Recently, we were approached by a woman for lessons who is not able to get back up on her standup paddleboard if she falls off. It reminded me how difficult this can be for some people, particularly with body types that are a challenge. I've been helping people for years learn to get back on, so, I thought I would share a few tips...
One of the most common problems I've seen over the years is people letting their legs float under the board, while they struggle to get on. This just tips the board toward you. Whitewater kicking, or first letting your legs float behind you to the surface, can help. It propels you onto the board, instead of under it.
If your PFD is hindering you in getting back on, invest in an approved waist PFD. Once you're on the SUP to the waist, you are half way there.
There are several ways you can approach getting on. The side centre, the side half way to the back, and from the tail. The side centre is my preferred method, but it only works if your body type fits your board type. If you are a larger person and your board is more than about five inches in depth (think inflatable iSUPs) you simply may not get back on. The climb is too strenuous and the iSUPs tend to flip. If possible, buy a new rigid thinner board that you can get on. Go for width, length, volumne and stability if you are of a larger body type or more well endowed, but not depth.
If a new board isn’t possible, there are options. If you are able to grasp the far edge of your SUP from the side halfway between handle and tail, let your legs float to the surface and kick, you may succeed in having the tail submerse enough for you to be propelled by your kicking onto the board.
The other option is a tail mount (getting on from the back of your board). Again this is much more difficult if you have a thick board, since the tail may not submerge (which is the advantage of a tail mount.) With a tail mount, grasp the leash, let your legs float and whitewater kick hard at the surface. The tail may sink under you and push you up.
If none of these approaches have worked for you, there are some novel ideas that can help. The first is a stirrup. This is best done in conjunction with a tail mount and has to be rigged in advance. Using a rope or strap, fashion a loop for your foot with a length of the rope attached to your handle or leash mount, such that you can hold the rope, put your foot into the stirrup under the water, let your other foot float and do a whitewater kick with it. You aim to get some of your body onto the board and step up onto the tail like mounting a horse.
Sometimes even this isn’t enough to help you get back on a SUP by yourself. We have more tricks in our arsenal. One novel approach is to find a soft buoyant rope. Attach it to your SUP handle (all ahead of time of course), or if it is a recessed handle, even to your front bungee cord. Put knots in the rope every foot or so. Let the end of the rope dangle into the water at a length where you can again tie a stirrup into the end of the rope, so you can put your foot into the stirrup, float your other leg, do a whitewater kick, step up and pull yourself onto the board by the knotted rope. This usually works as a last resort.
If in spite of all this, you still can’t get on, get some private lessons from an expert who can work with you first in shallow water, letting you rest between attempts, and help you learn or help you find alternative methods.
Finally, if all else fails, never, never go out alone. You can get exhausted fast trying unsuccessfully to climb back on a board. Be sure whoever you paddle with knows how to do a flip mount to help someone on a board or you yourself are familiar with it to coach them. Again, lessons can come in handy, but be sure your instructor know how to work with you.
Hope you find this helpful! If you have some other suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Next time, I’ll share some tips on how to fall off your board to maximize safety and getting back on successfully.
Happy paddling. Remember, if you aren’t barefoot, you’re overdressed.