THE RIGHT SUP LEASH
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
A properly selected SUP leash is a vital piece of safety equipment that every stand up paddle boarder should use regardless of where they are paddling. A leash keep the board tethered to the paddler so that the paddler is never separated from the board. This is important for safety because the board can be a lifesaver when the unexpected happens and flotation is needed.
There are several types of SUP leash, so you will need to choose the right one for you needs. As much as each leash is designed for a specific purpose or type of water it often just comes down to personal preference. If you paddle on the lake flat water and like using a straight leash there is nothing that will stop you with the one caveat being moving water and breakaway leashes which we will discuss.
This is the most basic type of leash, with a cord of a fixed length acting as the tether. It is the type most used by surfers to avoid the rebound effect where a coiled leash pulls the board toward you after a fall. Typically surfers will choose a leash the same length as their board but the ‘rules’ are a little more flexible for SUP.
With this type of leash, the cord is coiled (think of an old fashioned phone cord) so that it stays short to prevent dragging in the water, but extends to its full length when stretched. The coil extends on separation, and then rebounds pulling the board back towards you. This leash was popularized as the go-to SUP leash and is a style many are comfortable with.
This type of leash is coiled for half of its length and straight for the rest that we have developed. For example, a 10 foot hybrid leash cord may have 5 feet of straight cord and the rest of the original cord length is coiled. The reduction in effective length due to the coiled section prevents the leash from dragging in the water, and the tangling and rebound potential are greatly reduced compared with a fully coiled leash. Designed with our Lake – River – Coast philosophy it allows the same leash to be used from flat water to surf.
QUICK RELEASE / BREAKAWAY LEASH
Paddling in a river or other body of moving water involves hazards that require carefully considered methods of leash use. Leashes are important for keeping the paddler from being separated from the board, but can also lead to drowning if the paddler is held underwater by a leash tangled on rocks or vegetation in a moving current.
For this reason, leashes used in a river/moving water environment must have a release mechanism that is always reachable by the paddler. Wearing an ankle leash on a river or similar moving water situation is dangerous and must be avoided at all cost, because it can be impossible for a paddler entrapped by the cord to reach their ankle to release the leash. The leash must be attached to the paddler above the waist, usually to a lifejacket or a belt and must have a means of releasing instantly and reliably.
Specialized leashes with quick release attachment systems have been developed to address this problem, although at this point in time Earth River SUP does not manufacture a commercially available option. Specific training on technique, safety, and leash use from an experienced and qualified instructor is an absolute necessity for anyone considering paddling on moving water.