Kayak leash

-- Last Updated: Feb-04-04 12:59 AM EST --

I paddle alone, almost every week in the ocean, although my preference is to paddle with a group. Paddling alone is fun, but sometime is scary. Few weeks ago, I made a mistake and went paddling in a pretty ugly weather (dark water, no one in the water but me, 20 knots wind…. Very stupid and irresponsible on my side.)
To make the long story short, I found myself in the water about 200 yards in the cold and stormy ocean and my kayak was carried away by the swell and the wind. It was impossible to catch it, and I found myself in the water. Luckily, I am an OK swimmer and I always use wetsuit and PDF. 200 yards does not sound much, but it seems like eternity until I made it to the shore.
It might sound stupid, but I am wondering if you will consider using a leash (like the one used with surfboard) to avoid situation when your kayak is “running away” from you.

Somewhat controversial, but I’m a believer for solo paddling offshore. You’re balancing the risk of entanglement with a leash against the risk of losing the boat and having a long, nasty swim (or worse). I wouldn’t use a surfboard-style leash in a SINK, though. I don’t think you’d want to be tied to the boat down inside the cockpit. Either a line from bow toggle to a waist belt or a paddle-kayak leash would seem like a better bet (probably paddle-kayak would be a better bet in most conditions), but I’d defer to folks who paddle SINKs for that.

Leashes and surf don’t necessarily mix well. When in doubt, better to lose the boat and swim in than get beat to pieces by it in the surf.

could you self-rescue?
how good is your roll?

I have lost boats in breaking surf

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 10:56 AM EST –

(make that a boat) but I admit it was at the end of a day of getting trashed and Knew that it was going to wash up on the sandy beach, (care in choosing location)

Notes to those who teach:

Control over boat and paddle at all times during wet exit!!!!! repeat repeat repeat until cooked in. Repeat every season! Train like you are fighting even on flat water. Then you can fight like you are playing, unless you get taken to your edge.

"experienced paddler"
in the last ACA IDW I assisted 1/2 of the experienced paddlers lost their paddles during rescues outside the surfzone. I’ve lost a carbon paddle stuck under the deck bungies as I was helping someone in waves. You got it,a leash is wayyyy down the list.

scary stuff
It’s such a safety compromise paddling alone in the sea, with a leash, on your boat and/ or paddle. or without.

something to tangle and hold you and something that could save your boat, paddle and life.

Chris Duff uses one.

I don’t. I DO carry a teather on deck that would take 3 seconds to hook to me or my paddle, but I have to hook it up. It’s not automatic.


I am a SOT guy

Exercise better judgement instead

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 10:20 AM EST –

The problem was not the lack of a tether, it was that you went out in conditions that you shouldn't have. It's important that you learn a lesson about judgement from your experience, rather than looking for an equipment solution.

Yes, there are experienced expedition paddlers like Chis Duff who use tethers. However, they also possess excellent judgement and superior paddling skills. They are also committed to being out in conditions that most of would never consider paddling in. That doesn't mean that their solution is the best idea for you or me.

I suggest that you you first need to develop a reliable roll, so that the odds of you swimming are greatly reduced. Until you do, don't paddle solo in conditions that push the limits of your capabilities; paddle only with people experienced with solo and assisted rescue techniques. Practice those techniques until you are highly proficient with them.

As for leashes and tethers, I feel that tethering the paddle to the boat is a bad idea, for two reasons.

1) There is an obvious entrapment hazard if you get seriously pummeled by waves.

2) There is also the problem of losing both the paddle and the boat if the paddle gets pulled from your grasp. This is a strong possibility if your boat is getting tossed by waves. A paddle can be a tremendous aid to swimming, so it's important to keep it with you. Use a short ((18"-24") leash that goes from the paddle to your wrist. The one shown at the link below stores easily on the paddle when you don't need it, but is instantly available when you do. You can make it from a $2 sail tie. Campmor used to sell one like it, but I don't see it on their site.


