A leash is a necessity not an accessory!

A leash is a necessity not an accessory!

Photo Greg Dennis
Photo Greg Dennis

When most people think about SUP, they think about a board and a paddle. A leash is often overlooked and seen as an accessory not a necessity. And it’s easy to see why. It’s easy to forget about the potential consequences of not wearing a leash until you really need one!  Most of us like to take risks, that’s why we SUP. It can be exhilarating and scary. But is it really worth risking your life for? Do you know what your leash is really for and what the potential consequences are by not wearing one?

Leash Up for SUP ASI

There are plenty of excuses you’ll hear from someone not wearing a leash including;

It gets caught on weed
It causes drag
It’s dangerous in moving white water
It’s awkward to put on
I don’t want a cold wet ankle!
I don’t need one as I don’t fall in
I’m not surfing so don’t need one
I didn’t know I needed one
I always paddle with friends
I wear a buoyancy aid so don’t need a leash too
They’re expensive
I forgot it
I can always keep control of my board so don’t need one
I can swim
It will ruin the picture
I don’t like wearing a leash
The dog ate it!!

We’ve heard them all but there really is NO EXCUSE for not wearing a leash when you’re paddleboarding. A leash is not just a money making accessory. It’s there to save your life.

Why wear a leash?
Your board is like a massive buoyancy aid. A leash stops your board gliding or being blown away from you, when you fall in. This means your board is only ever a leash length away making it quick and easy for you to hold on to and climb back on. This might not sound such a big deal when you’re paddling in warm water with no wind. But when you’re in cold water watching your board blowing away from you it’s not quite so much fun and could be fatal. It’s amazing the effect a light breeze can have on your detached board, making it glide away from you in no time.  Have you tried swimming after your board holding a paddle?!!! And when we say swim we mean really swim? It’s not as easy as you may think. And if you’re wearing a buoyancy aid it’s virtually impossible. Add to that the possibility of cold water shock or hypothermia and a board you can’t reach is no use to you at all. It’s all very well saying a mate will catch it for you and bring it back. But that might just be too late. Wearing a leash means you can always get back on your board and get paddling again quickly.

Peter and Marie’s look back at BOP
Wearing a leash was mandatory at the 2014 BOP.  Photo of Marie Buchanan by Crispin Jones

Being a responsible paddleboarder means looking out for others safety too. A paddleboard is a big and potentially dangerous piece of equipment when loose in the surf or among a group of other paddleboarders. A leash gives you some control over your board when you fall off.

SUPboarder is firmly behind ensuring wherever you paddle you wear a leash, making sure you wear the correct type of leash and release system for the paddling you are doing.

There are many different types of leash available on the market, so what ever type of paddling you’re doing you can find a suitable one.

Normal (non coiled) leashes – for use in flat water or surf
Coiled leashes – advised for flat water and racing
Quick release leashes – for white or moving water

If you don’t know what leash is best for you, go to your local shop or SUP Club and they’ll be able to advise you.

Unfortunately it’s taken some paddleboarders a ‘near fatal experience’ to really understand the importance of always wearing a leash. We spoke to some well known paddlers and asked them to share their experiences of not wearing a leash.  Lets learn from these near misses and ensure we keep SUP safe and accident free.

 Sean White – Director WeSUP Paddleboard Centre
4 years ago, me and my buddies were about 10 miles into our paddle through Loch Ness and decided to stop for lunch, following a short break we got back on the water, excited about the wind and swell that had picked up… So excited that I forgot to attach my leash.
We were all wearing just 2mm paddle suits as we were not expecting to face the challenging conditions or to fall into the 4 degree cold water… But I did. The wind and wind swell quickly pushed my board out of reach, leaving me swimming to catch it. I couldn’t but my paddle buddies thankfully caught my board and I managed to swim to it. I was in the water for about 6 minutes and reached stage 1 hypothermia. If my buddies were not on hand to support me, I’m sure I would have drowned that day. It could have all been prevented if I had taken just 6 seconds to put my leash on… Lesson learned.
Check out the WeSUP video of this trip here.  It could have been a very different experience if Sean was not so lucky.
Paul Simmons & Marie Buchanan – Starboard Team riders.
A number of years ago when we were first enjoying the thrills of downwind paddling Marie Buchanan and I were about to set off on an eight mile paddle in around 20 knots of wind. The walk from the car park to the launch beach is around five minutes so when near the beach Marie shouted:
“I’ve forgotten my leash”
I just replied:
“Don’t worry, I’ll look out for you”. A few miles into the downwinder I was a few hundred metres  ahead and glanced back, to see Marie separated from her board. The wind was blowing the board faster than she could swim so I had to turn around and stop her board to enable her to catch up. It was scary to see how easily this happened in relatively tame conditions. She wasn’t panicking but was certainly a little shocked to see how easily a very controlled situation quickly changed to a vulnerable one, relying on someone else to avoid being over a mile out to sea with a very long swim.Lesson most definitely learned: we now use leashes on ALL coastal paddling even in relatively calm conditions.
Photo Greg Dennis
Photo Greg Dennis

