Wiping out is part of learning to standup surf. An instructor once told me, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.” Here’s a few techniques on how to fall gracefully to avoid injury.
First, don’t fall. When in doubt, use a paddle stroke. A brace stroke can provide that split-second recovery: lowering your knees, extending the paddle out more parallel to the water to place/slap the power-face of the blade down onto the water (versus pulling it through the water with a regular stroke). A regular, forward stroke can also act as a third anchor point (in addition to your feet) to keep you planted on your board upright. In the surf zone, a lot of falling occurs while paddling back out through the surf. Consider a staggered stance in between your regular paddling and surfing stances for more stability through waves, and paddle into them with momentum to break through. Learn more about this technique HERE.
Try to fall off the back of your board allowing it to slide forward under your feet. Doing this will prevent you from hitting your head, or from your body colliding with the board once the wave breaks. Avoid breaking your neck by not diving in head first. Always hold on to your paddle! If you lose your paddle, get on the board first, then paddle prone to find your paddle. After your wipeout, flip your board so the fins are facing down. Always stay on the sea side of your board: Don’t get between the board and the beach as waves can push it into you, creating a situation that’s seriously threatening to your well-being.
If another wave is coming and you don’t have time to get back on, grab the leash near where it attaches to your board and hold on. Called short-leashing, this keeps the leash and board from fully extending and hitting others around you. Hold your paddle at the handle, not in the center. While holding your board and paddle, duck-dive under the next big wave letting your arms flow with the wave behind you keeping your body clear of your gear. If you have time to get back on your board, get on quickly and paddle hard to gain speed to get over the next wave. Make sure you paddle out on the sides of where others are surfing in. — photos and text by Rob Casey