Paddle leashes yes or no

When I was first starting out I always saw them on the list of gear but I thought I could make my own with some Velcro and shock cord, both of which I had. Before I ever got around to making one though I had an experience with a small jug of drinking water I had leashed to my kayak that sat behind my seat. Landing on a beach I tried to stand up but the cord for the water jug was looped over a buckle on the back of my PFD and I had a heck of time, Finally I just laid down in about a foot of water and took my PFD off to get untangled. Right then I decided no way to any more tethers and I don’t tie nothing in in my kayak and only tether a couple bags to my canoe thwarts using carabiners and very short cords.

I don’t whitewater and I suppose I could see the need outweighing the risk in a current maybe. I see people with them on calm water but even after being given some nice ones with used boats I don’t want 3 feet of rope flopping around me.


pros and cons
Your question should get a good list of pros and cons, including what the other end of the leash should attach to. My 2 cents is that one should carry an accessible knife and/or trauma scissors, good quality stainless or titanium. These can solve entrapment by bungies etc. Then make sure they are carried on your pfd in a way that would avoid entanglement e.g. getting caught under a deck line in a self rescue event.

this is one of those topics that

– Last Updated: Feb-05-15 5:28 PM EST –

totally surprises me. Never have I encountered anyone who leashed a paddle but I'm not a sea kayaker. Then again I also didn't know people used a pump to empty a kayak, or that folks used something called a paddle float, or practiced cowboy reentries. I've got a lot to learn about boating in wide open spaces in skinny boats. One advantage of this website, lots of diversity.

Now, if I see ya in my neck of the river, and ya got your paddle tied to ya, I'm assuming your an idiot, plain and simple.

…some leash ends might be able to pry them apart ( carefully ) and shorten the cord. chasing a paddle in moving water is not fun , nor is it fun chasing one as the wind blows your boat away from a dropped paddle. That said…depends on circumstances…does the boat have a shock-cord paddle holder ?? most ppl lose their paddle when they set them on the deck and in it goes cause of wind/waves/ paddler error. A paddle holder can defuse a dropped paddle situation. i was once with a person, she pulled up to shore to put on the spray skirt, it was a stream with steady current, she put her paddle on the shore …MISTAKE!!..the current took her and her boat downstream w/o her paddle. we had to go back upstream to retrieve her paddle for her. cheap investment to prevent a lot of trouble.

I wouldn’t have one
We got one for our big tandem when we did the 300 mile Everglades Challenge.

I have no idea where it is now. We probably gave it away. It was nothing but a nuisance and we never used it again.

My thoughts on it were entanglement !

Just make sure you have a spare paddle with you.

WW in a river is an entirely different situation

Jack L

I always use one on ocean paddles. I never leash the paddle until I am securely in the the boat with the skirt in place upon launch. Similarly I always disconnect the the leash and secure it prior to landing this eliminates any potential tangling around your legs.

While Fishing
I’ve used one a few times while trolling in a sea kayak. Just hated to loose a fish because I was fumbling with my paddle.

yeah, I can see how that might work,
the ocean is usually pretty deep, no trees or rocks to get tangled up on, and if you do drop your paddle and it floats or sinks away its a pretty big deal. Especially when your not close to shore or if you would unintentionally drift out on an out going tide- that wouldn’t be good. In that situation, it even makes some sense in my thick head to have a leash.


1/8th shock cord does it.

land, throw paddle over the side and attend.

gotta pee ? throw paddle over the side n pee

can’t get in n out without trapping yourself in shock cord ?

I do that. Cursing helps.

I have at times in the past but since I
found the large “paddle carabiner” from NRS, I don’t use a leash. Usually what I used them for was to drop it over the opposite side when I exited at landings or also when the group would stop for a rest break but didn’t get out of the boats and the bungies on deck were used for other things. Then I just dropped the paddle over the side to float alongside.

Some of our kayaks came with bungy paddle holders already affixed to the side of the boat.

As others noted, they can be a safety hazard.

not all leashes are the same
I always use a leash when sea kayaking. Cruising, surfing or sea kayak sailing. The only time I take it off is when rolling and doing extended laybacks, but promptly put it back on when finished playing with rolls.

On the other hand I have seen commercial and home made leashes that I would never use myself: just too dangerous. I don’t like the “phone cord” coil type ones; they seem to tangle. Even worse are the loose piece of string where knotting occurs after just a few minutes. What I use is a SHORT piece of bungee that has a QUICK release (one hand!)

