Paddle Leash advice

I’m looking for some advice on the pros and cons of the various types of paddle leashes: coiled, bungee, chute cord, etc.

To me, the coiled type would seem to stay out of the way the best but does the “springyness” impede the stroke in any way?

Or is there some DIY that works well?

My boys also fish from our yak and so I would use these for rod leashes also.



Paddle Leash advice
I use the coil type and I’ve made one using a bungee cord to save a few dollars. Both work fine, but I prefer the coil, neither one gets in the way…

I’ve used both
and set both aside. Found that both/either got in the way. Would bring the bungee cord one out of retirement if I thought I would be in conditions where I might actually lose a paddle. Maybe with kids it’s different. Use the coil if you like a constand thump thump thump on the front deck and want to look like you’re on the telephone. An alternative: carry a spare paddle.

Sounds Good
I tried two types of leashes as they sound like a pretty good idea. I found that both types, a home made line and a coiled line both got in the way and I dont use a leash now.


My take

– Last Updated: Oct-17-06 7:29 AM EST –

Boy, are you going to hear some opinions...

In addition to the really annoying thump-thump noise when you paddle, the coil job does get in the way a bit once you might be upside down. Tried it out after I got a roll and found that it did things like grabbing onto stuff on my foredeck if I wasn't attentive, so would argue that it poses a decent entanglement risk in a capsize.

I now use/have available a shorter one that runs from around the paddle shaft to my wrist. It allows me to drop the paddle in the water if need be while I am assisting and wrap the leash around the shaft so that it is out of my way when I don't want to use it. The last is why I prefer this to a deck-attached leash, which is necessarily longer and so takes some attention to quickly deploy then un-deploy.

But that's all about regular paddling over distances or in waves etc, and if you are fishing from the boat you have a whole other set of considerations and are probably in pretty calm stuff. I can see losing a paddle while you shift your hands hold between that and a fishing rod, that kind of thing, more often than losing a apaddle due to wind or conditions.

I'd suggest for that purpose you think about having the following. First, spare paddles for each boat. Second, a "paddle-beener" or similar - check out NRS at to see one. It's a large carbineer that'll hold a paddle clipped to your rigging. You can use that while you are fishing. Third, if you are going to lash the fishing lines to anything make it a short loop to your wrist. That way you avoid a lot of line being out there when you are engaged in fishing.

Here's the paddle leash I use as pictured at Campmor. It would prbably be fairly easy to simulate.

I don’t currently use a paddle leash but am considering one. One thing I know is I won’t be using the coily telephone-cord type.

You know how a telephone cord makes that “zzzzziiiip” sound as it drags across the edge of your desk? Now imagine a similar but louder sound every time you take a right-hand paddle stroke, multiplied by thousands of strokes, as the coily leash drags across the sharp edge of a fiberglass cockpit coaming or a deck bungee.

I recently went on a multi-day trip with someone who had such a leash, and it about drove me nuts …

baling twine
works just as well but dosn’t cost much and it’s very quiet

lets the bears know you’re coming

Bad for alligators, they either think
mate or another pedator, best to be quiet.

Coils can get heavy
I used a coiled-type leash for a few months, the kind with an outer sheath over it. While the sheath eliminated the buzzy problem, the leash picked up enough water that it became quite heavy - maybe a pound or so - very annoying. (I thinkI bought a heavy duty whitewater leash) Since then, switched to a Lendal paddle leash. It is not elastic - they make the point that if you need to pull on the leash to get your boat back, you want it to be strong cord, not elastic. It has a ball quick release so you can get it off the paddle quickly - same as the Campmor example. The Lendal has a wrist strap on the other end which is comfortable, and can also be attached to deck rigging or your skirt, etc. So far I like it - it isn’t too obtrusive - I lay my paddle in the water while I mess with my sprayskirt or take a drink - and I don’t want that expensive AT to float away.

leash design
Here’s Lendal’s design philosophy re: leashes

sounded right to me. I mispoke before - I guess the heavy coil leash I bought originally was meant for surf (or something).

The coiled leashes are crap…
…as they snag on everything and you can’t store them on the paddle without ending up with a big wad of leash on the shaft. If you must use a leash (they’re not necessary for most paddling), get the bungee type that connect the paddle to your wrist. Campmor sells one or you can make one from a modified $3 sail tie. I have a couple of pics of one such leash my “Kayak Gear” album on Webshots at:

#$*!^ awful coils
I have a coiled leash; I used it every day for a month on a long trip. Yes, it got in the way. I kindasorta got used to the thumping noise, but not the way it would kink up and shorten unexpectedly. It gets grabby when it kinks up–not a great thing for all-day smooth forward stroking. I would not buy another coiled leash again.

It’s too much like the kinked-up phone coils I’ve dealt with too many times. Do your paddling buddies like hearing lots of cussing?

Prijon makes a heavy-duty version that consists of nylon webbing tube wrapped around bungie cord. It is heavier than the coil leash I have but seems MUCH sturdier, and it won’t kink up. For the next big trip, I would keep something like this handy for use on very windy days, and simply paddle without a leash on other days.

