Posted on July 15, 2019 by Jeff Hale
General surfboard leashes you're likely to see in most surf shops range from 5-12 feet in length. While a surfboard’s ankle leash length is determined by the size of the surfboard, selecting the right SUP leash length has become a bit more standardized.
The vast majority of today’s SUP leashes are between 8-10 feet in length. One of the biggest differences between a stand up paddle board leash and a surfboard leash is the coiled cord that’s preferred by SUP riders. But before you dig too deep into the details of how to determine what SUP leash length you need for your board, you should familiarize yourself with the five parts that make up the modern paddle board leash.
The leash cuff is the portion of the leash that attaches to your dominant leg. When shopping for a leash, pay special attention to the comfort and security of the cuff. A high-quality cuff will feature multiple layers of neoprene ankle padding to ensure your leg is protected comfortably during a fall. You’ll also want to see plenty of Velcro to keep the cuff secure on your leg. Some cuffs have a small stash pocket for your car key as well as a pull tab at the end for easy removal. However, given the large size of car keys these days, this feature has become far less useful. You’ll want to wear your cuff tight enough so that it doesn’t move around easily on your ankle or calf, but loose enough so that it’s comfortable and you don’t feel any pressure when it’s attached.
The swivel is the component between the cuff and the cord -- it’s often the biggest difference between a high-quality and subpar leash. The swivel allows the leash to rotate and twist to avoid tangling, a feature that’s particularly useful in surfing applications but certainly helpful for any stand up paddle boarding activities. Many of today’s best leashes come with swivels at both ends of the cord to make sure your leash never gets tangled after a spill.
The cord is the most critical component of any leash. The majority of modern leash cords are made from polyurethane engineered to stretch under pressure without breaking. Generally speaking, a thicker cord is more heavy duty will be sturdier and less likely to break under extreme stress. The tradeoff is that thicker cords produce more drag in the water, which can slow you down. So unless you’re regularly paddling into monster waves, a cord with around 8mm of thickness offers the ideal blend of strength and minimal drag for stand up paddle boarding in most conditions.
The rail saver is the portion of the leash that attaches to your leash string. A high-quality rail saver will feature 2-3 overlapping layers of Velcro to keep you tethered to your paddle board in any conditions. When installed properly, the leash saver will hang over the back of your paddle board to protect it from any damage once tension is applied to your leash after a fall, especially when surfing or stand up paddle boarding on a river or moving body of water. Longer and wider rail savers offer the best protection for the tail and rails of your stand up paddle board.
The leash string is what literally connects your leash to your board via the board’s pre-installed leash plug. Leash strings are usually about 10 inches in length and made from a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope often referred to as “parachute cord” that’s tied in an overhand or double overhand stopper knot and burned on the ends to keep it from fraying and unraveling. It’s important to keep your leash sting short enough to ensure it doesn’t hang over the back of the board when attached. With enough tension, your thin leash string could cut into the tail or rails of your board during a fall.
Absolutely. Your board's leash is one of the best stand up paddle board safety devices you can use, and you should wear a leash each and every time you paddle board. Not only does your leash keep you attached to your board at all times, but it also keeps your board away from other people in the water. If you find yourself unexpectedly far from the shoreline, a leash could literally be the difference between life and death. Think about it like a seatbelt in a car -- it may feel a little cumbersome at first, but after a while, you’ll forget it’s even there. And while you probably won't ever find yourself in an emergency situation on a paddle board, you’ll be glad you’re wearing a leash if you do. If you’re concerned about the potential drag produced by your leash in the water, look for a coiled SUP leash to eliminate any slack.
The vast majority of experienced stand up paddle boarders prefer to use a leash with a coil in most SUP activities. The coil in the leash acts to keep the polyurethane cord out of the water to reduce drag, and since SUP leashes are a bit thicker and longer than traditional surf leashes, they can often create more drag in the water. However, some SUP surfers still prefer straight SUP paddle leashes that are at least as long as their board.
Regardless of the leash style you select, the rule of thumb is to attach it to your dominant leg. Your dominant leg will be your back leg when riding a skateboard, snowboard, wakeboard, or surfboard. If you haven’t participated in any of those activities, just think of the leg you’d use to kick a soccer ball as your dominant leg. And if you’re still a little confused, know that 70% of SUP riders and surfers attach their leash to their right ankle.
You can’t really go wrong with a coiled SUP leash length in the 8-10 foot range. A shorter coil leash in this range will produce less drag in the water and diminish the chance of the leash becoming tangled around your feet when you’re standing on top of your paddle board.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get exclusive insider access to products and promotions