If you use a paddle leash Danuu is great.

I have had two for 8+ years in saltwater. They are still great but now I have enough on all my paddles to not bother switching them. Work great made in USA. I have zero connection with company or any compensation for my opinion. Just well made products made in USA I like to give a


My experience with these “phone cord” leashes is that they’re annoyingly noisy (banging on the deck constantly) and they tangle in everything. Additionally, they’re usually designed to leash the paddle to the boat, but what you really want is to leash the paddle to yourself, so you can’t lose it in a capsize situation where the boat gets away from you (you can use your paddle to swim faster than you can without it). On the very rare occasion that I want a leash, I use one made from a bungee sail tie, but 99.9% of the time I just make sure to hold onto my paddle. I also carry a spare on the foredeck, just in case.

I disagree with the above.
Whenever you do a wet-exit, it is instinct (like blinking) to clutch whatever is in your hands with a death-grip.
When you go over, that means you are grasping your paddle and if the paddle is clipped to you, you are in the water with a paddle while the wind and current shove your boat away faster than you can swim.
If your paddle is attached to the kayak and you go over, your death-grip is on the paddle which is clipped to the boat so you simply relax and reel your boat to you.

Of course, this requires a strong leash of the proper length. Too long and you risk entanglement. Too short and it interferes with your strokes.

I make my own leashes from hollow webbing around bungie with a strong clip and wrap around Velcro. The bungie is elastic and allows me to stretch is needed, the webbing is strong enough to keep me and the boat together.
I have never seen any phone-cord leash that was strong enough to hold in a current and adjusting their length is almost impossible.

I clip it to kayak then adjust length by placing coiled part under bungee . Doesn’t slap on deck much. Rather have it to boat because then if I have paddle which is easy I will still have kayak in reach. Swivels work good after many years. Velcro works great. If it’s that rough I will not catch up to kayak with paddle swimming.

Okay, back to that old thing about relative motion. It’s the wind, not the current, that makes your boat get away from you. I’ve seen posts here several times in the past about people worried that if they tip over in a river, the current will take their boat downstream “faster than they can swim”. Nonsense. Unless you have super powers that isolate you from certain laws of physics, you and your boat will drift the same speed, with that speed being equal to the current speed. Throw two sticks into a river and does one of them out-pace the other? No, they drift along side by side, so why would your boat be carried by the current while you, floating right there beside it, stay put? To say so makes no sense. By the same token, it takes no more line strength to pull you and your boat together when drifting in a river than when floating in a lake, unless one of you crosses an eddy line and the other does not, but that aspect is pretty self-explanatory.

Wind, on the other hand, can take your boat out of reach in the blink of an eye because the boat has a lot more surface area to catch the wind than you do, and a lot less area dragging in the water than you do. So yes, if the wind blows briskly and your boat is floating high (not swamped), you don’t have a prayer of catching up with it without an attached line to pull on.

It would be the wind, or maybe a wave, that washes your boat away. Double whammy if the current drags you off in the opposite direction.

another advantage to the paddle leash is when you set your paddle on the deck to take a drink or photo and the paddle somehow falls overboard, you can easily retrieve it.

I leash my dog for the same reason, when he falls overboard, I reel him in and pull him aboard by his PFD handle.

I paddle alone most of the time all winter so I like the extra security.

I cannot swim so I had my daughter trained as a lifeguard and she refuses to allow me to paddle alone.
Sometimes I even wear my PFD.

But one lake, I was practicing wet re-entry and when I surfaced, the wind had sent my kayak so fast across the lake I had to be towed by my kid to shore to recover the thing. Since them I have ALWAYS leashed my paddle to the kayak.
Shawna is an advanced beginner and has done a number of accidental wet exits and her death-grip on her paddle which was leashed to the kayak saved her.

Never heard anyone cite that instinctual death-grip thing before.
I wonder if it’s an over-simplification?
Everyone I sea kayak with wears spray skirts. So let’s assume that we all capsize with a death-grip on our paddle. Capsize is over. Can we keep the death grip on the paddle if we need to wet exit? Dumb question. We’d just hang upside down and drown. I would suggest that any instinctual grip on the paddle ends just as soon as we decide to pop the sprayskirt. There’s the first moment where it’s possible to let go of the paddle. The next instinct is to put our hands on the kayak to help slip out of it (taking it off like a pair of pants perhaps). There’s the second moment where one might let go of a paddle. Then we might be desperate for air, and want to use our hands to help swim quickly to the surface. There’s the third moment where one might release the paddle. This is also the moment where we might forget to keep a hand on our boat. And if we didn’t keep hold of the boat, when we come to the surface and realize it, grabbing for the boat is another moment where we might let loose of the paddle. But let’s count this last one out, as if we have the paddle, and the paddle is leashed to the boat, we don’t have to worry about this one.