In over 10 years of sea kayaking I have yet to encounter one incident where I tangle with that leash.

So, just like many other tools, not all leashes are the same.

For details on the leash:

Always use one
I have a whole bunch of the tiny bungee cord tethers that gambling casinos give you with your player’s cards. They are great for just keeping the paddle from drifting away when you’re getting in, or out of the boat. They don’t add any weight and in a worst case scenario if you somehow got it tangled it shouldn’t take much to break it.

Mine is DIY and ALWAYS!
Never got caught, though I do have a good knife attached in front of my PFD, just in case of anything catching me. I also carry a broken down spare paddle on my rear deck.

Overkill? Well that depends upon whether you end up needing it or not, as with all rescue equipment. Until you need it it’s a laughable excess; once you do, then you know why you have it.

In a group paddle one day another kayaker asked me why I carried the spare, as we were paddling under an old brudge structure. His paddle just then got caught on a guy wire and pulled from his hands, landing about 10’ or more away from him. As he helplessly dog paddled with hands to try to reach it, I pointed out to him that was why I had the leash and the spare.

YMMV, of course!

paddle leash
I generally don’t believe in absolute rules. I simply use a leash when the risk of losing my paddle is greater than the hassle/entanglement risk of using a leash.

I’ve bought a few leashes, but found that a simple DIY leash, made of thin shock cord with a clip, was lighter and easier to use than the commercial offerings. A leash adds weight to your paddle, so a heavy one is to be avoided.

For normal touring and expeditions during the day I rarely use a leash, and have a spare paddle at the ready. I practice rolling by capsizing, retrieving the spare (or half of the spare depending on the paddle) and rolling up.

During some expeditions and races, I do use a leash, at times, usually at night when the risk of making stupid errors is greatest. Also, I have been known to fall-asleep at night while making long crossings, so it’s a wise precaution for me. Finding a black carbon paddle at night on a black sea is not a fun exercise.

Having the paddle on a leash makes it easier to take a bite, pee, etc. That said, if I use a GP, I just slide the paddle under the foredeck straps or lock it across the cockpit while leaning forward with my elbows. This provides good support. A wing is much less accommodating to store, and can even cause a capsize if a blade grabs the water, and the leash helps at rest – just place the entire blade in the water. You don’t get any support from the blade this way, but the blade doesn’t threaten to capsize you.

I don’t use a leash for surf launches and landings, the entanglement risk outweighs the benefits. I remove the leash, if used, before entering the surf zone.


Ding Ding Ding… Best answer!

On one calm moonlit night a black paddle got away from our group. It took about a dozen searchers 20min to find it. The only reason we found it was because it was feathered and one blade caught the moonlight.

Generally agree
I use a leash in conditions where it may be useful, but I use it differently, that most. I leash the paddle to the boat (to the bungies in front of the cockpit) and hold onto the paddle. Never had a problem with this setup, although if the paddle breaks, the leash may be released. Since I can see the tether at all times, and control it’s play, I’ve had no problems.

In high winds, a boat can be blown away faster than one can swim, and these are the conditions where it is most likely to be needed. It is part of my equipment, but I’ve never actually HAD to have it. It does not interfere with my roll, and since it attaches to the boat, I’ve never had an entanglement problem.

Any time I am in moving water, I don’t use it (it isn’t safe, nor necessary).

Observations: You want something that clings tightly to the paddle. Anything that moves along the shaft will be a pain to deal with in a short time. You also want to have sufficient tether to do what you need to do with the paddle (with ease), but no more. Avoid creating bad habits where you become careless with the paddle since you assume a leash is attached (I’ve seen folks accustomed to tethers discard their paddle only to see it drift away).

As with most gear, it has it’s place, but I wouldn’t consider it a requirement.


attach leash to …
What do people recommend … attach the paddle leash to the boat or to the pfd? I would prefer the former.

I wear them when I might lose my paddle.

Seriously though, I don’t like them for sea kayaking. I carry a spare on deck, I can reach it or roll up with it if I need to.

If I was a surf skier or ww paddler I’d probably reconsider.

trying to start another feathered/unfeathered debate!


pretty common…
FWIW, when I use a leash for sea kayaking, it is attached to the kayak in the same manner as you describe, the leash is attached to my foredeck rigging.

For surfskis, leg leashes are very popular although some some modern skis now have dedicated leash attachment points.