At ExploreSUP we love our sport but we also love staying safe! On our excursions we always take a few accessories along to help make sure we return in good health. In this article we select our favorite paddle board leashes – that keep you attached to the board if (and when!) you fall off. A leash is a cuff that typically attaches to your ankle with a lead that fixes to a D-clip at the rear of your board.
There are two very good reasons for using a board leash:
1) Even in calm conditions an SUP can float quickly out of reach which is a worrying prospect particularly if you’re on the ocean
2) If you come off your board near other water users, it can become a hazard to them as it’s not under your control
Anyone who engages in outdoor water-based activities will know just how easy it is to tire and get into difficulties. A board leash can literally be a life-saver; it is the single device that tethers you to your buoyant, floating platform. However we must stress that if you take your SUP on rivers you must wear a breakaway leash so you can detach yourself easily if your board gets pulled under by strong currents.
What types of leash are available?
The main considerations fall into two categories – where you wear them and the style of leash. The regular leashes are either straight or coiled and are fitter to your ankle, calf or waist.
Straight leashes and coiled leashes
As their names suggest a straight leash is typically a length of urethane while a coiled leash is a helix, much like a spring. Seasoned paddleboarders will be aware of horror stories of ‘whiplashing’ when a board has boomeranged back at a fallen rider causing serious injury. For this reason we advise that coiled leashes are only used if you paddleboard on flat water. Coiled leashes are good if you are racing as the bulk of the leash sits on the deck out of your way and less likely to snag on seaweed and other obstacles. Straight leashes hang off the deck into the water which causes drag and increases the risk of snagging but means that you have more of the deck to yourself. Straight leashes are the only ones we can advise using on rivers to minimize any danger of a boomeranging board.
The length of the leash needs to be around at least a foot longer than the SUP you are riding.
Choosing an ankle, calf or waist-fitting leash
The most popular leashes are either strapped to the ankle or calf. Ankle leashes are usually the most comfortable, there is less tugging when waves hit and any impacts your board takes are less likely to transfer through the leash and conspire to unbalance you. No matter your ability, any paddleboarder knows that falling off (or jumping off!) is a fact of life; when it happens an ankle-leashed board is easier to pull back. The downsides to ankle leashes are that they can be more likely to restrict your on-board movement and they are harder to unclip being so far down your leg.
Calf straps are favored by boarders who walk across the surface of their SUP when in motion or on waves; the leash is easier to keep out the way so you can avoid tripping yourself up. If you like racing your board then the calf leash also reduces drag. Common criticisms against calf leashes include the unnatural feeling and the way they can put unusual strain on your muscle and knee.
Waist-fitting leashes with a breakaway mechanism are usually only used by whitewater boarders.
The best paddle board coiled ankle leashes
Popular safety equipment manufacturer BPS (Bullet Proof Surf)’s Storm Ultralite is a well-made, strong but light-weight coiled ankle leash. It comes in four colors (blue, pink, black, and white). We tested a blue Storm and found the neoprene cuff to be very comfortable over a long period. The cord will stretch to ten feet, but this is more like nine feet as it is tightly coiled and difficult to extend further. As with all the coiled leashes we tested this sat comfortably on the board throughout and is ideal for flat water SUP riders. BPS say that their 12 months guarantee is good for any faults you may find – we would really like to see companies getting more behind their products especially when they are so important – and offer 24 months or more. Having said that, the Storm is well made and does feel built to last. We would suggest it for smaller and lighter boards though due to the thinner cord.
The Raystreak comes in blue, orange and black and is ten feet long, although it doesn’t extend to this length willingly. It feels very durable and we liked the greater width of 7 mm that adds to the strength of the product – and also the confidence we have in trusting our lives with it! It has double stainless steel swivels which help prevent the leash from getting tangled during your excursions. It has a high density nylon triple wrapped rail saver too. We found the neoprene ankle cuff to be comfortable, so comfortable in fact that one of our reviewers forgot it was still there! The Raystreak also features a pull tab for quick release and a hidden key pocket in the cuff. Raystreak only offers the standard 12-month replace-or-refund guarantee.
You have to hand it to Unigear, they go to town when it comes to their color range. Their Premium comes in ten colors including purple, yellow, pink and a vibrant red. As with the Raystreak it’s made from a 7mm urethane cord that feels more than strong enough to tether you to even the heaviest SUP. Despite the thick cord this leash is still light and flexible. The cuff is made of TPU elastic polyurethane with a sponge inner. It is released with a pull tab and has a hidden key pocket. The leash has a rail saver to reduce wear and tear on your board.
