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SUP: Leashes and Life Jackets

A leash and a life jacket are vital safety tools for most standup paddling. This excellent video from the American Canoe Association (ACA) tells you how to choose the right ones for the type of SUP paddling you’re doing.

There are different kinds of leashes for different water venues. There are coiled leases, straight leashes and hybrid leashes that have both straight and coiled sections. There are also leashes that have a quick-release feature.

And there are different kinds of flotation devices that are used by SUP board paddlers. There are inflatable PFDs, recreational life jackets like US Coast Guard Approved Type IIIs, and Type V rescue jackets that have quick-release belts.

In relatively calm flatwater paddling, an inflatable life jacket and a coiled leash or a hybrid leash are appropriate. The leash can either be worn on your ankle or your calf. But you can also wear a foam life jacket.

When surfing in the ocean you’ll want to use a straight leash. Using a coiled leash in these conditions could cause the board to snap back and strike you, causing injury. Surfing requires considerable swimming ability. Wearing a life jacket while surfing can be dangerous for two reasons: It will prevent you being able to swim under a wave, and it will keep your head and shoulders up above the water where you could be struck by the board.

Wearing a coiled leash and a life jacket are a smart choice when doing day paddling out on the open ocean. And in wide rivers and tidal areas with no obstructions a coiled leash can be worn on the calf or ankle.

On moving water, you must wear a foam life jacket, and if you choose to use a leash it must be of the quick-release variety. Also, a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads are really important. If you do use a leash it must be attached at the waist and be accessible with both hands.