A lot of the training of holding onto the paddle and holding onto the kayak is so important, I think largely because it trains us to overcome instincts. The more overwhelmed we feel in a moment, the more likely instincts take over. In my mind, somehow it always has, and still does, make sense to use my paddle leash. I don’t feel strongly enough about it to try to convince others that they’re wrong or right to use one. I’ve always just had plenty of reason to like one for myself. I think for this “What are you gripping?” scenario, I pop my skirt, grab my coaming to help myself out, and if I can keep a hand on my kayak without worrying about losing my paddle, I might suggest that would be every bit as effective as assuming I won’t take a hand off of a paddle through the process. Actually more. It’s quite possible, in a desperate moment, that I release the paddle trying to get the skirt off. And I don’t have to worry about the kayak getting away until I’ve pushed myself out of it. So I figure I have more opportunity to let loose of the paddle through the process, than I do to let go of the kayak. I will concede that a paddle is an easier thing to grip through a slippery situation than a kayak. I just don’t believe, and haven’t witnessed, that instinct leaves a person holding onto a paddle through a wet exit. I remember a video a while back where someone clearly let go of their paddle right as they were being hit by a wave and capsized. So I guess I’m not even sure about relying on that instinct for the capsize moment.

Panic is your worst enemy in all situations. I am comfortable in the water and don’t panic. I have raced offshore boats where they train you to escape. They strap you in a chair inside an aluminum cage with a hole on top. This is in a pool where 4 people tumble the cage in different directions to disorient you. After the bubbles stop you release and swim out. In a race accident you need not to panic because if you release before bubbles stop you can be pushed under the deck. Then it is harder to get out. I have had a few accidents in the boats. Panic is the worse thing.

I can hold my paddle and release the skirt be it with one or both hands. I still have the paddle leashed to the boat. Best way is to hold kayak with other hand or leg too. You kind of drop out off the cockpit so even one hand push and your out. My cockpit is 29.5" x 15.5" and I am 6’ 230 lb. But losing more weight.

My paddling partner took a wet exit class once. The instructor flipped her fast and scared her few years ago. It has taken me all this time to get a skirt back on her. He should have dipped her a few times slowly seeing if she was confident. He should have let her go under holding her hands and pulling her up in stages. She was wearing some of my gear so after he realized what he did he said I thought she was experienced. If she was that experienced she wouldn’t need need a wet exit class in water he can stand in.

Leash will also slow your boat in the wind if it is dragging it. We are hopefully practicing this weekend on her wet exits and holding the leash.

@RikJohnson said:
I cannot swim so I had my daughter trained as a lifeguard and she refuses to allow me to paddle alone.
Sometimes I even wear my PFD.

Hope you’re jesting that “sometimes” you wear your PFD.

As to the alleged instinctive death grip on the paddle, my instincts must be skewed as my first priority is popping my skirt and getting out of my cockpit. During my early capsize practices I regularly lost my paddle (but never my kayak) and have had to force myself to think about hanging on to it. Once, during class, I was sure it was tucked under my armpit, but it slipped out and I didn’t notice. Had to swim to my paddle, hauling my boat with me. After that, I started paying more attention to my paddle.

I think my own instinct is to get my leg into the cockpit to keep the boat near while I sort things out. I now always keep a spare on the deck and have practiced hand paddling. CapeFear’s comments do make a lot of sense so I’ll use my leash to secure my paddle to the kayak while I’m getting organized. One less thing to think about. All that said, if conditions started getting lively, I’d immediately attach the leash I made based on North Water’s bungy leash (velcro wrap for the paddle).

“Everyone I sea kayak with wears spray skirts. So let’s assume that we all capsize with a death-grip on our paddle. Capsize is over. Can we keep the death grip on the paddle if we need to wet exit?”

By then you are past the initial panic and relaxed enough to think!
Also people who eskimo roll DO have that grip on their paddle, they are just so used to moving it to roll upright…
For those rec-paddlers, once we are in the water and calm down, we simply reel the boat to us and wet-entry.

Of course, the previous few posters appear to have had a LOT of training.
Not all of us can say the same. And although we all SHOULD take the classes, many of us live in areas where there are NO classes, I think I have to drive from Tucson to San Diego to find a decent class as the ones in Phoenix are only done by part-time people who are not professionals and that is still 2 hours away.
Also most of us are new people who just want to enjoy a day on the water without all the troubles of being forced to take a lot of classes.

Y’all just need to go out and practise. A lot of the comments are thinking not doing. You have to do it enough to be second nature.

