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Top 5 Techniques You Need to Know In Order to Climb Back on Your Board After You Fall Off

August 4, 2022

Not sure how to climb back on your board after you fall off? In this article, we discuss five techniques you can use to climb back on your board with ease the next time you’re on the water!

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When you first begin your stand-up paddling journey, you’re met with challenges.

The first challenge is standing up. It takes time and practice to transition from a kneeling or sitting position to standing confidently and paddling.

Once you have these motions down, you’ll be able to do it on command with ease. After standing, the next challenge involves falling.

There is a correct way to fall. It includes making sure you fall away from your board and securing your paddle in your hand so you don’t have to swim after it.

Then if you’re good at standing and falling, the next challenge is climbing back on your board.

This often overlooked skill can be a bit tricky. Especially for the beginner. And especially if you are treading in deep water.

If you struggle with climbing back on your board, or if you want to learn a few techniques you can use before you’re on the water, we’re going to discuss five ways you can climb back on your board with ease!

The technique you use depends on your body type, athleticism, and your board. Give each a try in shallow water to see what works for you. Once you have this motion down, you’ll be prepared for whatever might happen while paddling your new Atoll iSUP!

Common Errors

Before we jump into the techniques, let’s first cover a few common errors that beginner paddlers experience when they struggle with climbing back on their boards.

PFD

One of the common reasons why it is difficult to climb back on your board after a fall is your PFD (personal flotation device).

This is especially the case if you are wearing a vest PFD. These flotation devices can be bulky and won’t allow you to reach across your board with ease in order to climb back on.

Or if you are wearing a waist-pack PFD and you have it on the front of your body, this extra layer creates separation between you are your board which will again affect your reach and ability.

To remedy this problem, it’s best to take your PFD off temporarily so you can reach across your board to climb back on or switch your belt-pack PFD from the front of your body to the back.

Don’t worry! You are swimming next to your board which is your largest PFD while on the water so you will stay afloat for the time being.

How Thick Is Your Board?

Another common issue faced by beginners comes in the form of their board’s thickness. Thicker boards will float higher on the water. As such, when you try to climb on a thick board after falling off, it’s more difficult to sink the board into the water to climb aboard. This extra flotation will naturally buoy the board and prevent you from sinking it to climb aboard with ease.

If you have a board that is 5-6″ thick, you might have an issue with a couple of the techniques below. Luckily, you can try a few to see which one works best for you and your board.

Downwind or Upwind

The last common error faced by beginners is trying to climb back on their board when they are facing upwind.

When you are upwind, the board is pushed into your chest and what often happens is your feet are pushed to the opposite side of the board which is the side you can’t use to climb back aboard.

To fix this issue, make sure you are facing downwind before trying to climb back on. Facing this way will push the board out in front of you, creating space between you and your board, and your feet behind you into a natural position to climb back on your board.

Now that we’ve covered some common beginner mistakes, let’s go over the techniques you can try the next time you’re on the water!

Technique #1: Use the Center Handle

This is the most popular way to climb back on your board after you fall.

The process is simple. Facing upwind so your feet are behind you, grab the center handle with one hand and the opposite rail with your other hand.

As you use your hands to pull, you kick through the water with your feet creating enough forward momentum to get your hips to the side of your board in order to climb back on.

Once you make it from the rail to the center of your board with your forward momentum, you’ll be able to reposition yourself to the center of your board in order to stand.

This is the simplest, most popular, and easiest way to climb back on your board after falling. Practice this technique the next time you’re on the water!

Technique #2: Use the Tail

The second technique is climbing aboard from the tail.

The tail of common paddle boards is thinner than the rails. By being thinner it is easier to sink into the water. If it’s easier to sink, it’s easier to climb aboard.

To practice this technique, make your way to the back of your board. While facing the tail, use your momentum to push down on the tail of your board while at the same time kicking with your feet to place your chest on the deck of your board. The board and your body are in one straight line.

While continuing to kick with your feet, keep grabbing the rails of your board with your hands as you kick and pull yourself towards the center of your board.

This technique works best for people with vest PFDs who don’t want to take them off. Or for those people who don’t have the upper body strength to use technique #1.

