As more and more people start getting into paddleboarding there will inevitably be some misadventures calling for rescue. Even folks who have been paddleboarding for a considerable length of time will occasionally find themselves extremely challenged or overwhelmed by changing conditions on the water. The weather can turn very quickly especially on the open water where there’s nothing to block the wind. If a storm rolls in while you are on the water or the wind kicks up a few notches it will probably create some heavy swells and chop. These conditions have the potential to knock you off your board or force you to change your position on the board to get through them. If that happens you will need to know the best, quickest and easiest way to deal with it. Here are some tips for paddleboard self-rescue.
Getting back on your Paddleboard
Falling off your paddleboard happens from time to time even if you’re on a large and stable board. You can tip off the side or lose your balance and go backwards off the tail. I’ve even fallen forwards and slid off the nose of the board on my stomach! But once you’re in the water you will have the new task of getting back on and there are two main ways to accomplish this.
The Paddle: You can’t swim with a paddle in your hand so leave it in the water. When you get on your board you can lie on your stomach and prone paddle (see description below) back to it. Most every SUP paddle is designed to float but super cheap ones may not. If you are unsure about whether your paddle floats you will definitely want to test that out before you go paddleboarding.
From the Side
Most people find the easiest and quickest way to get back on the board is from the side. Position yourself in the middle and put both hands on the board about shoulder width apart. Next thing you want to do is kick your feet really hard and push straight down on the board. Once your body comes up a little, throw your back knee and hip over the top of the board and move the rest of your body on- that’s it! All three actions should segue in to each other so that it feels like one smooth movement.
From the Back
You can also get back on your paddleboard by climbing up on the tail. This way may take a little longer to scooch up to the middle of the board but it works just fine. For this, approach the back of the paddleboard and grab the rails (side of the board). Kick your feet to move forward as you pull the board underneath you and move towards the middle. Once on the board you remain lying on your stomach and use your hands to paddle the board over to your paddle (prone paddling).
Here we will talk about the two most common ways to get back safely to land if you find yourself in conditions that are overwhelming your ability to stand up and paddle.
If you find yourself struggling against a strong head wind or the water is very choppy to the point you can’t keep your balance then kneel down on your paddleboard. This will greatly reduce the wind resistance your body creates when standing up and lowers your center of gravity offering you a lot more stability.
Next, choke up on the shaft of your paddle and start moving out of the area. Holding your paddle further down the shaft gives you better leverage and power- and it’s just easier to paddle that way when kneeling.
If the conditions have deteriorated to the point that you are having trouble getting to a safe spot even on your knees, then the next strategy is to lie stomach down on your board and paddle with your hands. The prone position is the most stable position and offers the least resistance to the wind. Once you are lying down, slide the blade of your paddle underneath your chest so the shaft is angled upwards in front of you- this way you won’t lose it and it will be readily available when you need it.
You should be familiar with these methods of paddleboard self-rescue before heading out on your adventures. You can practice these in shallow or calm water anytime so that if you do find yourself in a jam someday, you will be well prepared to deal with it.