Our test leash came with a waterproof wallet that we placed an old smartphone in – four hours later and it was still bone-dry and working. The wallet has an adjustable lanyard so it could be strapped to your waist or over your shoulder.
Unigear even gives a lifetime money back guarantee – if anything this should give you the same confidence to place the same trust in their product as they obviously have in their workmanship.
Editor’s Choice The Unigear receives an Editor’s Choice for its quality, versatility, bundled wallet and lifetime guarantee
The best paddle board straight ankle leashes
Out of the packaging the BIC leash instantly feels well-made. Our test leash was the popular red and black design and is the 11-foot model. We usually opt for SUPs over ten foot long so this one is an ideal length. It comes with a detachable rail saver, swivel and molded stand-off on the ankle fitting for added flexibility. The long lead trails in the water which can be a worry if you’re wondering about snagging it but once you are riding, the leash stays close to the surface.
The Raystreak leash comes in two colors: black and orange. Our test leash was the bright shade of orange and was finished with double stainless steel swivels (important to prevent the leash from tangling around your legs). It also featured a high density nylon triple lock rail saver. We liked the quality of the padded neoprene cuff and it was comfortable to wear for several hours. The Raystreak has an easy pull tab quick-release mechanism and a useful pocket in the cuff for a key or other non-electronic item. Again, we have the 12 months guarantee which is refund or replace.
The BPS Storm is available as a straight leash, black in color. The Storm has double stainless steel swivels to reduce the risk of getting yourself tangled. It has precision-molded fittings and a triple wrap rail saver. The 7.2 mm urethane cord is strong and after testing it we would have no qualms recommending it for heavier SUPs. The embroidered cuff is pleasant to wear and the Velcro straps provide a firm and comfy fit. It also has a handy key-sized pocket. The Storm is backed by BPS’s lifetime product guarantee.
The best paddle board coiled calf leashes
7) Dakine unisex SUP coiled calf leash
The popular Dakine brand’s coiled calf leash is made of high quality urethane which they call ‘Dura-Cord’. It terminates in newly designed ‘Opti-Flex’ stainless steel ends to increase durability and reduce wear and tear from salt water. We liked the molded neoprene cuff that fastened snugly below the knee and didn’t feel too cumbersome or weird. Some models of calf leash can pull on your muscles and be uncomfortable. The Dakine is compatible with the Easy Clip system to allow you to use this as a breakaway leash.
8) Bully’s 12′ SUP Coiled Calf Surfboard Leash
The Bully’s 12 foot leash is a bit of a beast. It’s a hefty cable that will securely fasten you to your SUP. It features double brass heavy duty swivels that feel like they can survive some pretty tough knocks and still work. The connection between the leash and your leg is managed through the Bully’s’ ‘Flex Base’ – our reviewers were impressed by the added flexibility it gave. The Bully’s SUP calf leashes come in ten colors, our test model was a stunning lime green. It fastens to the board with a double closure rail saver. We found the cuff comfortable and not awkward on the calf muscles like some brands can be. The cuff also features a key pocket with a Velcro fastening. Another big plus for the Bully’s is that it’s made here in the States!
The best paddle board waist leashes
9) NRS Quick Release SUP Leash
For whitewater paddleboarding we love using the NRS waist leash. It can be used for flat water too as it can convert into a 2”calf strap. It gives you a really confident feeling wearing this well-made, resilient leash that manages to be light yet really strong. Our reviewers found it easy to have their full freedom of movement with the leash strap attached, so far from it being a hindrance, it almost felt like they weren’t wearing it.
The SUP Leash Bag worn around the waist comes complete with the coiled leash and the carry straps that store everything away when you’ve finished using them. The essential quick release buckle and panic knob make an emergency separation of the bag/leash system a breeze. The documentation details how the mechanism absorbs energy and uses adjustable tabs to dial-in release tension – important as this reduces any risk of injury from a flailing cord. This is a heavy duty product which you could argue is over-engineered but it really inspires confidence when you want to go for extreme paddleboarding and put all your concentration on to the water.
Editor’s Choice The NRS gets a well-deserved Editor’s Choice for being well-thought-out, amazingly strong and comfortable to use.
Image Source: amazon.com