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Choosing the right sup leash is an important decision. Whether you are on a SUP board, paddle board or even kayak, you need to have enough freedom of movement for your own safety and that of other water users.
A basic sup leash keeps the SUP within arm’s reach so it can be easily grabbed if necessary. The length of your SUP leash will depend on where you’re using it and what type of SUP board you use as some boards require longer leashes than others.
Now that you have a solid understanding of how to choose the right SUP paddle board leash, let’s dig in deeper and explain when, as a paddle boarder, you need a leash, all the parts of a leash, and then why and when you should choose to wear one as a safety device.
Do You Even Need a SUP Leash?
Many have times where they believe they need a leash but the best way is to always wear it regardless of expected water conditions, from flat water to white water you don’t want to lose your board.
While calm water and flat water paddling may give you the overwhelming sense of safety this is when you may be at the most danger as you let your personal guard down which can lead to issues.
Should you be paddling and get caught in a strong current you could be carried out deeper into the body of water leaving you and your paddle board far away from safety, rescue or retrieval.
SUP leashes are a required piece of gear for all sup riders in any body of water, no questions asked.
Understanding the Parts of a SUP Leash
There is a wide range on the proper leash for your needs, the correct leash may be longer or shorter, or maybe coiled versus a straight leash. Each type of leash is a a little different just like their rider will be, finding your correct leash will depend on where you ride and when you ride.
The high quality leashes will feature a comfortable neoprene cuff that will help keep the leash from chafing your skin and a strong, durable Velcro strap to attach it to your board.
The SUP leash is made up of three different parts: the ankle cuff, the coiled cord and the paddle board connection. The ankle cuff should be snug but not too tight and should fit comfortably on your ankle.
The coiled cord is designed to stretch and release energy in order to prevent the board from hitting you or someone else if it comes free.
The paddle board connection is a strong Velcro strap that attaches the leash to your SUP board.
Lets dig into each part with a little more detail and options that can make them more comfortable for long rides starting from the board up to your cuff:
The Rail Saver
Due to the softness of former type surf boards made of foam, it was nicknamed rail saver. When a strong wave dragged the leash cord or pigtail string violently, the flat velcro section protected the board from being punctured when pulled hard.
When subjected to strain, this portion lays flat against the board and does not cut through it.
The Cord or Leash String
This simple cord can be extended up to about 15 feet long with most sup leashes having a cord where the length should match the board length as this offers plenty of reach for SUP boarders as they paddle through flat waters or white water.
The SUP leash cord is usually made of braided nylon or polyurethane cord and will have a breaking strength of around 400 pounds or more, making it durable against large waves and currents.
Coiled or Straight Cord Choice
There are different uses based on the environment you plan to ride in where you would want to choose a coiled SUP leash or a straight SUP leash.
If you are planning to ride on generally flat and calm water and prefer racing and pushing your limits than the coiled leash would be an excellent option for you to use as you want the board to not get away from you on a fall.
If you are planning to use in more hard surf and something like white water then a straight leash may be the better choice, and in white water or similar a quick release can be important to get some space between you if you fall.
Ankle, Calf, or Quick Release
There are three common attachments to you, the ankle leash, the calf leash, or the quick release leash. Much of this choice will be based on your comfort and ability to ride over time or based on what activity you are doing.
Obviously if you were racing and need to come on shore fast afterward having a quick release to get a jump off the board may be perfect for your needs, but for most general riders a comfortable ankle strap is all that will be required in most circumstances.
The leash cuff is the part that attached to your leg or calf, this should be snug but not too tight and should fit comfortably on your body using an adjustable strap with quality velcro. There are a few different materials that the cuff can be made out of which are neoprene, nylon or rubber.
Each material has its own benefits with neoprene being the most popular as it is stretchy, durable and comfortable. Nylon is less stretchy and a little more bulky but still durable and strong, rubber is the least stretchy of all three materials.
How To Choose Your First SUP Leash
How to Attach a Leash Properly?
How to Look After a Leash?
To increase the lifespan of your leash you want to make sure to wash in fresh water after any submersion or use to get out the salt crystals from the fabric.
Additionally you want to keep out of the sun all the parts of the leash when not in use, when done riding you don’t want to just leave the leash on top of the board in the direct sunlight as much as possible.
If you ride on surf and white water you will get more damage to the parts of the leash due to the constant battering against water, rocks, and yourself leading to shorter life, if you use on flat water your leash will last much longer.
Finally, check out your leash before every ride and look to replace your leash gear at least once every 6-8 months, this will help make sure it works when you need it the most and will cut down on a gear failure.
Final Thoughts on SUP Leash Length
From amateur paddle boarders to advanced boarders you want to ensure you don’t have a bad leash setup before heading out onto any water, from calm water to white water.
There are continual advancements in leashes and the technology to keep them attached to you, many of these quick release attachment systems can help you seperate from a board only under the right pressures.
You want this vital piece of safety equipment to protect you, especially when far out from the shore as it can save your life in an emergency situation giving you an escape from the water and may be a difference between life and death when out on any body of water.
Worst case it gives you a chance to stay linked to your board which is a perfect secondary personal floatation device in emergencies if any issues should occur.