Gear for the Long Haul: How to Pick the Right Leash For You
Coiled or straight? Ankle or calf? Competition, standard or big-wave?
With so many different leash options, we'd forgive you for getting confused. There's no such thing as a "do-it-all leash," and deciding which leash is right for you requires some education. So grab a seat – school's in session.
River: With the potential for rocks, logs and other hazards in your path, a leash can go from safety device to safety hazard with a split-second snag. The safest option is a quick-release, coiled leash usually six- to 10-feet long. The quick-release feature allows you to detach should your leash get hung up, and by attaching the coiled leash to your PFD instead of your ankle (the standard protocol for river standup paddlers) it won't drag behind you with the danger of catching on snag-prone sections.
Surfing: The rule of thumb for SUP surf leashes is to use a straight leash that's approximately one foot longer than your board. This allows the board to extend away from you during a wipeout without ricocheting back at your face as you come up for air. The thickness of your leash should be proportionate to the size of the board, but even on shortboard SUPs you generally won't want to go slimmer than six millimeters.
Downwind: Once a paddler becomes dismounted it doesn't take much wind for a board to pinwheel into the distance and disappear. For that reason, a strong leash is critical for downwinding. Your best option is undoubtedly a coiled calf-leash for two reasons: It won't interfere with your footwork and it won't slow you down by dragging through the water. Semi-coiled leashes also work well, as they provide less resistance when walking the board and are less likely to snap back during a fall than tightly coiled options.
Flatwater/Racing: Whether you're in the heat of the race or the middle of a scenic cruise, the last thing you need is to get tangled in your leash. For these disciplines, we prefer a coiled calf leash that is between six and 10 feet long. It'll stay off the deck, won't interfere with your footwork and allow you to focus on what really matters: paddling. –Jack Haworth
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