Surf skis and leg leashes

When I paddled the Epic V7 this weekend, I was attached to the boat with a leg leash after I got in the cockpit. Have never used a leg leash before.

The V7 weighs 50# and is three feet longer than my SINK, which weighs 43#.

Why would a heavier boat presumably blow away faster than my own, lighter, kayak in the event of a capsize? I recognize surf skis don’t have much (if any) safety rigging, but neither do some Greenland kayaks.


– Last Updated: Aug-06-15 1:45 PM EST –

Regarding Greenland SOF's, you are supposed to "roll or die." Frankly, if you come out of an SOF, it is really hard to reenter and pump it out because there is not much volume to allow the gunwales to be above water once you've come out and the SOF is flooded (or course, if you have and do paddle with partners, they can help drain the SOF before you try to reenter). As a solo SOF paddler, you try for an underwater reentry and roll (to minimize water entry into the cockpit) but it's dicey (at least it was for me) in anything resembling textured conditions that would have forced a capsize and exit in the first place.

Surfskis from what I have seen do not have cockpits and or thigh straps that would enable a paddler to roll back up after a capsize. That means you need to not lose the boat so you can try to climb back on. A leash is added insurance that you don't lose the surfski in windy and/or wave conditions.


no deck lines either

True, but…

– Last Updated: Aug-06-15 2:46 PM EST –

SOF should really be used with float bags, either dedicated or combo float/storage style. They reduce the volume of water when flooded, although there will still be more than in a bulkheaded boat.

I think the deck rigging i.e. perimeter lines is the real problem, as slushpaddler said. I'm not sure why a SOT or surf ski would not have deck rigging, but they seem not to --- I'd add it immediately.

But, But…
My SOF was equipped with float bags, front and back. I found anything less than a perfect upside down reentry and skirt sealing would be mean more water getting in. So when I rolled back up, the SOF was more often than not still very shaky, requiring me to open up the skirt to try to pump out more water. With this difficulty in flatwater practice conditions, I knew it would be impossible in textured water conditions. So, I also knew when I solo paddled with my SOF, it was pretty akin to “roll or die”, or suck it up and call for help with the VHF. Thankfully, I had never failed to right myself, if needed, while solo padding in the SOF (since the rollability is one of the boat’s attributes).

Know your boat, your venue and your limits.


That makes sense,

– Last Updated: Aug-06-15 3:41 PM EST –

(Sing's first post) but the same applies to a SINK - not losing the boat so you can climb back in.

The V7 does have a bit of deck rigging behind the cockpit, but as SP and Carldelo noted, no perimeter lines.

Am also curious if you could keep contact with the ski by keeping a leg in the cockpit, as you can with a SINK.


– Last Updated: Aug-06-15 3:50 PM EST –

"Am also curious if you could keep contact with the ski by keeping a leg in the cockpit, as you can with a SINK."

Just one experience (YMMV). Early on, I used to practice and test my abilities by surfing my SINK on beach breaks in midst of small nor'easters. I had one or two "partners" who would come out with me sometimes... (guess what... in some conditions, you're on your own anyways). One of my few partners, capsized and bailed (I didn't/wasn't able see that). He tried to keep one leg in cockpit to keep the boat from getting away. A wave hit and took it and in process tore out his knee ligaments. He was out of paddling for the next six months.


Tightly fitting SOF’s
I know several people who have made their own SOF, using the guidelines of traditional boat design.

The bigger bargier ones, designed more along the lines of boats intended for hauling some weight across distances, could potentially be re-entered on the water if equipped with float bags. It still was not pretty, but the decks were high enough to allow for it if the paddler spent some time practicing.

However, I know of no one who built a SOF based along the lines of traditional hunting kayaks who ended up with a boat that could be reliably re-entered on the water, even with float bags. The profile of one of these designs is so low that the minute the paddler is on top of the boat the thing is taking on water again in even the smallest texture.

no way to hold on

– Last Updated: Aug-06-15 6:31 PM EST –

A surf ski if very light and high flotation. You fall off it (not out - there is no in), and it floats real high and is very easily taken away by wind. It is a SOT, so doesn't take on water at all. You have no deck lines to hold - actually very little to hold.

A skin on frame or any other SINK, you are sitting in the boat. If you flip over and wet exit, the boat will take on some water which will reduce its ability to be blown away.

Worse yet, few surf skiers wear life jackets or any thermal protection, so getting separated from your ski is even more of an emergency.

