We get students who admit they haven’t fallen off yet, thinking that’s an accomplishment. In my mind, it’s not a fail to fall. Infact learning to fall means you can learn how to get back on your board. Some actually find out they can’t due to poor upper body strength, a super wide or thick board (34″ or wider, or 6″ thick) or they get into panic mode in rough weather while trying to get back on. Falling in a protected area allows you to test your gear so you’re better prepared for a storm or surf wipeout.
Here’s a few tips for falling and safely getting back on..
Practice Falling –
– Before falling, test the water depth. Ideally don’t fall in less than a few feet unless you’re experienced with the following..
– Always fall flat like a pancake. We also called it the Hi-C Plunge. Not doing so means that if you didn’t test the depth before going it, you may catch your leg or ankle going in, or even worse break your neck diving. While surfing, I can fall in 2-3 of water and not hit the bottom (I’m 6-5, 230lbs).
– Videotape yourself and friends falling to see who can fall the flattest.
Wear a Leash –
We see a ton of folks in open water far from shore without a leash. It’s common to hear ‘I never fall away from my board’ or ‘I don’t plan on falling in.’ Murphy’s Law comes to mind with both of these. You will fall, and it’s not guaranteed you’ll fall next to your board, especially in wind, waves, current and how you fall. Boards tend to shoot out if you fall off the tail. Next question, how far can you swim? In Puget Sound where we see non leash activity in summer, water is only 55-60F. How far can you swim in this temp before you get numb and/or hypothermia? Interesting, most SUP fatalities in 2015 involved not having a leash, in Florida and similar warm water locations.
If you find your leash gets in your way, attach it to your PFD waist straps (or Co2 waist strap). Some surfers wear a removable waist strap with a Fastex buckle when not wearing a PFD for this purpose.
In the enclosed photo, I was surfing a tug wave and had fallen off the back of the board. The board continued to follow the wave after I had fallen off, leaving me behind – until my leash stretched out and pulled it back.
Double Leash – This means while in strong winds, surf and/or off shore conditions, consider either doubling up your leash string in the leash plug (2 strings) or with 2 strings, wear 2 leashes. It’s common in down winding, a popular part of SUP.
Not Going to Wear a Leash?
If you’re not going to wear a leash…
– Dress for the water temperature
– Wear a PFD (not on your board). If you lose your board you also lose your PFD.
– Practice swimming long distances in rough water. 2 SUP accidents in 2014 involved paddlers without leashes or a broken leash having to swim 2-3 miles back to shore in open ocean, one in 30t winds.