Coiled Leashes
My husband and I both have coiled leashes. His broke when a friend of ours tried to use it as a method for dragging our sit-on top out of the surf. We bought another one-different brand with a heavier duty velcro wrap. I still have my original paddle leash. I did experience some tangling during a rescue class. But other than that have not noticed any re-coil, or noise from the leash slapping deck. I swear by mine and wont paddle without it. My lesson was learned the hard way. While trying to teach dog to ride on my husbands boat, dog decided he wanted to ride with me, needless to say I got my first wet exit (before I learned any rescues)in cold November water a short distance from shore in alligator infested waters. I ended up swimming to shore with my paddle while hubby took care of my boat. Ironically, I had just bought the paddle leash and had not gotten used to using it. I swore then that I would always use it and I have.

Tangled leashes

– Last Updated: Oct-17-06 6:08 PM EST –

My two minutes on a soapbox -
Tangling during an assisted rescue in calm conditions is not great but usually not fatal, not the level of risk of the same thing happening in three foot haystacks. But it could be a fatal problem if you capsized in any kind of current and got tangled in the thing while trying to exit the boat.
If a paddle leash is long enough to show up as a problem in assisted rescues, it could be long enough to create a risk when upside down.

Now that you’ve heard the rest
I’ll throw in my two cents: I think most paddle leashes are much to big (strong) What is the purposr of the leash anyway? to keep your paddle in close proximity to your kayak, right? Therefore I use a home made leash made from 1/8 inch bungee and a little push button slide like those on stuffsacks. If push comes to shove and I get tangled in a surf disaster, I can break the bungee, otherwise, it allows me to lay my paddle down beside my boat when getting a drink, etc.

Thanks for the feedback
Thanks for all the advice, tips and cautions. (And thank goodness there aren’t any gators where we go)

Based on the great advice here and the fact we are on flat water, I’m leaning toward making my own from small diameter cord. Plus, repetitive noises drive me crazy so the coiled type dropped down the list.

Making my own will also work for the rod leashes and save $$$.

I saw this one recommended on the Mariner Kayaks website once upon a time. I made one using about 6 feet of 1/8" bungee. That allows plenty of length for self rescues and is “weasel” enough that if you need to make it go away you can do so. It costs practically nothing and has lasted me 4 years now. Many self rescues and many assists. No problems.

About the coils…Pseudo bogus to the max! Those things clunk on your deck with every stroke and have some weight to them. Just say no.

On the rare occasions, when I use
a Euro paddle, I use the same Campmor leash. You can also tuck one of the wooden balls under a deck line instead of attaching it to your wrist when you need to use it. That way you keep both hands free and the paddle will float alongside you.

Something to consider…
I am not a big fan of leashes, and will avoid using them except in certain paddling situations, because I’ve learned through many years of Technical diving with vast amounts of gear on that keeping my gear configuration SIMPLE is not only smart, but key to surviving in emergency situations. It is my opinion that too many ppl put too much faith in rescue skills that have practiced in only ideal conditions, instead of real world emergency conditions. It had been my finding that unless a person puts in countless hours of training in closely simulated situation with their gear, the more complicated their gear configuration is, the more likely it is to lead to their ultimate demise. I know this because I’ve been entangled trying to assist another diver on a deep wreck dive. That diver’s gear configuration nearly killed us both. Too technical to go into here as to why, and most wouldn’t understand it if I did explain, so I’ll spare you the details.

That being said, I have tried other leashes for sale in stores, and wasn’t impressed with the safety, or practicalness of any of them. This probably won’t do you much good, but I use one of my retractable u/w camera reels. I also will not tether the paddle to the kayak, but only to my pfd. There are many advantages to doing this, especially with the reel. This CAN somewhat interfere with swimming back to my kayak in the event of capsize with drag of the paddle in the water, but weighing the risk, it sure beats the risk of entanglement in heavy seas, or or grabbing, and pulling the paddle, to retreive the boat and have it snap. If the current is strong, at that point you’re pretty well screwed anyway. I do carry a dive tool that contains both knife, and snips on my pfd, btw in case of entanglement, so I can cut it loose if the current is too strong. and I also have a spare paddle on deck. I do not use this set up with all my paddling. Just when I feel I’m paddling in conditions where I feel it’s appropriate.

Now, here’s the thing. This auto retracting reel I have has a thick heavy duty line on it, is built for the extremes of the saltwater environment, but is VERY expensive, and unless you happen to be a diver, and have a need for it, it wouldn’t be worth the investment to you. They are very difficult to come by anyway. Took me years to find the ones I have. (Not sold in stores) But I was hoping that maybe you could use this information to make a decision. It is important for you to know however that most of these retractable reels on the market are not practical/adequate for this use. Almost none of them are built well enough to stand up to the abuse, and could even be more unsafe than not having one at all. Same can be said with nearly all paddle leashes period as far as I’m concerned for that matter. I was hesitant about posting, but I still feel it was worth mentioning. Just use common sense, and I highly recommend whatever you chose, TEST IT in REAL WORLD conditions, and not just on calm, sunny days. False confidence does kill. I’ve seen it first hand in the diving industry many times. Maybe this might give you an idea that I couldn’t think of. Good luck!