Paddle Board Flip Rescue

A paddle board flip rescue is an easy and effective way to get someone out of the water and back on a paddle board. The maneuver is used when one person can’t get back on their paddle board for whatever reason.

Before Performing the Flip Rescue

Assess the situation. Ensure that you are in a safe location and there is no immediate danger around you. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) for added safety. It’s also essential to consider your skill level, experience, and comfort in the water before attempting any rescue techniques.

In order to perform a flip rescue the rescuer must be able to climb back on their paddle board.


Performing the Flip Rescue

  • Approach the person who needs help and ask them if they are okay. First, ask if they can get back on their paddle board on their own. If the answer is no, explain that you’ll be able to help them.
  • Take their paddle and put it on your board along with your paddle.
  • Climb in the water: Ensure your board or theirs is between you; this will help keep you both safe. Someone who is drowning or panicked could reach out to grab you and pull you under the water.
  •  Ask them if they are comfortable moving away from their board for a moment. If they are not comfortable letting go provide your board as support. 
  • Flip their board from the tail or the nose.
  • While in the water on the opposite side of their paddle board, you’ll ask the person to move or help assist them to the center of their flipped board with their arms on the paddle board, and armpits at the rails of the board.
  • Continue to reassure the person and communicate what you are about to do.

aerial view just before performing a paddle board flip rescue
paddle board flip rescue in progress

Performing the Flip Rescue Continued…

  • Climb out of the water onto their flipped paddled board. Use their arms for balance and leverage to help you get up onto their board.
  • Push your board out of the way so you don’t land on it (it won’t go anywhere with your leash on).
  • Taking a firm grasp of their forearms, shoulders, hands or PFD straps kneel or stand and lean back.
  • Using your body weight to flip the person over, fall back away from the board with a firm grip on the person.
  • Ask them to bring their legs around to the tail or back of the board or you can help assist them by reaching over their board and grabbing their legs.
  • Once they have regained their balance on the board from a kneeling or sitting position,  hand back their paddle and climb back onto your board.
paddle board flip rescue in progress
Aerial view just after performing a flip rescue

If the person is panicking or exhausted go through the same flip rescue steps but with more pauses, reassurance, eye contact and ask the person to take deep breaths.

Once you’ve performed the flip rescue and the person is too exhausted to paddle back to shore you may need to tow them.

If you come across someone without a board use the same flip rescue technique using your board.,

Keep your board between you and the person you are rescuing. If they have lost their board they are likely panicked and exhausted. 

Once you have successfully flip rescued the person onto your board, ask them or help move their legs towards the tail of the board. Keep the person on their belly to ensure a lower center of gravity. The board will be less stable with two people on it. 

Climb back on the board placing your knees on either side of the person’s legs and paddle back to shore from a kneeling position.

Tips and Things to Watch Out For:

  • Watch out for fins when flipping the board.
  • Keep your board away from the area where you are performing the flip rescue. Check to ensure it isn’t behind you or in the way. 
  • Getting onto the flipped paddle board is the most difficult part. Similar to getting back on your paddle board ensure your legs are out behind you kicking to help propel you up and onto the board. Use the arms of the person you’re rescuing to help with leverage and balance.
  • If possible keep both paddle boarder leashes on but watch to ensure they don’t get caught on the board’s fin. 
  • Be sure to have a good grip on the person to avoid slipping and falling back.
  • Commit to the motion and follow through for an easier flip.
  • Keep in mind the weight ratio of the person struggling vs the rescuer. A heavier taller person will have an easier time flipping a board over vs a smaller petit person.
    •  If the rescuer is smaller than the person who needs help you’ll need to perform the flip from standing vs kneeling. Push down with your feet as close to the rails away from the person as possible and lean as far back to use gravity and body weight to your advantage. Gather momentum and perform the flip more quickly.
  • Board types will also come into play when performing a flip rescue. A wider board will need more leverage to flip.
    • Some paddle boards are slipperier than others. If the board you are using to flip is slippery try and flip from your knees. If you need more leverage place one knee down and one foot up. Keep in mind you have the arms of the person you’re assisting to help stabilize you.
    • Curvy rails can make it trickier to get on the board. Use the arms of the person you are rescuing to help balance. The person being rescued can also slip off or slide into the fins when the board is being flipped.  Before performing the flip rescue ensure they are in the center of the board where the rails are the straightest.

Have you tried a flip rescue? Share in the comments below.

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