Leash Guide for Paddlers
Leashes and how they attach to the paddler might seem simple enough but this is a very important aspect of paddleboarding and keeping paddlers safe on the water.
Why should you wear a leash when stand up paddleboarding?
The purpose of your leash is to keep you connected to your board and to ensure that your paddleboard is always close to hand. Paddleboards are often larger in size and generate a lot of windage, meaning that they can quickly be blown away from a paddler if they fall in and they are not attached by a leash. Swimming after the board is not a great experience, particularly while holding a paddle. In this situation a simple leash can help save lives but there are a few instances where wearing a leash, or rather, an incorrect leash can be dangerous.
What are the different types of leashes available and when should you use them?
There are two main types of leashes; coiled and straight. Coiled leashes are without a doubt the most common leash type, often being supplied with inflatable paddleboards by default. The biggest benefit of using a coiled leash is that it allows it to sit on the back of your board and not trail in the water behind, getting caught up in seaweed or any other debris. Also because the leash is coiled it means you have less of a chance to trip over it or to stand on top of it. Coiled leashes are ideally suited to general flatwater paddling, racing and touring. Coiled leashes can also be combined with a quick release waist belt when paddling in moving water (we will discuss this in more detail bellow).
Where coiled leashes fail, is in the surf. This is because your leash is likely to come under quite a lot of tension, which would cause your board to spring back towards you. On the other hand, a straight SUP leash will allow your board to go away from you in breaking surf meaning that you can get clear of a wave and then recover your board safely. It’s important to note the length of a straight leash when surfing, as it should be at least as long as your board. Should you fall over the nose of the board, it means you have sufficient room to clear the paddleboard and not impact it. Straight leashes while most commonly used in surf, can also be used on flat water paddling in non-moving waters.
How do you attach a leash to the paddleboard?
Whether a coiled or a straight leash; all leashes have an end that fastens to your board. Usually the fastener connects directly to the D ring of your inflatable paddleboard or the string loop to the fixing point on your hard composite board. The main part of the leash is usually made out of a solid plastic of which there are different thicknesses and qualities available, depending on how strong you want your leash to be. Often you will find that your leash has moving swivels to ensure that the leash remains tangle free.
How is a leash attached to the paddler?
With the exception of some waist belts, leashes usually attach to the paddler with a velcro secured cuff or belt. There are three main ways to attach your leash and the method you choose is very important.
An ankle velcro fastened cuff is the most common. This is ideal for general paddling and non-moving waters, surfing, racing and touring. The benefit is that it’s easy to fasten over your leg.
Fastening at the ankle though isn’t all that comfortable when kneeling on a paddleboard. This is where (if the velcro cuff is long enough) you can fasten it further up your leg, above your calf and below your knee. This additional height from the board keeps your leash out of the way when stepping about the paddleboard meaning less chance of you tripping over it or getting it underfoot. Calf leashes can be used all round but are more commonly used when racing, during downwinders or SUP surfers who want to move around the paddleboard more freely.
The third way to attach your leash is with a waist belt, like the Moloko Quick Release Waist Belt. In simple terms this is a quick release attachment that goes around your waist. The ankle or calf velcro fastening is then fixed to the waist belt by looping the velcro leash cuff around the belt. The waist belt is then worn around the waist of the paddler and fastened by a clasp with a fitted toggle. When the toggle is pulled, it opens the clasp allowing the belt to run freely through the toggle and releasing the paddler from the leash and their board. We strongly recommend this leash attachment when paddling in any kind of moving water from slow moving rivers and quick tidal flows to white water. Waist belts are best paired with a coiled leash as it helps keep the leash out of the water and off the paddleboard, allowing more room for footwork.
IMPORTANT – When wearing your waist belt for the first time; it is recommended to cut any excess material, so as to have this fit the paddler perfectly and speed up the release of the waist belt in case of an emergency.
A paddleboard leash is a lifeline when recovering a paddleboard. It is crazy to think that all that is between you and your precious paddleboard is the cheapest and often most overlooked piece of equipment in your set up. Also, take the time to inspect your leash before heading out, as this can easily perish, either by getting weakened by the sun or after being left unused for long periods of time. To help maintain it, simply rinse it off with fresh water and let it dry before putting it away. Just remember, wearing a leash is key to a successful and safe paddle session on the water. While not an alternative to wearing a flotation device such as a buoyancy aid, we would want paddlers to think twice about going on the water without a leash, an incorrect leash or inappropriate fastening.