Your standup paddleboard leash is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment you have. Except in rare instances, you will be much safer staying with your board than being separated from it.
Some reasons it is important to stay connected to your board are
- Your board is a floatation device. If you are in trouble or need a rest, you want to be on your board instead of in the water.
- You can get places more efficiently on your board than swimming.
- You will generally be warmer out of the water than in the water.
- You will get less tired on your board than if you are swimming.
- You are definitely more visible on your board should you need assistance or need to be seen by passing boats.
- Your board can get away from you very quickly in moving water. You and your board are at different levels in the water, and the water moves at varying speeds at these different levels. Because your body is below the surface, it is only affected by the current. Your board is subject to the current and the wind which is generally moving at a very different speed. Your board will go much faster than you will regardless of how good of a swimmer you are.
Wearing your paddleboard leash ensures that your board stays close allowing you to easily get back to and on your board.
Types of SUP leashes
The type of paddleboard leash you need depends on the type of paddling you are doing. There are three basic types of paddleboard leashes.
As long as you are not paddling in the surf zone or in whitewater, you will likely want a coiled leash approximately the length of your board. This allows you enough length to move more freely about on your board. The coil keeps the leash on top of your board so it isn’t in the water creating drag and picking up weeds. There is also less chance of it getting caught on any debris in the water that could tangle you up.
When you are surfing a straight leash is your best bet. It is less likely to get tangled than a coil leash. And there is no stored energy in a straight leash (like in the coil) causing it to snap back at you when it is stressed.
Quick release leash
If you are paddling in whitewater, you will need a quick-release leash that connects to the waist of your life jacket. This quick-release ensures that you can quickly and easily free yourself from the leash should you become tangled around obstacles in the river.
Even paddleboard leashes that are not “quick-release” have an easy to grab loop where the leash attaches to your ankle or just below your knee. Practice blindly grabbing and pulling that loop so that you can do it should the need arise.
Leash care is very basic. Rinse it off after going in salt water and make a habit of inspecting it for any cracking, or obvious weak point particularly around the swivels and straps. Be sure to replace your paddleboard leash regularly so that you don’t risk failure from worn out equipment. In the scheme of things, the cost of a leash is a very small investment in your safety. For more safety information, check out our post with more tips for paddleboarding safely.