It’s not uncommon for some folks to have difficulty climbing on their paddle board.  As an instructor I’ve seen if often, especially on 6″ thick inflatable boards.

Here’s a few videos and blog posts I’ve done on this topic of how to get on your sup after a fall..

Getting on from your Rear Rail:

The middle of the board is the widest and thickest part of the board, thus hardest to get on.  Here’s a few easier ways to get on..

  • Along the rail (side) but near the tail (back) is the easiest way! (See Pic) You can reach across to the other rail to grab, then do a whitewater kick to raise your body to the surface as you pull up and on.  Hold on to your paddle.  Hard boards will sink so can slide on the tail. Inflatables are so buoyant they will sink a bit but not as much. Getting on a SUP from the Rail – By the Tail  (Add: Kicking hard to get on 

Stirrup Technique:

  • Stirrup Technique –  Using a car rack strap or rope, attach it to the D-ring, handle or leash string at the tail of your board. When you can’t get back on, dangle it in the water over the tail (not side). Adjust the rope (before or during) so you have a loop to place your foot through, then stand up and onto the board. It’s a step onto the board.  Kick with the other leg to help out.  Keep on board if you have difficulty getting on. Here, I’m setting up the stirrup. Note my left hand is holding the foot loop. That goes in the water, my foot through like a step, then climb on the board. Learn More **This should be a backup, not your primary way of getting on. If it fails, can u get on?


  • Getting on at the tail can be difficult for larger folks as the nose will pop out and you’ll be climbing up to get on on the board. Attach a knotted rope from your handle to the end of the board, then to the above mentioned stirrup to help pull yourself back on easier.
  • Whenever you climb on, always do a strong whitewater kick with one or both legs. This raises your body to the water surface so you pull on horizontally vs pulling you body up and out of the water. Think you have less upper body strength? Kicking will definitely help!
  • **Learn the flip rescue (search my blog for video samples). This is a method used to pull someone else out of the water. If you have difficulty getting on, you can direct others how to pull you out of the water. Or you can rescue others. With practice you can help someone out of the water in 30 seconds (and not just paddlers).

Get a Thinner Inflatable Board:

  • If you’re under 5′, get a 4″ thick inflatable board. A 6″ thick will be pretty thick and difficult to climb up and onto.  Red makes a 5″ thick board. Look online for 4″ thick boards.

Get a Hard / Rigid Board:

  • Hard boards often aren’t as thick as inflatables, thus are easier to get on. Hard boards have rocker (tail is thinner) unlike inflatables so a lot easier to get on from the real rail.  And there’s no blowing up!

Tips for Big People:

  • If you’re big (300lbs + or large belly), get a slim PFD (Vaikobi or NRS Ion), consider the stirrup and a knotted rope to climb up board from.  Read my blog post: Paddle Board Tips for Big People for more options!

Watch my Video Showing All the Above Tips and More:

Safety Tips BEFORE You Go Out:

Get my SUP Safety and Rescues Online Course to learn these and much more!

  • ALWAYS!! Learn how to get on your board in shallow water before venturing out further.
  • Always wear your leash. Losing your board off shore isn’t a good idea, and if you struggle to get on, keeping it within reach is important. Attach to your waist or vest PFD strap to keep feet free, especially in current.
  • Wear a life jacket. Doesn’t do any good if on the board and leash-less, you lose both.
  • Dress for the water temp. If you’re really cold, your energy will be sapped thus preventing your from getting on.
  • If you can’t get on your board, don’t go out!  You’re putting yourself at risk and others as well if they have to rescue you.
  • Getting on in high wind or waves? Then get on, on the upwind or wave side. Otherwise the board will flip or fly over your head if you apply pressure to the rail on the downwind or down wave side.
  • Bring a tethered communication device to contact for help if you need it.

Related Links

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 school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races throughout the year.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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