Best SUP Leashes – Ultimate Guide (July 2017)

salamander hip pack leash
Best SUP LeashesTypeDescription 
AnkleOwn The Wave - Premium 10' Coiled SUP Leash, with double stainless steel swivels and triple rail saver and optional waterproof wallet.Check Price
AnkleBPS - Storm Premium 10' Coiled SUP Leash, with comfortable neoprene cuff, double stainless steel swivels and triple rail saver and optional waterproof wallet.Check Price
AnkleSBS - Premium 10' Coiled SUP Leash, for flat & open water, with stainless steel swivels and triple rail saver and hidden key pocket.Check Price
CalfDaKine - Unisex Sup 10' x 5/16" Coiled Calf LeashCheck Price
CalfFCS - 10' x 5/16" Coiled/Straight SUP Knee Surf Leash, with smooth rotating nylon cuff, rail saver and Machine stainless steel swivels Check Price

How long can you tread water for? In an enclosed pool you may feel capable of going strong for five to ten minutes, maybe a half hour if you’re in excellent shape. However, when you’re in a swimming pool, you have the safety of a wall or the stairs if you cramp up, or accidentally gulp a pint of pool water. You are an arms length or a stroke away to safety unless a vigilant lifeguard gets to you first. For a SUP enthusiast, a high quality leash is a vital piece of equipment for any stand-up rig because— well lets face it, unless you have donned a life jacket before your paddle, a carbon fiber or plastic sup paddle will not keep you afloat.

Having a leash doesn’t only save you, but it keeps others in the water safe from injury.

Captain Tyler Thompson

Some experienced swimmers and paddle boarders will say a leash is unnecessary or that they are bothersome. That a leash may trip you up and get tangled in between your toes or possibly give the appearance that you’re incapable of handling your board if you fall into the water. This way of thinking couldn’t be more wrong and in fact is a dangerous mindset. Most of the environments paddle boarders seek often hold the potential to separate the rider quickly from the board. Whether it be high surf, rip currents and rapids, or a sudden change in the weather, wind and water moves quick! Faster than most people can swim. And with immense natural power it will outlast anyone who ends up having to swim for their life.

You may think “Well my board is twelve feet long and I usually fall right next to it.” Or “My board is as wide as a ship, I can catch it because it moves like a log.”  That’s like saying “I don’t need a seatbelt when driving, because I can brace for impact with my arms and legs.”  Accidents happen quick and nature is always unpredictable, especially on the water. If you have ever gone out on a SUP board you know it is the total opposite of driving a car. It is one of the most stress free and relaxing activities that provides an excellent core workout. The lax state of mind one reaches while paddle boarding can also be a distraction from the potential dangers of becoming instantly separated from your board.

Worst Case Scenario

Alright so you fall in, just locate your paddle and swim back to your board before you step on an oyster bed or a clump of seaweed brushes your leg. It is routine to chase after a rogue board. But what if the board drifts further away than the paddle? Or if you’re surfing, a second wave rolls by and takes your board for a ride without you? Or if you’re stuck in the middle, which do you swim to first, the paddle or the board? What if all of a sudden your side cramps up or you pull a hamstring? Or you inhale water while trying to catch a breath? Or even worse, all three happen at once!

Okay, it’s unlikely, but any one of those decreases the chances of making it back to your board. Consider yourself a goner if you are alone or separated from your pack of friends. It has happened before and will most likely continue to happen to the unfortunate souls who failed to wear a lifejacket or invest in a leash. For fifteen to sixty dollars you can insure your safety if such a scenario were to occur. If you fall off when tethered to a SUP leash, all you need is a quick tug, and your board is beneath your forearm, like a wall at the swimming pool.