When it comes to boat tethers, if you feel you must have one, check out the system that Chris Duff uses. One of the most important aspects of it is that it attaches behind the paddler, where it cannot interfere with paddle stokes, braces, rolls or wet exits and presents much less of an entanglement hazard.

Paddle to wrist!!!

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 10:59 AM EST –

Not me bruddah! I need my wrist/arm/shoulder funtioning more than I need boat OR blade.

For SOTs offshore (that was what is being discussed, right?), in wind, I recommend having one. Get in the habit of keeping at least one hand on the paddle when capsizing (practice this seemingly simple thing until it's reflex - other hand/leg on boat if possible).

I prefer mine attached to the centerline of the boat, forward of the cockpit. You may want to rig a bow line running back to cockpit to attach it to. If the leash can slide on that line - so much the better. Slid back it is close to you allowing a shorter and more managable leash. Slid forward to the bow you can pull the boat behind you efficiently. Rigged smartly, it will not interfere with your stroke and will present minimal entanglement risk.

I also recommend adding perimter grab lines on SOTs used offshore. They make it much more likely you'l get a grip on the boat in that one chance before it's out of reach, and makes it easier to hold on when tired or disoriented. Being used as a seak kayak, SOTs need basic sea kayak safety thinking.

All that said, I've never acually needed either - but that's not the point.

I have a leash for my SINK too, one that actually works well on a Greenland paddle and is almost like it's not there (some limit to length of sliding stroke and some care with extended paddle strokes - but I'm not doing much of either in conditions where I'd use the leash). I almost never use it, but in wind offshore I'm glad to have it available. It also makes a handy short line (like a small coiled bow painter) to clip the boat to things (branches, docks, etc.) if I get out and leave the boat in the water (I'm not into swimming after run away kayaks).

As for exercising better judgement - even the best laid plans can fail. That's what this sort of equipment is for.

Derek says…
the wrist is the ONLY place to put a paddle leash!!!




Attach a paddle leash to the middle of your paddle with the other end connected to the bow Toggle. Use a breakable phone cord type leash (See Sit-On-TOpKayaking for advice.) When you go over hang on to the paddle with everything you are worth. If you get separated the paddle works like a sea anchor and you should be able to swim to your boat. Open water sailors in small boats have used life lines or tethers for centuries and I think it would be OK on an SOT if you want to. Chris Duff who has more experience than anyone here does. I don’t think I would use a tether on a SINK myself but I have a hard time rolling and it would probably get in the way.

I’m with you, Greyak
For what the poster is describing, I think paddle-kayak is the best bet for the reasons you’ve stated. It’s a compromise, but all of this stuff involves compromises.

Brian, I’m trying to picture the wave that will yank the paddle out of your hand if it’s leashed to the kayak but allow you to hold onto paddle with one hand and kayak with the other. I haven’t seen that one on the water. Having boat and/or paddle jerked away by a wave is something that happens in the surf, not outside. Unless you’re paddling in gale force + winds (can’t speak from experience as to just how much wind it would take), there just isn’t enough force in whitecaps or wind to pull either boat or paddle out of a reasonable grip in open water.

As for entanglement, I dunno. I’ve done more than my share of SOT and surfski wipeouts with both paddle-kayak and kayak-body (ankle) leashes. The only time I ever had an entanglement problem was when a phone-cord style paddle leash took a wrap around my ankle in a collision with a surfer on a good-sized wave when I was still pretty green (the surfer was about as green as I was–he thought it was his wave because he had the peak, I was just trying to get in the channel without getting pummeled but got caught). That one left me with a bruise from the dragging but no other damage. Big shorebreak might be a different story–I don’t have much experience with that.

I Always Use A Leash

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 1:04 PM EST –

My great fear boating alone on the ocean is getting separated from the boat or paddle. I always use a leash on the ocean and strongly recommend one for SOT boaters. I connect it from mid paddle to the bow toggle. Just like SeaDart.

