By Pete Williams
Of course, falling off a paddleboard can be very dangerous if you strike any part of your body on the board, especially your head. When you feel yourself going down, it’s important to push the board away from you and land totally in the water.
In my nearly two years of stand-up paddleboarding, I’ve managed to master the Buzz Lightyear “falling with style” technique. But while paddling yesterday at Honeymoon Island, I took it on the chin.
Not sure exactly how it happened. It probably wasn’t the best idea to launch into choppy surf in an area notorious for its rocky bottom that feels like walking on cobblestones. Taking a race board, with its lesser stability, also wasn’t one of my better decisions.
I didn’t even fall off the board while standing. When dealing with choppy seas – and we do get them here on the West Coast of Florida – the idea is to walk the board out beyond the break. But since the footing was so rocky, I jumped on in the prone position, with the paddle lying parallel on the board.
As I got to my knees, a wave flipped the board and I caught either the board or the handle of the paddle on the chin. Unlike the standing position, I couldn’t propel away from the board. Still, it didn’t feel that bad and I jumped back on only to see blood dripping onto the board.
I paddled back quickly to shore – thinking of how I participated in the “Shark Bite Challenge” SUP race in calmer waters near the same spot in April – grabbed an ice pack from the cooler, along with a towel, and walked to the lifeguard stand. They cleaned the cut and estimated I’d need three stitches.
Actually, five. The folks at the walk-in clinic asked if I’d had a tetanus shot recently and I proudly announced that I had, having gotten one two months ago after scraping myself up at an obstacle adventure race.
Not the greatest war story, to be sure. But another reminder that while stand-up paddleboarding can be a safe sport, it’s also one that requires proper safety precautions, including a personal flotation device in the event such a fall renders you unconscious.
As well as learning to fall gracefully.