Southwest Florida native and SUP enthusiast, Captain Tyler Thompson, has seen his share of paddle board separations while working daily in the Gulf of Mexico. For the past fifteen years, Thompson has assisted inexperienced paddle boarders back to their boards via jet ski or boat. “I think having a leash is paramount,” says Thompson. “Not only for ease of retrieval, but when surfing, you do not want to turn your board into a projectile for other swimmers and surfers. Having a leash doesn’t only save you, but it keeps others in the water safe from injury.”

You never can predict the scenario you will get caught in on the water. When offshore or surfing, keep in mind the distance between you and others, as well as your distance off of the shoreline. If you are attached to the board, you are easier to find then if you were to be bobbing in the water with out your board.

The Best SUP Leash

Recent advancements in leashes have provided the user extreme comfort, maneuverability, and even personal storage for paddle boarders. A proper SUP leash is made from polyurethane and is molded into the shape of a cylindrical cord for durable elasticity and buoyancy. One end of the leash contains a rail saver which is a double layered velcro connection attached to a five inch paracord. The paracord is the leash connection to the ring at the tail end of the board.

At the other side of the leash is a neoprene ankle  or upper leg cuff. This is also a velcro attachment that latches securely to the ankle or just below the knee. The cuff is usually attached to a stainless steal swivel to reduce any tangling and increases the ease of motion. What you’re primarily looking for when buying a leash is length, comfort, and maneuverability.

A good leash will fit snugly with velcro that is easily attachable and removable.

A good leash will fit snugly with velcro that is easily attachable and removable. New leash cuffs may take a few rips and re-seals to break in the velcro for easy application. A leash with impeccable velcro is a must since this is what keeps you tethered to the board. Obviously since the leash will be wet and put under stress, the velcro material must be durable with a solid stitch inlay around the outside fabric.

A great way to check for a strong bond of velcro is the volume test. If you pull the leash strap and the velcro sound is crisp and loud, your buying a solid product. If it is a dull non-sticky-like scrape, it will most likely not withstand the stress and elements in the long run. Another factor to take into consideration is the stitching that holds the velcro and neoprene together to the outer layer of what is usually a vinyl or water resistant fabric type material.

Before purchasing make sure the stitching is not unraveled or torn at the corners. Also make sure there aren’t any gaps between the layer of fabrics. This will cause discomfort, crookedness when latched, and eventually will unravel over time. Make sure to check the swivels as well. The hardware should be stainless steel to avoid rust and corrosion and should rotate smoothly. Typically when shopping for a SUP leash look for a thick cord, bulky strap, and a shiny neoprene inlay. These factors usually make for a strong, long lasting, and comfortable the leash. If you paddle in saltwater, make sure to always rinse with fresh water at the end of every session.

What’s The Difference Between A SUP Leash and a Surf Leash?

In the sport of traditional surfing, leashes range from six to ten feet depending on the size of the board. If you are riding a short surfboard, you want a shorter leash. If you are surfing a longboard you want the leash to be longer. This is primarily because short boarders do not walk the board when riding a wave and long boarders are capable of walking the board to the nose while performing pivot maneuvers in motion.

When a surfer falls off, the board will continue with the wave and the leash will stretch then recoil back toward the surfer. A longer leash equals a safe distance between the rider and the board after wiping out. Nothing is worse than the tip of a surfboard being sling-shotted out of the water and at your face or body. A common way to avoid a close-call recoil is to buy a leash that is as long as your surfboard, or one that extends one foot longer past the nose.The surfboard leash is intended to drag behind the board for easier access to carving the wave and attempting tricks and cutbacks.

While most short boarders wrap their leash around their ankle, long boarders will typically wrap the cuff around their calf muscle, right below the knee cap. This style of leash cuff is usually larger than the ankle cuff and is commonly the leash of choice in stand up paddle  boarding. This allows for more freedom when walking the board while also keeping the leash from tripping up the other foot. However, the typical straight cord surfboard leash is less used in river or backwater SUP, but a variation of the straight-coil leash is used for SUP surfing and racing. The straight leash is not used for recreational SUP because in calm water, the regular surfboard leash hold more slack in the water and potentially catch debris beneath or on top of the surface. Also since most regular surfboard leashes are fitted only for the ankle, they will not produce a snug fit around the average rider’s upper portion of the leg.

