paddle leashes

Is using a paddle leash a good idea? Do they get in the way with paddling at all? I was curious as to how noticeable they are while in use or if they really freed up both hands when getting a drink, taking a picture, etc.

Paddle leash
People have strong feelings about paddle leashes: some strongly in favour and some strongly opposed.

It depends on the conditions you are paddling in, to some extent.

I use one myself, but on flatwater (although there may be wind waves involved). It allows me to drop my paddle into the water beside my boat when I want to use my hands for something else. It also gives me a line to my boat if I decide to fall over in wind or waves which might otherwise push my boat away from me.

But those opposed will say there are concerns about getting entangled in the leash, which would pose a safety hazard.

In the end, I do not think there is any right answer.


They do free up the hands, more or less as the length increases and decreases. The telephone cord style that attaches to the deck rigging makes a thumping noise with each stroke that can get annoying over time. The longer they are the more likely they are to let you roll and brace freely as well end up wrapped around your neck or other critical body part in a capsize and/or recovery.

And yeah, you’ll find there are rather strong feelings around this.

Yeah…paddle leashes
I don’t use one and would rather see people use their deck lines to secure their paddle. Having said that, there is no right answer. Just the right answer for you. It will be mostly based on if there is a tangling issue. Most people will not have an issue. And there are some who could get tangled in their deck lines if they weren’t paying attention:). So, I would say that it’s not that big an investment so give it a whirl and see what works for you. Also, see how it works putting the paddle in your forward deck line and see if that is usable.

It’s all just messing about in boats!


50/50 on leashes
I have a nice Lendal leash that I use - I generally lay the paddle in the water while putting on my sprayskirt. Also, I like to lay the paddle across my lap to relax and with a leash don’t care if it slides overboard. But I started paddling in a flat water boat with no deck rigging, so a leash was necessary.

Having said that, I have tangled my feet in the leash a couple of times when getting out of the boat on a rocky shoreline, i.e. with the paddle held across the back of the coaming and using it as an outrigger to shore.

On the positive side, I’ve done a bunch of self-rescue training sessions and so far have not gotten tangled. The Lendal is lightweight and has a quick-release ball on the paddle attachment - this is why I switched to it from a telephone cord style leash. I think they’re too heavy and difficult to remove quickly. Still not 100% sure I like using a leash - as I get more confidence I may ditch it. After all, if you have a spare paddle, you can always go after the primary if it drifts away.

Yes and No…
I only use one while fishing as it sometimes gets a little busy fighting and landing a fish and I don’t want to worry about what the paddle is doing.

good idea if they work for you - NM

paddle attachment
I have a velcro strap about 8 inches long attached to the spray skirt, if I need to free my hands or just relax a bit, I wrap the velcro strap around the paddle. Works fine and no intanglement problems.


From the Marinar Kayaks web site

Matt Broze’s simple paddle leash made from stretchy 3/16" natural rubber shock cord and a nylon clip works better than any others we have tried. Because it can stretch to more than twice its length when necessary, it can be short enough not to drag in the water or flop around on your deck. Unlike phone-cord style leashes it won’t tangle with itself (becoming suddenly way too short) or “clack” on your deck with each paddle stroke because of its weight. Matt’s leash is light and stores wrapped up on the paddle shaft so it’s always available when the wind starts to pick up. We included it free on any paddle over $100.00. Make your own from 3.5 feet of 3/16" shock cord and a nylon shock cord hook (available from West Marine and other marine stores.

I made one of these and it’s what I use when I use a leash. It has never hampered me on a re-entry.

I Use Two Type Of Leashes

– Last Updated: Mar-16-07 5:56 PM EST –

one is 12" 3/16 nylon cord with a velcro wrap for the shaft on one end, and a bungee cord loop wrapped with vinyl tubing over the to fit over my my wrist. I can readily pull the bungee/vinyl loop off my wrist but if a wave grabs my paddle and the vinyl/bungee loop starts to slide down my wrist, it's very easy for me to just open my hands to stop the loop from coming off. This set up has saved me from getting stripped 3 times aready in big surf. I think like this set up with kayaks.