Stop to take picture put a blade under a foredeck bungee.

Worried about capsizing with a skirt, go do it in the shallows. If you capsize in surf the wave will take care of releasing the skirt, gear, water bottle, etc… Just make sure to leave the forward web tail out.

Worried about flipping. Stop calling it that. Even in surf you usually go over slow. “Flip” is to drastic a word.

Most intermediate to advanced seakayaks don’t use paddle leashes.

I quit using leashes after a couple of years of paddling, right around the time I switched to Greenland paddles. I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting pummeled in surf and rock gardens and have only had my primary paddle torn from my grasp on two occasions. In both cases, I retrieved my spare (a Greenland “storm” paddle) from the foredeck and rolled up. From there I extricated myself from the situation and retrieved my primary paddle. If I’d had my primary on a leash, it’s more likely that i would have gotten tangled in the leash or gotten whacked by the paddle as I was getting “Maytagged”.

I have never unintentionally lost contact with my boat, as I’ve trained myself to hang onto it on the rare occasions that I’m forced to wet exit. However, I have practiced “lost boat” rescues while training with other paddlers. I’ve also trained in a variety of reentry techniques and that includes how to secure the paddle during the process. My boats are rigged to allow me to quickly and securely stow a paddle on the foredeck if I need to use both hands for something.

The important points here are training and setting up your equipment properly. When I first started paddling, a leash made sense to me. It doesn’t any longer, so I never use one. To reiterate what Overstreet said above, I don’t know any advanced paddlers who actually use a leash _while _paddling. Like me, they tend to regard leashes as more of a liability than an asset. At most, they may keep a sail-tie leash rolled up on their paddle in case they want to stick one ball under their deck rigging and drop the paddle in the water beside the boat, while they’re otherwise engaged. Most have deck rigging that allows them to stow their paddle, so a leash isn’t necessary at all. We use a variety of different boats and equipment, but we all know our gear intimately and are well-practiced in using it. That, combined with good judgement based on experience is what keeps us safe. Gadgets may give you a false sense of security, but the truth is that you simply can’t buy safety.

Use whatever works for you, but there is no substitute for training, developing advanced skills and tailoring your deck rigging and other gear to your preferred form of paddling. That comes with time, experience and dedication to learning the craft.

I would never kayak alone without a spare paddle under my deck lines. Really a simple precaution and safer than a paddle leash (which I would never use) because of the possibility of entanglement. Get or make yourself a 6’ long wooden Greenland storm paddle and keep it under your deck lines. They are skinny and flat and won’t get in the way, and you will never be without a paddle, even if you lose your grip on the primary one.

Or just get a cheapo two piece to carry. Then practice wet exiting until you learn to instinctively grab your boat so you need not worry about it getting swept away from you again.

Best yet, especially if you are a bad swimmer, get a boat you can roll and learn to do that. Much less hassle to right yourself and the boat in 5 seconds than to have to struggle in the water to empty and re-mount it or swim it to shore (which you seem to indicate you cannot do.)

By the way, anyone can learn to swim – every local YMCA offers adult swim classes. I took them when I was in high school and have always been glad I did.

I personally would expect losing the boat worse than chance of entanglement. Easy to cut the line. Pounding surf
Would be different.

I stopped using a paddle leash and hence cut off most of the comic relief at take outs from the old fat guy falling into the water when he got tangled up in his leash.

The exception being when fishing. I use the paddle as a stake out (anchor) when I sit at creek mouths during falling tides.

This is somewhat similar to Overstreet’s recent comment. I used a paddle leash early on, then abandoned it - worried about entanglement upon capsize. I do always carry a spare paddle. However, I did use the leash when I was doing water sampling for the local Waterkeeper. Then I needed both hands free and could lay the paddle in the water, keeping it within reach … very convenient. The water sampling only occurred during calm conditions.

@Overstreet said:
Y’all just need to go out and practise. A lot of the comments are thinking not doing.


This thread has a lot of speculation about “What would I do if I had an involuntary capsize”.

That is not something one should just speculate about. One should do it!

Whenever I hear someone bragging that they have never had an involuntary capsize, I tell them that they need to try harder.

I have had a lot of capsizes, and I am proud of it, not ashamed. I had those capsizes because I go to the edge of my ability when I train kayak technique. And a positive side effect is that I know how I react when I suddenly find myself having eye contact with the fish.

So to anyone who think they know what they would do after a capsize:
Find yourself a paddling buddy. Make sure you both have a good partner rescue. Train some technique together where you take turns in going to the limit of your abilities. It can be as simple as turning 360° turns with sweep strokes and a lot of leaning. And then handle whatever happens. That is how you find out what you will do when you find yourself under water.