Active Sports

How to Fall Off Your Paddleboard (and Get Back On)

Paddleboarder on a lake at sunset

I have taught a handful of people how to paddleboard now. One of the worries that I have heard over and over again is that people don’t want to fall in.

They’re afraid that they won’t be able to swim, that the board will get away from them, or that they won’t be able to get back on it. Here’s what you need to know to overcome this fear and feel confident with your board even if you come off from it.

Accept the Truth

The truth is that everyone who paddles long enough eventually comes off. In fact, many people jump in on purpose. Once you accept that you will fall off, you’ll be able to stop fearing it and start training for it.

Surprised? Yes, you can train for falling off your board. Once you know how you’ll handle the situation, you won’t have to be concerned about it because you’ll feel confident that, no matter what happens, you can get back to your board, get on it, and continue on your way.

Decide About a Leash

Most paddleboards come with a leash, like a surfboard. If you’re going to be surfing or riding in whitewater, make sure that you have a breakaway leash so you’ll separate from your board in bad circumstances. These leashes don’t break easily, so you’ll stay attached to your board in a soft fall, but they can save your life if you take a bad fall.

Otherwise, it’s your choice whether or not you wear a leash. On the one hand, it will keep you attached to your board. On the other, it’s easy to get tangled in the leash and struggle to swim if you fall off.

Many recreational paddleboarders don’t use the leash for this reason. The important thing is to make the decision that’s best for you and that you feel confident about.

Test Your Life Vest

SUP rider on the waves
Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato from Pexels

It can be hard to believe that a few pieces of foam will keep you afloat. If you’re not feeling like you trust your life vest, take it for a test run in a swimming pool.

Sure, you’ll look funny, but you’ll also be able to trust that the vest will keep you afloat and help you keep your head above water. Try jumping in with the vest, diving in, and more. Once you trust your vest, make sure you wear it whenever you’re on your board, at least until you feel more confident there.

Know How to Get Back on Your Board

There is a right way and a wrong way to get back on your board. Get a short distance away from your board and swim toward it, keeping your body as flat as possible in the water.

Keep swimming as you approach the board and try to swim up and over the board as much as possible. You may feel like a whale trying to beach itself, but getting as much of your center of gravity over the board as possible gives you a better chance of getting back on easily.

Avoid swimming up to your board, holding onto it like a buoy, then trying to clamber onto it. This can cause the board to flip, especially if you end up with all of your weight on one side for any period of time.

Practice getting off an on your board in water where you can touch the bottom. Make sure you feel confident that you could do it no matter what context you’re in.

Take a Quick Swim on Purpose

Once you trust your life vest and you’ve practiced getting on and off your board, it’s time to put it all to the test. Take your board out beyond where you can touch the ground but not so far away that you couldn’t swim to shore if you needed to.

Then take a deep breath and jump off your board. Surface, swim back to your board and get on it, just like you practiced. Do this as many times as you need to to get comfortable with the process.

By jumping off intentionally, you make sure that the first time you end up in the water is NOT by accident. This takes away some of the shock of being in the water and makes getting back on your board a regular occurrence, rather than something that only happens in situations that might produce anxiety.

Keep Someone With You

Couple using soft top paddleboards


Until you’re completely confident that you can get back on your board whenever you need to, always paddleboard with a friend.

This ensures that you’ll have help to get back on your board or get to shore, no matter what happens. It helps to bring someone whose presence calms you so you know you won’t panic if you find yourself in the water.

Falling into a body of water from your paddleboard can be scary but you can learn how to swim to your board and get back onto it. Practicing until you’re comfortable is key. Then you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your time on your board instead of worrying about it so much.

Do you have any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!

How to fall off your paddleboard and get back on



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