SUP How To: Falling

Falling the Right Way

After our recent discussion on falling and not being afraid to, several folks suggested we follow up by talking about how to fall. Awesome idea!

Knowing how to fall off a sup is a lot like knowing how to fall off a bike or a skateboard. There are some do’s and don’ts that if you keep in mind and practice, you will most likely only get wet when you fall off your board.

Here’s a short list of the basics:


  • Do not try to grab your board on your way down. That’s a sure-fire way to dislocate something, bruise or sprain something , and/or well as damage your board.
  • Do not “pencil-jump” off your board feet-first. You do not know what might be underneath you, especially if you are in a shallow, tea-colored lake. Jumping in projectile style could send you footlong and fast into an injury.
  • Do not go in head first. On rare occasions, that might not be avoidable. However, try not to do it. You could hit your head on something underneath you. It is also a great way to become disoriented, which puts you in danger, and could put you in contact with the bottom of your board, or its fin. This is especially important if you are sup surfing. Going in head first can put you in dangerous contact with a sand bar in shallow water.



  • Do “embrace” the fall. If you feel you are about to go in, just let go, relax and let it happen. Fighting a fall can make you stiffen up and that leads to injury. Just go with it. The more you paddle the more you will be able to naturally correct your balance and not fall. But if you’re going in, just go with it!
  • Do fall away from your board. Try to get your body as far away from the board as possible so you don’t land on it or catch a part of your body on it.
  • DO WEAR A LEASH! The force of your fall is going to push the board away from you.  The leash makes sure you can get the board back, quickly and efficiently.
  • Do try to fall as flat as you can, in a “starfish” or “Nestea Plunge” position, on your back, arms and legs spread out. This technique “breaks” your fall on the water and keeps you from plunging under “pencil style” and hitting something you cannot see beneath you. This is especially important if you are paddling over a coral reef where you do not want to damage the coral or get cut by it. The starfish spread eagle pose keeps the paddle away from your body, as well so that you don’t injure yourself (or it) by landing on it.
  • Do watch where you come up. Cover your head with your arm if you can or hold your hand up in the air as you rise up . That way it will hit the board and not your head if you happen to be underneath. Watch where the fin is.
    That’s especially important to remember if you fall off the back of your board.
  • If you are sup surfing, do learn how to tuck and roll. Getting tumbled by a wave can be disorienting and can put you in contact with your board and its fins. Watch your head- cover it with your arms, and pull your legs in to minimize that possibility.

Other considerations

I try to keep hold of my paddle. If I can, I will hold it close to the “t” handle so it can move away from me. But that’s not always possible.Holding it away from the body in that starfish position means you’re less likely to fall on it or have it hit you. But if you have to let go in flatwater so be it. You can get back on your board and paddle for it.  In the ocean, however, while surfing or down winding, you need to keep hold of that paddle. It will not be easy to recover.

It’s also a great idea to make sure your leash isn’t tangled or loose after a fall.

These are just the basics for general paddling. All of the do’s are easy to practice, and kind of fun, too.

And remember, not falling, not learning!

Lisa is managing editor of and is an avid paddler of all the things - including sup, SurfSki, outrigger canoe and prone, though she especially enjoys paddle surfing and downwinding. She is a former journalist with more than 30 years experience in print and broadcast journalism and in government communications. She is a six-time Chattajack finisher, racing both sup and OC2. When not paddling, she is an outdoor instructor.



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