No other attachments to grab
Easy to lose any boat, short or long, in wind or waves.

I get it now,
as foreign as being tethered felt.

Thanks for the education.

Sing, that story about your paddling partner made me cringe.

And one near miss
As part of a shortboat surf training, I used a kayak that was much too big for me AND its footpegs had been removed. I had nothing for feet to brace against and the cockpit was big enough I was very loose in it. When a wave sent me over, I got partly sucked out of the kayak with knees at the coaming edge. I knew there was another wave coming in and bailed as fast as I could to avoid getting legs bent backward at the knees.

Any boat
that is laden with water is a real hazard in the surf. What may look like a small amount of water is still a lot of weight that is shifting back and forth in the conditions (ever lug a 2 gallon container back from the store?).

When in surf, keeping contact with they boat is essential, but the legs are a rather bad choice for controlling a capsized boat due to the length of the bones (levers), the lack of flexibility of the leg itself, the fragility of knees (in particular) and hips, and the weight involved (boat + whatever water is inside).

Sorry this lesson was learned the hard way.


Leash in winds, always
I don’t always use a leash, if I am on flat calm water. But in winds - always. With a SUP - always, as you tend to kick it away if you fall.

As for keeping contact with the ski through the foot straps and your feet, yes you can (and I usually do), but that’s only advisable in flat conditions. In waves, you risk injury to yourself and the ski if you keep your feet strapped as you fall over.

There is a recent discussion at about using a leash attached to your waist area instead of your legs.

In either case, you want some sort of quick release system.

A surfski is not like a kayak
I just got a V7 and I can tell you the culture and standard practice for surfski paddling is very different than kayak paddling. Most who paddle a surfski have been in conditions that have blow the boat faster than they can swim so they know to use a leash offshore.

Most kayakers do not paddle offshore and when they paddle in the ocean they spend a lot of time playing in or near the surf where you would not use a leash.

Most the rescue methods are different between the two paddling sports as well. I think surfski paddling may be closer to SUP downwind paddling than it is to Sea kayaking.

Given all the the V7 is shaped like a Seakayak in many ways and it is heavy like a sea kayak. But it is comfortable like a Ski and turns like a whitewater boat if you pull the rudder up.

That makes more sense.
Leashed in windy conditions.

The first time I paddled the V7, no leash and just light winds.

I had also paddled my own boat accompanied by a couple of surfskiers (Nelo and Huki) in windier conditions, but they didn’t use leashes. So, I had never seen one until it was attached to my leg and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I should have.

Very different conditions for my second V7 experience, so yes, I understand the need for one.

When do you take the leash off while coming in with big breaking waves?

I didn’t know how long the leash was and didn’t want 50# of RM bashing into me, so rather than get my legs out as I came into shore, I just leaned over and fell into the water, one hand on my paddle and the other undoing the velcro. Ungraceful, but it worked - and I was already wet.

Yes, there is a big difference between a ski and a sit-in kayak, although I know nothing about surfski technique. I love the slippery seat of the ski because it makes hip rotation so much easier. But you need buns of steel for distances. I appreciated how well and fast the bailer worked.

I did have a heck of a time with the rudder system because of my own muscle memory. My stroke starts at the ball of my foot. With the V7, that meant I was turning it with each stroke until I changed things - which was a challenge. I think bringing the rudder pedals closer would have made it easier to use my heels, but I wasn’t about to try that on the water.

Anyway, it was fun and a good learning experience and I’d love to do it again.

Leash Is No Substitute For PFD:
Check out Sarah’s Na Pali story:

leashes for windy/rough conditions
a ski WILL blow down wind much faster than you can swim assuming its blowing.

If I’m paddling in calm protected conditions I leave the leash in the car. If it’s blowing or I’m planning to be far from shore I wear it.

What a terrific and strong gal! Love her attitude and glad she was wearing a PFD.

That’s not an issue for me. My gear priority is kayak, paddle, PFD. Even when I’m in pool practice with a lifeguard ten feet away.

But I still have no idea when you take the leash off when coming into shore with big waves behind you.

I Unhitch My Leash In the Shorebreak
Close to shore. Best to paddle in directly behind the wave, then pick up ski immediately and run up the beach before the next big wave hits. If you dump coming in, leave the ski alone and let it beach itself. Way outside in the breakers, I leave my leash on and pray that it doesn’t snap when I get dumped. If I’m lucky, I don’t have to swim too far.