sand under your feet.

  2. Hey,

    Have been reading and posting on a few of your articles lately so glad I came across this one. I’m keen to get into paddle boarding when the weather gets better and the lockdown restrictions are eased in the UK. Will clearly be falling off a lot so some useful tips. Never really appreciated some of the obvious ones but they clearly make sense.

    I will let you know how I go when I do eventually start. Thank you for sharing.

    Al the best,


    • Good to hear from you again Tom. Its still pretty cold in Europe (not that you lot are part of Europe anymore!!) so I can appreciate that summer makes more sense. We all still fall off every now and then so simply part of the sport.

      Would love to know how you go once you’re up and running.

      Stay safe and all the best – Jason.


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