How to choose the right leash for your SUP

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by SUP Magazine.

Standup paddling is a sport everyone can enjoy.

With that said, not everyone who goes out paddling for the first time is properly equipped. While those with less experience may think they only need a paddle and board, that mindset can lead to tragic accidents.

Never leave shore without a leash. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Wearing PFDs and proper immersion gear for cold water is also vital, but your leash is your lifeline and you shouldn’t leave shore without it. No matter what conditions you are paddling in — yes, even flatwater — it’s imperative that you always remain attached to your board. Your board is a giant flotation device and without it you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Cold water — constituted by any water 77 degrees Fahrenheit or below according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety — can debilitate even the best swimmers, and strong currents, waves and winds can all separate any level of paddler from his/her board in a matter of seconds.

Simply put, paddling without a leash is a gamble you don’t want to take.

To keep you safe on your SUP without hindering your performance, we’ve compiled some insight on choosing the right leash for your needs.

Surf Leashes

For SUP surfing, straight leashes that are one foot longer than your board is the rule of thumb. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

When choosing the right leash for SUP surfing, a good rule of thumb is to find one approximately one foot longer than your board. Straight leashes are the way to go for surfing; they’re less hindering, don’t tangle as easily as coiled leashes and they allow the board to extend away from your body without ricocheting back at you.

For SUP longboarding, calf leashes are optimal as they won’t get caught up in your cross-step like ankle leashes tend to do. When it comes to thickness, it’s best not to go any less than six millimeters for a SUP surfboard and then increase the thickness relative to board and wave size.

For smaller, performance shapes in less powerful surf, you can afford to go a little thinner, but remember: A SUP has far more volume than a surfboard and places much more tension on a fully extended leash. Best to er on the side of thick.

Downwind and Flatwater Leashes

Coiled, calf leashes are the norm for downwind paddling. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Downwind and flatwater paddlers often use coiled leashes strapped to their calf or PFD because it keeps the leash from dragging in the water and doesn’t interfere with footwork.

However, the benefit of coiled leashes also has a downside: their elasticity causes them to ricochet back at the paddler. When you fall wearing a coiled leash, try to do so with your feet closest to the board and your head away, and always surface with your hands in front of your face.

We prefer a semi-coil leash for downwinding as it allows less resistance when shuffling fore and aft on the board and is less likely to snap back at you upon falling.

River Leashes

For river SUP, choose a coiled, quick-release leash that attaches to your PFD. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

When it comes to whitewater SUP, choosing the proper leash can be a life or death decision.

The ideal leash for river paddlers should be coiled, around nine or 10 feet long and equipped with a quick-release device so you can detach fast if you’re in a pinch that calls for it.

PFDs are another safety essential for whitewater SUP; they should be worn at all times on the river and should be where you connect your leash to your body, as apposed to your ankle. This keeps the leash from dragging in the water and potentially snagging in shallows, and also makes for an easier, faster release if necessary.

Now, grab a leash, get out there and have a safe paddle!

More from SUP Magazine

SUP safety 101

Where to start for first-time paddleboarders

The secret to finding SUP-friendly surf spots

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!