How To Attach A Leash to Paddle Board: A Step-by-Step Guide

Attaching a leash to your paddleboard is a good idea. It dramatically increases safety for both you and others in the water. Having acquired the right type and length of leash, how does the whole attachment work? All there is, is a tiny hole with a metal bar in it. (maybe)

How does one attach a leash to a paddleboard? The board end of the leash will have a tiny ring of strong elastic. This elastic goes first through the leash attachment on the board and then through itself. The leash itself is then attached using the velcro directly to the, now attached, ring of elastic.

With that out of the way, there is nothing more to worry about. However, maybe your board does not even have a leash attachment? Perhaps it has a simpler one that you can attach a lot easier than with the basic method. That all being said, where do you attach the leash to yourself? Today, we will go over leashes, types of leashes as well as how and where to attach them properly. 

Attaching your Leash

Types of leash attachment

  • D-ring (Most common for inflatables)
  • Leash plug
  • Proprietary

A D-ring is the standard method for attachment of a leash to an inflatable paddleboard.

The part of the leash that goes under this is the small elastic ring, usually called a leash string. You make a knot by passing the elastic under and then looping it through itself. See the images below.

Most leashes attach to this knot of elastic with strong velcro. There are, however, some leashes where the elastic ring is attached directly to the leash and does not come off. In this case, you put the elastic under the leash plug as far as it goes. Then you pass the entire leash through the loop that the elastic makes. 

This loop will securely attach your leash. It will also make it even harder to take off. Another drawback of this type of leash is that the leash string, the short elastic part, can cause unnecessary wear on the sides of your paddleboard. 

D-Ring attachments are, like the name suggests, a D-shaped ring attached with metal or plastic to the board. To attach a leash, you put the elastic through the D-Ring. Then, like with the leash plug, you loop the elastic through itself. The D-Ring attachments are easier to get the elastic loop through. This makes the whole process of attaching the leash quite a bit easier. The drawback is that they are a bit less durable.

There can also be D-rings attached to the sides of the rear or front of your paddleboard. Please note that only the D-Ring on the tail, at the far back, is a leash attachment point. The other D-Ring attachments are for cargo and are not nearly as durable as the leash attachment. 

They can, of course, be used for your leash in the event of an emergency, but it is only a short time solution. If you have no proper leash attachment, you need to get one by having your board repaired.

If you have a proprietary leash attachment, you will find all the documentation on it delivered with your board. The drawback, naturally, is that you can only use leashes made by your board manufacturer. Should a leash break while you are on vacation with your board, it will be a lot harder to replace. Bringing a spare might be a very good idea.

Now that your leash is securely attached to your board, you can happily paddle safely. That is after you have attached it to yourself, of course! We will continue by covering safety, which types of leashes are for which type of paddleboarding and, of course, where to attach the leash to yourself!

Why have a leash at all?

What is this leash business about, really? If you can swim, you should be fine, no?

A leash is an extra piece of equipment to drag around. There are few practical ways of storing it, and it just gets all over the place. Not to mention that it can tangle around your paddle and your legs while paddleboarding. In short, a leash is a general nuisance and detrimental to a good paddleboard experience.

All this is, of course, quite true. It does, however, get better with practice. In no time the leash will be something that you rarely notice — an extension of yourself and your board.

The reason for having a leash can be summed up in three words: Safety, safety, safety!

The waters we all love and paddle on are dangerous enough. Paddleboards without riders or, even worse, paddleboard riders without paddleboards do nothing but set the stage for disaster.

If you are on the oceanfront where there are waves a loose board becomes a very dangerous projectile. When caught by waves, it behaves like a hammer, and anything inside the board is at risk. If a big wave has ever hit you, you know that this is bad enough on its own. Being hit by the force of a wave plus a 10-foot paddleboard can be lethal. Deaths have occurred this way.

So, having a leash on the oceanfront is an excellent idea. It increases the safety of all water lovers. There are even beaches where it is mandatory.

On the open ocean, on lakes or fast-flowing rivers, the leash stops your board from getting away from you.

If you are on a river, this is more of a convenience thing. But think about it, who wants to drive 10 miles downriver to retrieve their paddleboard. Also, in the river, the same thing applies as with waves on the oceanfront. Your paddleboard becomes a danger to people below you on the river.

On lakes, particularly big lakes or in windy conditions, losing your board can be dangerous. Your board is a stable floating platform. It keeps you out of the water, which in colder water conditions can be the difference between life and death. You can also rest on your board, and if needed, you can signal for help with more ease.

On the ocean, this is even truer than on lakes. The motto for open ocean waters is: Never abandon your board. In all situations, you are better off with than without your board. It goes without saying that a leash helps in this regard.

If an accident does happen, your board will float even if you are unconscious; this is particularly true if you are surfing or use a manually activated life-jacket. Even the automatic life-jackets are known to fail. That your board is visible without a rider makes it a lot easier for other people to find you. On surfing oceanfront beaches and in rivers, this can save your life.

Going unconscious is not normally a danger we think of, but falling and hitting your head is not that otherworldly. In the surf, being hit by a rouge surfboard or paddleboard is a constant danger. Many tragic deaths could have been avoided over the years if leashes had been worn.

Wear that leash!

Are there situations where you should not wear a leash?

Yes, there are! 

If you are practising something in a pool, detach your leash first. Leashes are considered a danger while in a pool. They are not needed, and you or other pool-goers can get tangled in it. So even if it’s fiddly and hard, detach your leash in advance as pool lifeguards most likely will take issue with it.

