Best paddle leash?

So, I’ve got me a nice boat, and a nicer Onno paddle… don’t want to lose the latter while out on the former :wink:

I’m looking for a leash for me, and would like to get two more as gifts for the people who’ve taken such good care to teach me what’s what about paddling…

So I ask for advice: what are the best kinds of paddle leash out there?

I’m not sure what best means, but am guessing it’s a lot of: won’t get in the way.

The best leash…

– Last Updated: Sep-19-10 10:38 AM EST – no leash. Learn to hold onto your paddle and you won't need a leash. Over time, you'll probably come to the same conclusion.

That said, if you still want a leash, the safest, most effective and least problematic type is a bungee-cord-and-balls wrist leash attached to the paddle. It rolls up and stows on the shaft when you don't need it, but deploys quickly and easily. In an emergency, you can pull out of it and avoid entanglement. If you need to use both hands for something, you can just pop one of the balls under your deck rigging and drop your paddle.

You can make one of these easily from an inexpensive "sail tie" that's available at marine suppliers, from bungee cord and wooden balls from a craft store or you can purchase a commercial version. There are pictures of one I made from a sail tie in my "Kayak Gear" album on Webshots at:

What kind of boat and paddling …
For white water … I would say no leash.

For seakayaking the kind described above that attaches to your wrist would be fine. Practice rolling and wet exit a lot so you know how to deal with getting it off if you have to.

If you have a sit on top kayak and you are going out alone on moving water, high winds, surf, waves where it is easy to lose your boat I would look into a coiled leash that fits on the bow of your boat. I would also look into getting thigh straps.

These are pretty decent …

For non-DIY
I bought a leash for a flat-water boat I have. I needed a way to lay my expensive AT paddle in the water without losing it, as the boat has no rigging at all, and there was no way I was going to add it. The leash goes from the paddle to the wrist. Anyway, I second Brian’s recommendation for a leash with a quick-release ball/bungee connection - if you don’t want to make one, Lendal sells a good one:,1794.html

I still keep it in my pfd pocket, although I haven’t used it in years.

I made one - perhaps this may help?

Regs, Mike

Thanks all
It’s good to hear so many opinions!

Leash laws (guidelines)
To use a leash or not can get as contentious as rudder or skeg or nothing.

As Bryan noted most paddlers instinctively will hang onto the paddle after flipping and if you don’t you should best learn to make this the default reaction.

As a surfski paddler I use a leash 90% of the time. My Huki is very buoyant and even a moderate breeze will have it heading off. I paddle alone most of the time so this is a safety issue.

I use a leash between my Onno paddle and the boat. Firstly because when I hang onto the paddle I’m also hanging onto the boat, and, if I were to loose grip on the paddle then the paddle would act as a drag to slow the drift of the boat.

The other 10% of the time that I don’t use a leash is on very calm days or in races where I think there is little likelihood of capsize since help shouldn’t be too far away. I really enjoy not having the leash flapping around although with the coiled connection this isn’t too big a deal.

I’ve never used a leash in a sea kayak or my new K1.

Entanglement is the primary counter argument against leashes.



DIY Paddle Leash
I am a sea kayaker, not WW so cant speak to that.

I agree with other comments that you tend to hang onto the paddle no matter what. I find a leash very useful when taking ‘action’ photos. After trying a few differnt types and lengths, this is the DIY version I and most of my paddle friends use.

Hope this is helpful.

What bnystrom describes
I have two of them, from when they were being made by someone as a business out of their kitchen table. It hasn’t been unrolled from my paddle in longer than I can remember, but it’s my preferred choice for sea kayaking.

No leash for WW.

That’s the same idea…

– Last Updated: Sep-20-10 10:40 AM EST –

...but I think bungee is a better way to go for this type of leash. It provides enough security, but also the ability to pull out of the leash readily if necessary. It also stows on the paddle more easily. Besides, a sail tie (a.k.a., "sail gasket") is less than five bucks.

BTW, why doesn't your boat have any deck rigging?

Campmor used to sell these leashes…
…for ~$10, but they apparently don’t any longer. I quick Google search turned up nothing, so I guess they’re out of production. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to make one from a sail tie.

I agree with open water use.
I would avoid the “telephone chord” style leash. I bought it the first year I paddled, and stopped using it regularly a couple of years ago. They tend to get hung up on anything that crosses over or under them.


– Last Updated: Sep-20-10 11:58 AM EST –

I agree about the bungee. I think I will remove the nylon strap portion and add a ball + bungee so it's quick-release at both ends. I don't store it on the paddle, so having the full length be bungee cord is maybe not necessary.

Re: the boat with no rigging, it's a Struer flat water boat with a monocoque hull laid up from book-matched mahogany, with wenge stems and coaming accents. It's officially the most gorgeous kayak in the whole wide world (ok, maybe an exaggeration), and I wouldn't dream of drilling holes in it. Here's why:

Seriously, it's just too pretty to modify. It's tippy, and I don't paddle it much. When I do, it's in calm conditions, which means the old time trial course nearby, about chest deep or less.

Paddle Leash
For modern paddle designs, paddle leashes have great benefits. If attached to the boat they can as a drogue in a situation where the paddler has lost their grip on the boat and the paddle. Secondly, they are very handy in managing the paddle during assisted rescues. That being said, I believe that the best leash is a coil cord with a practice golf ball instead of a swivel clip, that attaches to the bungee. The golf ball can be removed easily, even with cold hands, yet holds firmly. My argument against attaching the leash to the paddlers arm is that it can inhibit the use of both hands in a rescue.


…most people avoid coil-cord (phone cord) style leashes like the plague, as they hang up on everything and bang noisily on the deck as you paddle. The bungee-style wrist leash can be pulled off easily and the ball stuck under the deck rigging if you need both hands completely free. Wrist leashes that use straps to attach to the wrist are not as accommodating.

phone cord
The phone cord style should be outlawed. Nothing like the “fwap fwap fwap” of one to keep a quiet paddle from being, well, quiet…

I have a Lendal that sounds like what most of you are recommending, and it seems pretty well thought-out. I don’t use one myself, but maybe some dealers still have one in stock. I prefer to just slide one blade of the paddle under the deck bungees if I need a place to put it for a moment.

(does the term “phone cord” date us!?)

No leash
If you paddle with a group, no need for one. If you paddle mostly in calm areas, no need for one. If you have a spare that you can get to quickly, no need for one.

If you frequently paddle alone or in small groups in rough conditions and don’t have a spare on your deck, it’s a good idea to tether it to you or the boat.


Just like everything …
“phone cord leashes” actually work better for surfing, the retracted leash keeps it out of your way. I don’t have an issue with it catching on anything because there is nothing on my decks for it to catch on. Long smooth leashes dragging in the water during a capsize actually tend to catch on rocks and kelp deep in the water creating dangerous situations -so it’s all a matter of perspective.

With a well-designed leash…
…nothing drags in the water, ever.

I haven’t used a leash since I switched to Greenland paddles. I can stash it under the deck rigging in a heartbeat, so a leash is unnecessary.