Best SUP Leash Styles

As stand up paddle boarding evolved over the years, so did new variations of the leash. There are three basic SUP leashes. The coil, Straight/coil, and the Hip Pack leash with pocket storage. All three provide safety and comfort to your style and needs. These styles are sold by many traditional SUP and surf brands and can be found online or at your local SUP shop.

The Coiled SUP Leash

sbs coiled sup leashMade from the same materials as the traditional surfboard leash, the coil leash differs from the slack-style and keeps the paddle boarder tethered with less tangle and slack. This allows the user more access to walk the deck of the board while also keeping the leash from dragging in the water.

Typically a good choice if you paddle in lakes, rivers, or back bays. Like an old house telephone cord from the eighties, the coil will maintain a length of less than three feet, and will stretch to ten or more feet when needed. The coiled SUP leash is cool for the relaxed feeling of the sport, and can still function sufficiently if the rider decides to take to the surf or rapids.

The Straight/Coil Leash

Aside from the coil leash is a combination of both styles, the straight/coil SUP leash. This involves the traditional straight leash style along with the coil and is used for SUP racing and surfing. This leash has about one foot of straight cord before the rail saver and another foot of straight cord before the cuff. The coil separates the two sides and remains acting as a space saver as in the picture below. This leash is typically used for the extreme side of SUP. It gives the rider more space between the coil section and allows for more maneuverability and less interference with the coil when finding optimal footing and stance in a race or on a wave. This provides the ability to walk the full length of the board as well with less tangle one would find with a traditional straight leash.

dakine coiled calf sup leash


The Hip Pack SUP Leash

salamander hip pack leashThe Hip Pack leash is a favorite for recreational, river-rapid riders, and long distance paddle boarders. The leash is typically the coil style that attaches around the backside of the hip pack and is a commonly used by riders with leg or ankle issues. Not only is it hardly felt because it attaches directly to the hip pack, it also clears even more space for both legs and keeps your stuff from getting completely soaked!

Keep in mind some brands offer complete dry storage while others don’t, so before purchasing, make sure you know if it is a full dry storage compartment. This is a great pocket space for phones, wallets, snacks, first aid, or multi-tools when out on the water. Most hip packs are vibrant in color and easily visible. Some even contain a pull cord for a Co2 activated inflatable lifejacket incase of an emergency. This leash is typically for the relaxed and prepared rider and not only is it cool, it’s hip! Literally.

What Leg Does this thing go on?

This is a common question and one that has a simple answer. Your dominate leg is usually the limb of choice to strap your leash to. This is because your dominate leg is often stronger, more versatile, and psychologically probably just feels right. If you don’t know which leg is your dominate leg consider which one you use to kick a soccer ball. However the leash can go on either leg when paddle boarding in a stance that aligns square with your shoulders, but if you decide to turn sideways, when riding a wave or down the rapids of a raging river, you want the leash to be on the back leg that remains on the tail end of the board. If you wear the leash on the front leg in this stance, it will potentially cause the cord to wrap around your opposite leg and a sudden trip up will lead to an immediate nose dive or wipe out.

Don’t Think Twice, Pay The Price

So whether your in the wobble stages of SUP or you’re trekking from island to island like you’re Laird Hamilton, safety is the most valuable mindset to have when on the water. A leash is never a bad piece of equipment and most brands are relatively cheap and reliable. This purchase will increase your chances of survival if a wave or an undertow current decides to divide you from your board. Unpredictable weather and unexpected experiences happen all the time so be prepared. Refuse to sink and think now about purchasing a SUP leash, rather then watching your board drift away while flailing and thrashing awkwardly with only your paddle for support.


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Best SUP Leashes - Ultimate Guide