Paddle leashes -- what are the pros

Safety measures for surf boats
I’ve heard that some people tuck a set of swim fins in the cockpit as a last-ditch precaution against losing a paddle outside and other sorts of unpleasantness. Makes sense to me.

It’s good that you are asking questions
So it won’t cost you much to buy a couple of feet of 3/16ths shock cord and a pair of plastic balls with predrilled holes. Create a loop for the wrist and secure one ball at the end of the cord or even in the wrist loop. Tie a small loop at the opposite end but be sure you leave enough line to go around your paddle shaft and secure the second ball with a knot. The small loop should securely hold the ball and the whole tether to your paddle. The ball at the wrist end is for when you want to remove it from your wrist and let the paddle float in the water beside you. Simply tuck the ball under a deck bungie for a fairly secure hold. After a little while you can determine whether or not you like them and how they work for you. If they don’t work well, you are out less than 5 bucks.


I Always Use Leash With SOTs
I always use a leash on open water with an SOT. I run it from the deck to the paddle. If you get knocked out of an SOT, it can get away from you a lot quicker than you can swim after it.

I had one incident when I would have lost a boat in surf if not for a leash.

Wrist leashes
I just don’t get it (I got a couple of these things free with a boat - and didn’t know what they were at first).

I certainly don’t want anything attached to me - except maybe in the VERY specific way Sing described - and not at a spot pretty vital for paddling. Bungee is strong enough to do damage - and in a bad situation things happen fast. Seems to me these could twist and tighten making removal quite a different thing than in calmer moments.

Always carrying a spare - I’m not all that concerned about dropping a paddle (and seems like dropping a paddle attached at risk could even invite and unneeded capsize). I see a leash as something for situations where boat could get away. I don’t see these wrist leashes helping with that.

But, like I said - I just don’t get it.

You’re not alone in the Surf Zone…
Don’t forget the other people in the surf Zone. Your loose gear (boat or paddle) floating around is not going to make friends and influence people. Spare paddle in a surf boat? You’re kidding right?

I prefer to use a leash attached to the ski rather than to my body. In the event I have to bail and get separated from my ski in the washing machine, I can sprint full speed back to it before the next big wave takes it all the way into the beach. If you have to contend with the paddle attached to your wrist (slowing you down) it might be the difference between a 5-10 yard sprint and a two hundred yard swim.



"Yard Sale"
Am I understanding correctly that the 'yard sale’phenomenon is a rarity?

You know those key chains with the …
grape sized foam beads? I lined mine with those and it enhances comfort and promotes an easier area to pull from list. Can’t see it doing harm, but I’m sure someone will pipe in with an apocalypse or two.

I also have a quick releasable leash that has a slightly too long of a line. Am going to pare it down about 6 inches or so. Easy to trade between the body and boat. I prefer it to the bungie only version, but the bungie only version can be made in 5 minutes for all of 5 bucks. Easy point to start out at in the world of leash kayaking. An extremist sport to some, smart as safe____ to others.


one of my favorites
and I don’t even like to fish! Wonderful book, one of the few that got me laughing out loud!


consider this…

– Last Updated: Feb-01-06 11:14 AM EST –

the only times i have lost grip of my paddle is when rolling--particularly after unexpected capsizes. needless to say i am very glad i had a leash to retrieve my paddle and roll back up.

btw: i use a simple bungee/ball wrist leash--the lighter the better. i used to use one of the telephone cord style leashes but found it fouled on everything and was heavy.

my $0.02

Wayne Horodowich, Univ of Sea Kayaking

– Last Updated: Feb-01-06 4:15 AM EST –

video The ABCs of the Surf Zone (a 2005 Readers Poll Recommendation as best video in Sea Kayaker magazine), specifically says at least twice in his video that he does not use a paddle leash when in the surf zone secondary to entanglement injury issues. At one point he mentions, if you must use a leash, use a wrist to paddle leash (as recommended by some above), since it is shorter and not going to pin you with the boat. But I believe he does say that he personally does not prefer even this form of leash, again, in the surf zone. When he has paddled beyond the surf zone, he may use a leash depending on the conditions. The surf zone, at least in the video, is a very violent thrashing place and presumably the leash could become a garrot (noose). I know, sounds like I am quoting someone else, but I have no personal experience in the surf zone, and I just watched that video last week. Wayne H has decades in the surf zone, so I personally would take his word for it about the leash-- you may or may not depending on your personal experience. I see those great pics of your surf class, original poster, and if you plan to keep going in the surf zone to paddle, this is a very good DVD. Some brave souls filmed doing all the right and wrong things in very intense waves.

Surf zone
One thing about the concern re losing a paddle in the surf zone - IMHO, for the level of surf that most people encounter, the tendency is to hang onto the paddle pretty well. The heavy duty surf folks live in another world, of much bigger, messier and meaner stuff. I’ve only tried the surf zone once (so far), and the only time I lost my paddle was an unnecessary messup when I reacted the worst way to getting lifted from the right side when I had started the boat’s nose down the front of a wave. Waves were not really friendly for first-timers that day - they were running 5 ft or so in the break zone and weren’t being real even.

In many other times of following my boat to the beach that day (we were well spaced and not going way out because most were beginners), or riding the foam almost all the way in then getting flipped at the last minute because I wasn’t ending it right, I only lost the paddle that one time. And that was entirely self-inflicted - if I’d tried to manage that wave correctly I’d have kept the paddle securely in hand.

Point is, the kind of surf that rips paddles out of peoples’ hands is a good bit more technical and powerful than what the majority of touring paddlers or day trippers will encounter.

I Agree…

– Last Updated: Feb-01-06 10:08 AM EST –

I started surfing with my long boat. Much after 3-4', for me, it wasn't much fun since it just becomes bongo surfing. Once you can bongo surf consistently to shore, a good skill, there really is not much more to do with a long boat in surf zone.

Surfing (as technically defined by surfers) in waves 5' or bigger, it really becomes quite a different set of circumstances. The waves are much more powerful exponentially. Folks who say, "Oh, just learn to hang on to the paddle...", haven't been out there. If you get hit on the paddle in the wrong way by a steep breaking wave, hanging onto the paddle may result in being sucked out of the boat (that's why my surf boat has a seat belt now), or a dislocated shoulder, or ripped muscles, or banged up/broken ribs. Heck, last week I was surfing really mellow 3-4" stuff and got complacent playing around. One breaking wave almost took my shoulder out. I felt extreme torque and stress on my shoulder and it was like I was holding an above-the-shoulder high brace either. I was trying to get a "tube" and somehow the breaking wave just caught the paddle right (or wrong). Anyway, I am not even sure if I let go with the hand on the stressed side. I don't think I could have reacted quickly enough. I was lucky to not have anything worse than a slightly sore shoulder.

In most seakayaking situations, you would be out in the open. Wave tops may foam but they rarely break (as in cover and envelop you). I don't think hanging on a paddle is a problem. That's why I don't bother with a leash when I am touring. And, I no longer surf the break zone with a long boat either.