Falling is normal in paddle boarding. And by falling you’ll need to learn to climb back on the board.

There’s 3 ways to climb back on a paddle board:

  • From the Side – This is for some people the hardest way to get on as the board is the widest and thickest here.
  • From the rear rail by the tail (back) – I recommend this location is the board narrows and it’s easier to climb on.
  • From the tail (back) – The most difficult position as the board raises up which means you’ll be climbing uphill to get on

Reasons Why Folks Struggle to Get On & Solutions..

Why folks fail in getting back on:
– Their vest style PFD is catching on the rail as they try to pull themselves up.  Instead get a flat fronted PFD like a Vaikobi.

– They lack upper body strength to pull themselves on. Instead kick feet hard to raise body to the surface then pull yourself on

– Their board is really thick thus making it more difficult to pull up on (5-6″ thick) – Get on by the rear tail.

– They have an inflatable which may be 6″ thick from nose to tail thus difficult to get on and slippery. Get a less thick inflatable like Red’s which are 5″ thick.

Your Paddle:
– Hold on to your paddle when you fall off.  If you let go, get on the board the prone paddle to your paddle (paddling on chest like a surfer with alternating hands)

– While getting on, place your paddle on the deck and hold with one hand while getting on. Or stick in deck outfitting or bungees to keep you hands free to climb on.

But if you need to get on by the side, here’s a few tips..

Holding on to the side of the board with paddle in one hand, kick your feet vigorously which will raise your body to the surface.  You should be creating whitewater with your feet. As you body reaches the surface, begin to pull up on the board simultaneously.  Grab on the deck handle if that helps as you pull yourself on.

I don’t quit kicking until I’m 100% on the board. Thick race boards with heightened rails can be difficult to get over, as well as some 6″ and 8″ thick inflatables.

Alternative to Side Mounting:
– Get on the tail of the board. Place paddle on deck in front of you as you use both hands to pull on.
– Get on the deck next to the tail (last 1/3rd of board).
– Attach a caribiner connected to a short car rack strap to your leash plug string and use as a step or stirrup to assist in getting back on. Search this blog for how to do this.

Tip: Use surf wax on your rails to make them stickier thus easier to grab.

Note of Caution: If your PFD is strapped to the deck but you can’t get back on and are in cold water, you may have a problem. Consider wearing your pfd (waist or pfd) to stay afloat if you’re too cold or tired to swim or stay afloat.

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 and Kayak school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips