For many first timers, owning a SUP (stand up paddleboard) leash may not seem like the most important thing in the world. Those on the outside looking in may see life on a SUP as chilled, relaxing and, if you fall off, you can just paddle after your board and then get back up again. However in reality, not all waters will be calm, and the leash is a key source of safety when paddling along. So it’s vital you find one that is both safe and comfortable to wear with the environment and conditions you are SUP-ing in.

In this article, we look at exactly why an SUP leash is so important, and which one works best for you.

Do you need a leash for SUP?

The simple answer is yes. For even the most experienced paddleboarder, an SUP leash is a must, so the same should apply also for starting out. While it’s a good idea to wear a life jacket for paddle boarding at all times (especially when you’re just starting out) the cord will keep you from being separated from your SUP if you were to fall off. This is useful even in the calmest of waters, and as you progress through to different paddling conditions, the need for a SUP leash will become more and more important. So we would advise getting used to the feeling of a leash as early as possible, before things get trickier.

Wearing an SUP leash is also important for the safety of others. Without, your paddleboard is at the mercy of the waves, the wind and tind, meaning it’ll move away from you quickly once you’ve fallen off. This could put your fellow paddlers, swimmers and other users of the surrounding water at risk, regardless of the material of your SUP.

What kind of leash do you need for SUP?

On the face of it, there are essentially two different kinds of SUP leash.They come in four different styles, ankle, calf, ankle and calf, and waist. Let’s have a look at their differences, and which one is the best for your SUP style.

Coiled SUP Leash

Looking for a slower paced paddle? For canals, lakes and calm seas, attach a coiled leash to your ankle or calf. This style of leash is ideal for SUP styles apart from surfing and white water padding. Connected with a D ring that's attached to the back of the paddle board meaning the leash does not trail in the water, or pick up debris or get snagged on any other potential obstructions. It also means that a coiled SUP leash will not be a potential trip hazard, as it will be behind you at all times.

Straight SUP Leash

If it’s the slightly more extreme side of that paddleboard life you’re looking for, you’ll need a longer leash. A normal, long straight surfing leash is around ten feet long, which is enough length to stop the board from recoiling towards you, should a wipe out happen. Due to paddleboards being heavier and larger than surfboards, a straight leash specific to SUP is stronger and more substantial. In general they will be connected to a cessed plug, via a leash string attachment. With this style of leash, it is important to key your eye on it’s condition, as one which has the potential to snap is almost as good as no string at all. Like the coiled SUP leash, the straight leash connects to your knee or calf.

In addition to this, there is the...

Quick Release Belt Waist Sup Leash

For paddling in environments with fast flowing water such as rivers, estuaries and harbours, we advise you to go for a quick release waist belt, in addition to coiled ankle leash. There are two versions of the quick release waist belt, the first of which automatically releases as soon as it is under pressure. These work excellently if the leash becomes trapped or snagged against something, as the belt will free you from your SUP, allowing you to swim away from a potentially dangerous situation. The second option is a manual release, which gives you control of when you release, which also separates you from the belt. This style gives you the ease of release compared to an ankle or calf leash, as well as more control of when to free yourself from your leash.

If you do deceive yourself to go for a quick release leash, make sure you’re comfortable with how it works before you start paddling, and before you release, make sure you’ve weighed up the pros and cons of being separated from your SUP. While you should be using a buoyancy aid whenever you go paddleboarding, it is especially important you do so when using a quick release leash.

How to wear an SUP leash

Attaching the Leash to your SUP

  • Begin by finding out what type of leash it is. The options are D-ring (which is the most common for SUPs) or Proprietary.
  • Take the part of the leash that goes under the small elastic ring, often known as the ‘leash string’ and make a knot by passing the elastic under and looping it through itself. With this loop you can securely attach your leash, although it will make it harder to take off. It can also cause unnecessary wear on the sides of your SUP.
  • If your SUP has a D-ring it’s seen to be the easiest to get the elastic loop through, and make the whole process of attaching the leash that little bit easier. As the name suggests the D-ring attachment is a ring shaped as D made of either mental or plastic. If they are plastic, this does however mean they will be less durable.
  • Sometimes there will be more D-rings attached to the sides front and back of the SUP. Remember that only the D-ring at the back can be used for attaching the leash, although they can be used as a short term solution in an emergency.
  • Unfortunately, if you have a proprietary leash attachment, each will come with its own documentation when you purchase the board. Even more annoyingly, you can only use leashes made by your board manufacturer, and should they break, it might be harder to replace. With a proprietary leash, it might be worth buying a spare.
Where to attach the leash to your body
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British Canoeing guide to wearing an SUP Leash
  • With an ankle or calf SUP leash, make sure you do it on the same leg every time, and make sure it is on the strongest place of either body part.
  • Choosing the anke will be a mucher safer option if you are surfing, as when you get knocked over by a wave, you want the board as far away from your head as possible.For attaching it to your calf, usually done with a coiled leash, make sure it is just under your knee as this keeps it out of water, will reduce the resistance and give you a better paddling experience.