My other leash is a shortened coil type that attaches my paddle to a loop on the footstraps of my waveski. I use this because there is minimal stuff to grab securely onto with the waveski. Just the footstraps and the seatbelt, neither of which is easy to hang onto with gloves on. My concern here is to not let my waveski take off and run another surfer over inside the breakzone.


paddle leash
As one who simply could not hold onto her paddle while practicing capsizing, a paddle leash was and still is a must for me. I hated the coiled telephone style one I first had since it slapped the deck and made noise. The Northwater one I now have is about a four foot stretch bungie and I’ve never had any issues. But I’m only 5 ft 2 so take that into account.

I’ve never been entangled
But my leash has saved my paddle on a hundred occasions from setting it down and watching it slide overboard or hitting a strainer and exiting the boat.

Now I leash everything but my water bottle.

Very Embarassing

One afternoon I went paddling with a new bunch of folks. Since they were BCU types I knew that they would sneer at my lease. Yes, they weren’t lease people and so I didn’t bring it in hopes of fitting in. Maybe they will think I am one of them.

I settled into my boat and tucked one blade up underneath a deckline as I usually do when fitting my spray skirt over the coaming. The paddle began to rotate away from the cockpit, pivoting from blade under the deckline and was instantly extended far out over the water and out of my reach. If I had my leash I would have simply pulled the paddle back within my grasp and been done with it but no, I was floating away from the beach all dressed up and ready to go except for my paddle. There was no reaching it and I was too proud to draw attention to myself and ask for help so instead………

I drew attention to myself by paddling back to shore with my hands, got out of the boat and retrieved the paddle. There was lots of uncomfortable “quiet” and few of them would look me in the eye. I had shown them exactly what I had feared and hoped they wouldn’t guess. I wasn’t one of them.

Being exposed for what I was and was not I went back to my truck and got my damn lease. I’ve never fit in anyway. Why start now?


Leash While Fishing
I have found that while fishing from my SOT in a stiff wind, that a gust of wind can take it off my lap. For me, a leash is a must in a wind.

Why worry
about impressing some club, or it’s members?

Here is a reason not to use one…
or at least not a homemade one. Second time I had ever been surfing last summer, we went to Hoebeck beach on the the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. Very large sets rolling in and I thought it would be good to leash my paddle to my boat because I knew there would be lots of wet-exits. Not owning a real leash, I just tied a piece of parachute cord to my deck rigging and my paddle. My aluminum shafted paddle. Well after riding down the face of a particularly large wave and thinking it had fizzled, I turned to see a very large wave breaking over the top of me. Needless to say I came out of my boat, but I held on to my paddle. The force of the wave pulling my boat and yanking on my leash caused my paddle shaft to bend around my hand eventually breaking the aluminum. I was lucky that it didn’t cut my hand or sever a finger. This may not have happened if I had been using a different type of paddle (I now have a fiberglass paddle) or if I had used a leash made of a more elastic material, but something to think about!

Just a touch of self-deprecating humor. A little vignette of self-doubt and conformity gone awray.


If I use one

– Last Updated: Mar-18-07 8:09 AM EST –

and at times I do - it'll be the shorter elastic wrist to paddle type with an orange abd blue ball on eadh end. Unless I am wearing pretty thick gloves, the wrist loop is big enough that it'd tend to pull off under challenge. On a GP occassionally too, tho' I know that violates every rule. But with small hands and limited experience even a properly sized GP can be a elusive grip, and I can always just pull out of the loop if I need to extend.

It's worth practicing hanging onto your paddle as a habit - I was lucky and only lost my paddle once when I got the record for capsizing in surf off of the Narrows a couple of Novembers ago and found it on the beach. But one guy who had a split ripped off his deck never found his.

In general I wouldn't use anything that you couldn't stash around the paddle shaft.

The issue with the usually shorter wrist to paddle leashes (though it sounds like the one above can go longer to handle this) is that they are awkward for taking pictures. They are just the right length to be banging the paddle all over the side and top of the boat when you bring the camera up for a shot.

Yep but
I just use 1/8" bungee and one of those little push button keepers that come on the mesh bags so much kayak stuff comes in. All you are doing is keeping your paddle from floating away while you are otherwise occupied. You can break 1/8" if you ever need to.