A SINK will probably fill with some water when capsized and that will slow it down.

An SOT doesn't take on water in a spill and can float away in a high wind faster than you can swim to catch it. Especially if it gets a head start while you are dazed and confused from hitting the water.

If you fall off the boat, but hang onto the paddle you can pull the boat back.

If you lose both and paddle, the paddle may act as sea anchor and slow down the boat enough to catch it.

Or maybe you can catch the paddle but not the leash.

Or maybe the paddle and boat are in different directions and without a leash you would have to choose. Not a good choice. Niether is much good without the other.

SOT surf kayaker use them up here and the boardies get annoyed if you do not. They do not want to get hit by a loose SOT in the surf.

For the ocean I always wear a PFD, wetsuit most of the year, and I use a leash.

Why not both?
"It’s important that you learn a lesson about judgement from your experience, rather than looking for an equipment solution. "

You’re assuming one can develope a PERFECT judgement so they are never in condition beyond what they plan. I doubt it’s true of ANYONE. Besides, how does one get the “experience” to develope such perfect “judgement” from without accidentally pushing the envelope a few times???

An equipment solution allowes one to get out of such bad judgement and live to learn from the experience. I can often see around here there’s nice breeze going all day, strong enough to blow away the boat but not so strong the paddler couldn’t easily climb back on had them have to boat with them. That’s a natural condition for a teter.

short answer is yes

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 1:24 PM EST –

Your boat under almost all circumstances is your best PFD and way of being found. A leash if necessary is not a bad idea to tether you to the boat if in a situation where you are far from shore. In the surf zone it has some complications.

as mentioned Chris Duff uses a tether on his solo expeditions, but it's also because he has all the gear in the kayak for four months.

It is almost impossible to see a person floating in the water even from a plane. but a kayak is a little easier to see by a long shot.

BUT, judgement and skills will ultimately take you a lot further than a tether.

And whether you paddle alone in conditions suited to your ability is up to you.

Just Jang On, Spring Is Coming
Lots of folks get in trouble this time of year. They have not been boating and sometimes go out in questionable weather.

A well known professional did it lst year.

We lost someone from the board about this time last year that way.

Other perspectives
There’s been some discussion of leashes recently on the Yahoo surfski list and a while back on the outrigger list. I think there’s also a thread in the Paddlewise archives that you can get to from the website. You might check those thoughts out, too.

First off, did you lose your boat? That’s got to be a terrible feeling.

I do paddle alone quite often, but I’ve never gone into open water on my own. I will go into the ocean, but only on calm days and I stay close to shore (spitting distance close, I figure there’s not much to look at any further out). I do however always use a paddle leash. Mostly because I don’t want to lose my expensive paddle, but for the other obvious benifits too. So I don’t think I’ll ever use a leash.

When I do wet exit (which so far I’ve only done on purpose) I leave the boat capsized and stick one leg up into the cockpit while I attach and inflate my paddle float. That way I stay connected to the boat but have both hands to work with.

Tether works for me…
So far on the new tippy SOT I have found it easier if I don’t have to deal with the paddle when trying to climb back on. Then retrieve it when stabilized. I have it tethered to the console of the boat. GH

Just to help
The kind of tether BNystrom was talking about will pull off if needed…It presents no entrapment hazard. You can make one with some spools or large plastic bobbles, (to provide a release handle), and a short length of bungie and hog rings. Tethering a paddle to your wrist does not require much of a tether.

Good technique is better than any gear. The question is stil an open one for me. I would love to tether a paddle to the deck when I am doing rescues in rough stuff but I shove it under the bungie beyond the hatch which has beads on it.

Non related story

I am thankful for those who taught me good technique. I saw a the leverage of a 25+ mph wind gust on one end of a camano cause a deck line to shear 1 inch into the blade. ouch!