Because stand up paddleboards are much heavier than a traditional surfboard, you need to purchase a leash that is SUP specific. Regular surf leashes are not going to be strong enough for use with a large stand up paddleboard. SUP leashes have a thicker urethane cord and are less likely to break when the board is swept away or the paddler falls, particularly in rough conditions.
Leashes are designed to stretch a little to soften the impact of the board pulling against the rider when they fall off or when the board is pulled away. A shorter leash must therefore absorb more force and be thicker and stronger as a result. Leashes also help keep the board from washing in and hitting people who are on the beach.
As a general rule, the leash should be as long as the board. This is in order to provide a safe distance between you and the board when you wipe out. When the leash is shorter, the chances of getting hit by it increases. However, the benefit with shorter leashes is that it’s quicker to get back to your feet and paddling again because you won’t have to chase it down. In general, experienced surfers like a shorter leash (and they’re comfortable with the risk that poses), and most flat water paddlers like the longer ones.
Because leashes are made from UV resistant urethane, if a leash is dragging in the water, it will slow you. Coiled leashes can help minimize drag and they expand when you fall to provide enough clearance without getting tangled. Coiled leashes come with swivels that allow the leash to spin freely to prevent twisting that will trap your feet or legs. The more the board or you rotate, the more swivel is beneficial.
Preference for straight or coiled leashes often comes down to compatibility with the style of paddling being done. If you’re in the surf, you want the board away from you. A straight leash at least as long as the board for safety reasons is best. For racing, a coiled leash keeps the leash from the water and minimizes drag. A coiled leash is also good for flat water paddling as it stops a lot of tangles around your feet. A straight leash is more traditional and more comfortable for some.
Leash placement is popular either on the calf or the ankle of the stand up paddleboarder. The shorter the board, the more paddlers like to use an ankle strap, but every individual paddler can do what is best for them. It doesn’t alter the kind of leash they need to purchase. Use on the calf means people can walk the board easier. Others think the calf strap means they aren’t pulled as strongly when they’re pulled along in the surf.
Ankle is the most common spot to wear it, when using an SUP in the surf. Users will notice that the board pulls strongly on your body when it gets taken away by a wave. If it is tugged on your ankle it can easily pull you off your feet or drag you along feet first.
Calf attachment point is favored by surfers who like to walk the board as they ride a wave. It keeps the leash away from their feet and avoids tangling. It has carried over into other SUP areas as, for some, the calf is easier to reach than your ankle. Can be more comfortable when cruising around the flats.
At Sunplay, we carry leashes by reliable surf and SUP brands Dakine, Naish, and FCS.