A lot of paddleboard yoga practitioners do not use a leash. The leash gets in the way of the yoga. While this is ok for the yoga itself, the rest of the time a leash should be worn. The situation on the water should also be monitored, only calm still waters for leash off. Since this is usually the case for yoga, it does not normally present a problem.

A tip for yoga paddle-boarders is to attach the human end of your leash to your paddle, then coil the leash around it. This way, you can drop your paddle in the water, and both paddle and leash are taken care of while you do your yoga!

But that’s it! The only cases for not wearing a leash!

How long should a leash be?

A leash should be the same length as your board or a little longer. As leashes are usually sold in lengths of whole feet, that is 6 feet, 10 feet and so on, you round your board’s length up, and you are fine.

A too-short leash can lead to unnecessary and even dangerous collisions between you and your board. Your board can recoil back towards you when you fall off, and with a shorter leash, this can lead to some hard knocks. Also, a too-short leash will get in the way a lot more than a properly sized one.

A to longer leash than necessarily will increase the danger zone around you. The danger zone is where your board could hit someone else. For example, A 10-foot board with a 10-foot leash can now be a danger up to a 20 feet away diameter. 

So a too-long a leash will unnecessarily increase to this danger zone. Longer leashes will also drag in the water more.

So all round, don’t use a leash longer than you should

What kind of leash should you have?

There are two specific kinds of leashes. 

Leash types

  • Coiled leash
  • Straight leash

Both leashes are aptly named. The coiled leash is coiled, and the straight leash is straight.

The straight leash is a direct descendant of the surfboard leash.

Straight leash activities

  • Calm waters paddling
  • Surfing

Being a descendant of the surfboard leash the straight leash it the choice for surfing. A straight leash has less recoil than a coiled leash, so when you get off or fall off, your board there is less risk of you getting hit. A straight leash also causes less drag than a coiled leash and so interferes less with your surfing.

For calm waters and gentler paddling, a straight leash is preferred by those in the know as it will rest comfortably behind you and cause a bit, but not too much drag. Handling a straight leash is a bit easier than a coiled one, and this is another reason why it is recommended for beginners and less demanding activities. Getting tangled in your coiled leash is far worse than getting tangled in a straight one.

So, What is the Coiled Leash Good For?

Coiled leash activities

  • River white water paddling
  • Racing
  • Long-distance paddling

A coiled leash is better if you want the leash to be out of the water all the time. This can be, so it doesn’t snag on things in the water or to eliminate water drag from the leash.

For white water paddleboarding, you will want a coiled leash. You will also want to attach your leash very high up on your body, more about this in the following section. In white waters, you really do not want the leash to snag on rocks or whatnot in the rives. You also want to be able to get away from your board if the board itself gets tangled in a bad place.

In racing and long-distance paddling, reducing drag from water is paramount. In racing, any drag will limit your top speed, and in long-distance, drag means less distance and more energy spent.

Where Should You Attach Your Leash? (to yourself)

The most common place to attach a leash is to the ankle.

As mentioned for white water paddleboarding, how and where you attach your leash to yourself varies.

Leash attachments on your body

  • Ankle
  • Calf (just under knee)
  • Waistband

Attaching the leash to your ankle is the choice for surfing and other activities with a straight leash. It leads to less tangling and keeps the leash behind you as you paddle or surf. If you are out on a gentle paddle and prefer attaching the leash to your calf or even to your belt, this is fine. 

For surfing, however, you want the leash on your ankle, and this is a much safety feature. When you fall into a wave, you want the board as far away from your head as possible. This leads to fewer injuries with recoiling boards and a reduced risk of tangling yourself in the leash as well. Rolling around in a breaking wave or getting pushed down is not a pleasant experience. Years of experience from the surfing scene gives a clear answer, attach the leash to your ankle.

On top of the safety, attaching the leash to your ankle reduces water resistance while surfing. All good things!

For racing and long-distance you normally use a coiled leash attached to your calf just below your knee. The combination of attaching the leash just a bit higher and the coils normally keeps the leash out of the water entirely. No leash in the water lets you put all that paddling energy into speed or distance, whichever is your goal.

Now white water is a bit different than the other activities as there are many dangers in the rapids and waterfalls and the last, but not least, of these is getting trapped. With this ever-present danger, you need to be able to detach the leash from yourself so that you can escape to safety.

For this reason, the leash is attached to your belt or your life jacket. The leash is also not directly attached to you. You attach the leash to a quick-release, that in turn is attached to you. In the event of an emergency, you can quickly access the release at waist height and get out of danger. This high leash attachment causes a bit more tangling for beginners, but this is well worth learning to manage.

Are There Leash Features?

There are indeed some hidden and not well-known leash features.

If your carry handle is broken or malfunctioning a leash can easily double as a handle. Wrap it a few turns around the centre of the board, then tie all the leash strands together with the velcro. Voila, you have a new carry handle.

The board end Velcro of your leash sometimes has a secret key pocket. Here you can store car keys or other keys for when you are out paddling. 

This key pocket is located on the board end because this end does not move around or experience the same type of forces and splashing around in the water, etc., as the human end of the leash does.

These pockets, if you have one, are often so secret that most people do not even know they have them. So, do some detective work and see if you are the lucky owner of a key-hiding leash pocket!

Attach Yourself!

Our last leash advice for the day can seem a bit strange. However, paddleboards on the water with the leash neatly coiled in the stern is a common sight.

Of course, if you have gone through all the trouble to get and attach a leash to your board. Don’t forget to attach it to yourself as well!

So, now that you are a master in the art of paddleboard leashes and leashing, venture forth with utmost confidence! 

Enjoy your SUP adventures.

Paddles away!


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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