Technique #3: Use the Buddy System

If you’re on the water with an experienced paddler you can always give the buddy system a try.

This technique is often used by professional SUP instructors to help those who are having difficulty getting back on their boards after trying the first two techniques.

The buddy system requires practice in water safety rescue and technique so only give this a try if you want to learn this important skill.

The first step is to flip the board upside down. Next, the paddler who is struggling to get back on must swim to the board and place both hands on the opposite rail with their body draped over the back of the board.

Next, the other paddler swims over to their flipped-over board. And while placing both feet on the rail closest to them, they will grab both hands of the struggling paddler and in one motion pull their hands while flipping the board right side up by putting pressure on the rails. As the board flips, the struggling paddler will naturally land on the deck of their board, ready to stand and get back to paddling.

Again, only use this technique if you are experienced or if you have practiced it many times with a friend.

Technique #4: Use the Stirrup System

One interesting way to climb back on your board (and one that is often overlooked) is with the use of a stirrup.

To use this technique you will need a piece of strong rope with a loop at the end. The best way to get this is to purchase a piece of dock rope used for boats. They include pre-made loops for tying to dock cleats.

With your piece of rope, attach it to the center handle. Place your foot into the other loop and use the same motions discussed in the first technique. This is very similar to mounting a horse. With your foot in the loop, you can use it as a stirrup to gain momentum to “step up” and back onto your board.

By having this extra stirrup you will be able to step and kick yourself up to the deck of your board with ease!

Carry this piece of rope around with you underneath your board’s bungee if you struggle with any of the above techniques.

Technique #5: Swim to Shallow Water

If the previous four techniques above simply DO NOT work for you no matter how hard you try, there is one final thing you can do and it’s simple – swim to shallow water.

If you are in shallow water you can stand on the bottom without having to tread water making it very easy to climb back on your board.

Of course, if you have to use this simple method, make sure the bottom is sandy enough to stand on without injuries, or if you are in a rocky environment, wear proper foot protection.

Conclusion

Ready to give these techniques a try? The next time you’re out on the water, choose a technique to give a try in shallow water. Unfortunately, there is no sexy way to do it. You will feel awkward and weird. And you will probably look that way too. But as you feel the motions and the muscles you need in order to go from treading water to standing with ease, over time, it will become as easy as standing on your board!

Questions? Comments? Need any clarification on any of the techniques discussed above? Send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Until then, remember to adventure on!

For a visual tutorial of each technique check out this short video:

4 Responses

  1. I can move from kneeling to standing up but then struggle to find the right position to maintain balance. What is the ideal position on the board and how far apart should your feet be?

    1. Hi Cathy! Your feet should be on opposite sides of the handle. That is the center point of the board and the best place to balance. In addition, your feet should be hip-width apart with your knees slightly bent into an athletic position. This will give you the most surface area on your board to balance with ease. Let us know if you need any additional help!

  2. Thank you for the information. We had a comment though. Your article says that it is an error “trying to climb back on the board when facing downwind”. It goes on to say “make sure you are facing upwind before trying to climb back on”. Maybe we don’t understand, but “facing upwind” to us means wind in your face, or looking into the wind? This [facing upwind] doesn’t seem right? If the wind is in your face [facing upwind] the board will be blown into you, you would drift backward, increasing the tendency for your legs to move in front of your body under the board? The video that you included seems to support this notion, as is says (paraphrasing) “the error of having your feet under the board is quite common when facing upwind” [at ~1:30 sec]. So, the video implies you should face downwind, not upwind, which also seems consistent with the physics of the situation. We LOVE our boards, have been having a great time, and have fallen off a lot!

    1. Hi Dave! Thanks for the comment – you are correct! We got our upwind and downwind mixed up. However, this can change based on the current in the water and your gear – there might be a different current in the water that is opposite of the wind, so it’s best to allow yourself to float for a bit to see which way your board and feet drift. And if you are wearing a vest PFD, this can alter the way your body floats on the water as well. It’s always best to take try a few different techniques while in different paddling environments. However, the final draft has been revised to reflect these changes. If you ever need anything else from us, feel free to reach out at customerservice@atollboards.com. Thank you for your support!

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