Why is it so important? What’s the bigger picture?
At present there is no legal requirement to wear a leash or buoyancy aid when paddleboarding in the UK. But that could all change. All it will take is for there to be a fatal SUP related incident where someone is not wearing a leash and it could well become mandatory along with buoyancy aids, carrying spare paddles, flares, first aid kits etc… There are obviously times when it’s sensible to carry the above e.g if embarking on a longer distance paddle. But for the majority of us everyday, social paddlers, it would ruin the simplicity of SUP, which is exactly what appeals most to many of us about the sport.

So come on. Lets keep it simple. Don’t be stupid. Always wear a leash when you SUP. A leash is a necessity not an accessory.
Let us know your thoughts about leashes. SUPboarder would like to hear your arguments for and against.

 

Facebook Comments

3 thoughts on “A leash is a necessity not an accessory!”

  1. No argument, wear a leash. The ignorance concerning the use of leashes is breathtaking. When on a break in Ibiza last year, I saw boards being hired out on multiple beaches with no sign of a leash anywhere and people often paddling off out of sight around the rocky coastline away from easy rescue. I know of people in the Middle East who’ve been asked if they are poor swimmers because they wear a leash. And in Sardinai I was staggered to come across two locals who were trying out their brand new boards and paddles on the sea in windy conditions with no instruction and no leashes.

    What can we do? Set an example, wear a leash. Share the knowledge, chat to people about the importance of a leash and the correct type of leash for the conditions.

  2. What about practicing what you preach @WillRogers??

    https://www.supboardermag.com/2014/11/28/perspective-duncasby-stacks/2/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRYrGC6yNLg

    In my opinion, common sense should be taught to new paddlers about when and where to wear a leash and perhaps, Will, you believed that on your Duncasby Stacks trip the conditions didn’t require you to wear one. If thats the case, then thats all well and good but to then write a piece telling everyone they MUST wear a leash is, quite frankly, wrong.

  3. Well spotted! I’m very guilty of not wearing a leash here and absolutely should have been. I did this paddle in summer 2013 and like many paddlers the importance of wearing a leash wherever i paddle has been a recent change in mindset (about a year ago in my case following conversations with people who have had bad experiences – like Paul and Sean in the feature). Thanks for pointing it out and happy paddling.

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3 thoughts on “A leash is a necessity not an accessory!”

  1. No argument, wear a leash. The ignorance concerning the use of leashes is breathtaking. When on a break in Ibiza last year, I saw boards being hired out on multiple beaches with no sign of a leash anywhere and people often paddling off out of sight around the rocky coastline away from easy rescue. I know of people in the Middle East who’ve been asked if they are poor swimmers because they wear a leash. And in Sardinai I was staggered to come across two locals who were trying out their brand new boards and paddles on the sea in windy conditions with no instruction and no leashes.

    What can we do? Set an example, wear a leash. Share the knowledge, chat to people about the importance of a leash and the correct type of leash for the conditions.

  2. What about practicing what you preach @WillRogers??

    https://www.supboardermag.com/2014/11/28/perspective-duncasby-stacks/2/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRYrGC6yNLg

    In my opinion, common sense should be taught to new paddlers about when and where to wear a leash and perhaps, Will, you believed that on your Duncasby Stacks trip the conditions didn’t require you to wear one. If thats the case, then thats all well and good but to then write a piece telling everyone they MUST wear a leash is, quite frankly, wrong.

  3. Well spotted! I’m very guilty of not wearing a leash here and absolutely should have been. I did this paddle in summer 2013 and like many paddlers the importance of wearing a leash wherever i paddle has been a recent change in mindset (about a year ago in my case following conversations with people who have had bad experiences – like Paul and Sean in the feature). Thanks for pointing it out and happy paddling.

Comments