Having difficult climbing back on your 6-8″ thick inflatable or Hard SUP?

I’ve seen this as a problem a lot, especially for those who have little upper body strength or are under 5′-5″, especially on boards 32″ or wider.  Thick race boards are also an issue.
Last summer, I saw a paddler swimming their board back to shore.  In another situation, a paddler in the water holding onto their board was being towed back to the shore by a kayak.
One solution is using a Stirrup to climb back on.

How to Set-Up:

Use the following North Water U-Link Contact Tow to attach one end to a deck tie-down clip or D-Ring on your board with a carabiner a or similar secure attachable loop.
Alternatively, a car rack strap or 3/4″ rope will work too.
Let the foot loop section of the stirrup sink in the water.  Adjust to your leg length.
Place your foot in the stirrup.  Then apply pressure to your foot as you stand up and on the board. You may have to kick your other foot hard (whitewater kick) to assist.
A friend can assist by holding down the opposite side of the board to keep it from raising out of the water. But in any in-the water situation, don’t rely on you friend always being there when needed.
Tip: Try it out in shallow water and see how it works and work out any kinks.

Make sure the carabiner can detach easily if necessary and that you have a place on the board or in a deck bag to store the stirrup when not in use.

Testing this, I found attaching the carabiner to the leash string and climbing on the tail worked best. The narrow shaped tail less volume tail can be pushed in the water as you climb on top more easier.

North Water Stirrup

One of my students who is an EMT/Fireman says they always carry a loop strap in their jacket at all times for any variety of improvised rescues.  Order the North Water stirrup Here.

Wax the Rails of the Board – I learned this one from river SUP guys who wax the rails of their epoxy boards to easier grab them after falling off in moving current.  Make sure to use surf, not ski wax (sticky).  I wax the deck area just outside the traction pad along the rails and my nose area too for walking on the board.

Have a creative rescue Idea?  Let us know, I’ll be glad to share it!

Related Links:

Paddle Board Balance Tips

How to Walk on a SUP

SUP Flip Rescue


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.
Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips