Learn how to climb on your board with these three easy tips for big people who are struggling to get back on their SUP.
Occasionally I get students who are either large in frame or overweight. Of these, a few can’t climb back on their board without assistance due to fatigue, lower upper body strength or the shape of their belly which hinders climbing on a floating 5-6″ thick paddle board.
Most inflatables are 6″ thick and one Tower board is 8″ thick – like climbing on a dock!

Getting On from the Side Rear Rail

Get on your board Behind the middle rail. The middle is the thickest and widest part of the board!  Everyone goes there and many fail to get back on.

Instead move to the area between the tail (back end) and middle. Here, on most boards you can reach across the other side and once you begin climbing on, it’ll be less board to get over.





Watch the Video Here

How to Get on from the Side (behind the middle)
  • Aim for the area between the tail and middle.
  • On a hard board you’ll most likely sink the tail allowing water to cover some of tail thus allowing you to slide on easier. On an inflatable, you’ll most likely not sink the tail so..
  • Kick your feet hard – called a Whitewater Kick – full on splashing while pulling yourself up on the board. Don’t stop kicking until you’re 100% on.
  • Tuck your paddle in the bungees, or hold under arm or hold with one hand on deck. Worse case, get on the board first then get your paddle.

Using a Stirrup and Knotted Rope to Climb On

In searching for ‘big people paddle board rescue’, I came across only one YouTube video on the subject.  This guy (below) developed a smart system to get himself out of the water effectively, thus allowing him to continue to paddle without fear of not getting back on.

The Stirrup Rescue

I had already developed a stirrup system but his knotted rope system is a great addition. I made one and tested it out, works great!

Downside is whether it’ll work in wind and waves as you’re limited to just the back end of the board. Doing so from the side immediately flips the board. And can you rely on a device to get back on that could break?

Stirrup Rescue The stirrup can be made using a car rack strap 1″ wide or thick rope. Something that will support your weight. Keep it stored in your lifejacket (I like pockets) or on your board attached to a tail loop, board handle or in outfitting on the nose.

Alternatively attach to the handle on your iSUP to get on by the side rail.

Or purchase the NorthWater Contact Tow (pictured).  And check out this other similar product called Rescue Steps.

North Water Contact Tow

North Water Contact Tow





DIY Version

Make your own with a loop so you can attach one end to the back of the board and the other end in the water to step up on. Make sure the length is enough so your step isn’t too hard to get on.

Test it prior to going out in deep water. Always wear a leash to keep yourself connected to the board. Even I wear a leash on flat calm water. Don’t like standing on your leash? Attach it to the waist strap of your C02 Pfd or side straps on your vest Pfd (see my post on minimalist PFDs for big people).

Connection of Stirrup to Paddle Board

Attachment points for the knotted rope/strap only works if you have you have a fabric or loose handle.  You can attach one (if you have a sunken handle) or improve yours by using a handle such as this one by NSI.

The stirrup by itself can be attached by the leash plug string or, tail board handle or D-Ring (use parachute cord or string up to 4mm thick).

How to Use It..
  • Attach the the very tail of the board but test getting on from the side with the stirrup attached to your middle deck handle.
  • Try one leg in the stirrup, then if that doesn’t give you enough support, use both feet to get on.
  • Adjust the stirrup length to create the best step level. A car rack strap may be easiest as you can use the metal clamp to tighten or loosen the length.
  • Wash often to keep the metal mechanism operating correctly.

Watch this video to see the Stirrup in action

Kick the leg not in the stirrup to help leverage yourself on the board. Whenever you climb on a board, kick one or both feet to float raise your body to the water surface – while pulling on.

Test it out in shallow water before you go further out to make sure it works. Try different things and report back to me if you find a better solution. I tried to create a stirrup with my leash but couldn’t get the right leverage with a straight leash and a coiled leash was too bouncy.

Worst Case – U Can’t Get Back On..

  • Consider getting a hard board whose tail area is thinner than the middle. Inflatables can be difficult to get on. 
  • Get a slimmer or minimalist life jacket. Bulky life jackets can hinder getting on.See my post on 4 Low Profile Life Jackets
  • Always carry a full charged waterproofed and tethered communication device. Use to call for help.
  • US Coast Guard requires carrying a whistle.
  • Paddle with a friend who can help you (or is more experienced).
  • Leave a Float Plan with a buddy before getting on the water (tell them where you’re going, how long, type of board and planned time back).
  • Learn the flip rescue to help folks back on or instruct them to help you out.

More Tips for How to Climb on your Board

My SUP 101 and SUP Rescues Online Courses also cover getting on the board plus many other essentials for Beginning paddle boarders.

Getting on Inflatable SUPs

Tips for Putting on a Waist C02 PFD

Tips for Big People – 4 Minimalist PFDs

About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.”
Rob owns SUP, kayak and surf ski school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This