The Fear of Falling off a SUP - 4 Tips on Falling off a SUP

Every time I start teaching a paddle board class, students express their fear of falling off the board.  The reasons vary from not wanting to look bad, feeling embarrassed, a sense of failure or simply not wanting to get wet.

My first response is Falling is not a failure.  In fact not falling or trying not to means you're not having fun and will feel stressed, stiff or uneasy during your paddle or class.  As the old paddling saying goes - you're not trying hard enough if you're not falling (or getting wet).  I've heard paddlers say "I've done this two years without falling off." Have you ever tried getting back on your board? In some cases not doing so is a failure as you'll be risking your life as well as others who may need to rescue you.  Plus you're not having that much fun avoiding falling all the time.

I can tell if a student is looking stiff or unusually quiet during a lesson.  It's a relief for both of us once they fall in - they're always relieved realizing it's not as bad as they thought, they feel refreshed commonly saying "the water actually feels good!"  In cooler seasons my students in wetsuits realize how comfortable and warm the suits are after falling, thus become off season clients thus not waiting for summer to come.

Admittedly there are the days when I'm wearing shorts on Puget Sound and I don't want to get wet knowing I don't have replacement clothes in the car, and/or I'm planning on going somewhere after my paddle.  In those cases I'll try to avoid falling in, and each time I realize that experience isn't as fun as embracing getting wet.

One of the things I love about SUP is the openness of being on a board and being able to fall off at anytime (or climb back on).  As a kayaker, we wore dry suits, worked on our Eskimo rolls and rescues all the time - all to avoid getting wet or exiting the boat.  When I take students to paddle in the tidal rapids of Deception Pass (saltwater rapids) north of Seattle, everyone swims - including me, and we're all loving it!

4 Tips for falling off a SUP - 

- Dress for immersion or the water temp.  Many get into SUP for the minimalist feeling but too little clothing means you'll fear falling in.  Finding the right balance of clothing to balance the air and water temp can be tricky.  If you think you'll fall a lot, dress for it!  I carry a Seattle Sports deck bag on my board to store extra clothing if I get cold - or to store clothing if I'm too hot. Nice to have options, especially if the weather is changing.

- Don't dive in unless you can see the bottom.  Check the water depth with your paddle if the water is murky. When you do fall in - fall on the water as flat as you can to prevent from hitting the bottom.

- Wear a leash to prevent from getting separated from your board.  We see a lot of folks with leashes on their boards but not wearing them - sketchy if you ask me especially if you're offshore.  How far can you swim?

- Vest style PFDs / Lifejackets prevent you from falling all the way in.  If it's on your board, make sure you can remove it quickly if needed.  Many rental shops don't have the appropiate sized PFD for you - make sure it fits you before going out.  Kayak stores have great fitting PFDs if you need one.

Read here how to get back on your SUP.

About to take a dip off my 17' SUP

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.


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