A common question that we are frequently asked, is whether a paddle board leash is needed when stand up paddle boarding.

For those that are not sure – a paddle board leash or SUP leash is a simple cord that attaches to the rear of your board and then connects to your ankle via a comfortable padded ankle cuff. If you fall off your stand up paddle board, your leash makes sure the board can not drift away from you and remains attached.  Without a leash, your board is at the mercy of the wind, waves, tide and current and can disappear quickly, leaving you vulnerable to the elements in the water, with your drifting board then becoming a risk to other water users. In our opinion, a leash is the number one safety device that ensures that all your stand up paddle board sessions are safe for you and others.



There are basically two types of SUP leash, coiled and straight. When paddling on canals, lakes and calm seas, use a coiled leash attached to the ankle or calf. The leash itself connects to a D ring attached to the inflatable paddle board. A coiled leash will remain on the back of the paddle board and will not trail in the water, picking up debris or getting snagged on any obstructions. Coiled leashes also stay behind the paddle boarder and present less of a trip hazard. Coiled leashes are ideal to be used in all SUP disciplines apart from SUP surfing and White Water paddling.

Paddle board leash


If you are stepping up your paddle boarding and venturing out into the surf zone, you will need a long straight surf leash.  Most straight leashes are around ten foot long, this is enough length that following a wipe out, the board will not recoil back towards the paddle boarder. A SUP specific leash is also more substantial than a normal surf leash as paddle boards are bigger and heavier than surfboards, so the leash needs to be stronger. These generally connect to a recessed plug, via a leash string attachment. It is crucial to keep an eye on the condition of your leash string, as a snapped string in the surf zone could end up causing a serious injury or worse to other water users.

Paddle board leash


If you are planning to get out on any flowing water, such as harbours, estuaries and rivers, the best advice is to invest in a quick release waist belt. These belts simply go around your waist and you can secure your coiled ankle strap to the belt via a quick release attachment. There are two types of QR waist belts. Firstly, there are belts that release automatically when placed under pressure; in the event of the leash becoming snagged or trapped, the leash will release from the belt leaving the paddler free from their board. Secondly, a manual release whereby the user pulls the toggle of the quick release mechanism which then releases the leash, again separating the paddler from the board. The reason for this is that most flowing rivers and harbours could have numerous hazards, along the banks and under the water. Should you fall in and your leash wrap around any submerged obstructions, or other hazards such as mooring ropes and buoys, you will find it almost impossible to reach down to release an ankle or calf leash to free yourself.

If using a QR belt system if is vital that paddlers are familiar with how these operate and consider the dangers of becoming separated from their board. In any areas where a QR system may be used, paddlers should always have the back up of a Personal floatation device (buoyancy aid).

If you aren’t convinced, this short video from Nottingham White Water Sup may convince you that a waist belt on any flowing water is an essential piece of kit.

After so many attempts to explain the dangers of ankle leashes on rivers, I’ve thought the only way is to show it. This is our training session with Nottingham whitewater sup.. please watch the full length and we didn’t act at all..

Posted by Nottingham Whitewater SUP on Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Paddle board leash


There is much discussion within the paddle boarding industry regarding use of leashes in white water which is still open to debate with no clear guidance at this time. When we took part in the WSA White Water SUP sessions with Anthony Ing the advice given was to wear a quick release waist leash.

Whitewater paddling is a specialist activity, as such, we would always recommend obtaining training and advice regarding specific equipment for the conditions.



In paddle board racing, many competitors wear a waist belt to attach their coiled leash.       In racing it is important to keep the deck of the board uncluttered, also when executing step back pivot turns, a waist belt will keep the sup leash free and clear of causing any entanglements.

Paddle board leash


In short, a paddle board leash is not an optional extra, it is possibly the most important piece of safety equipment for anyone venturing out on any body of water with a SUP, and could well save your life. However, as outlined, having the correct leash for the right environment is crucial.






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