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When To Wear Leashes or Life Jackets on a SUP

when to use a paddle board leash

While SUP boarding can seem like a safe water sport to try, there are still safety precautions users must take to prevent any accidents or dangers from occurring. This is where leashes and life jackets come into play. Keep yourself safe on the water by knowing when to wear these leashes or life jackets during SUP boarding.

Do You Need To Wear or Have a PFD/Life Jacket?

While you might not feel you need to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket on all SUP trips, you will need one on board your vessel, no matter what. There must be one PFD per person, so if you have multiple people on board, there must be enough flotation devices for everyone. Your PFD should be approved by the US Coast Guard and marked as a type I, II, III, or V. Important note: any children under the age of 13 must wear a personal flotation device at all times while paddle boarding. Note: Most surf zones do not require a PFD by law, and some areas will enforce the rules differently. If in doubt, ask the local authorities.

Do You Need To Wear or Have a Leash?

A leash is a cord that attaches to your board, which you wrap around your ankle or calf to keep you and the board tethered together. Leashes can help the individual get back on the board easier, and they can help prevent you and your board from being separated. While some say to wear the leash at all times during your adventure, in some cases, it can become dangerous. Don’t worry—we’ll break it down for you.

When To Wear a Leash

There are multiple leashes someone could use; coiled, straight, combo, quick-release, etc. Beginners should always wear their leashes, and it’s best to wear one as long as there are no dangers to the individual that could cause their leash to trap them. Bodies of water with waves, such as lakes or oceans, can be rocky, so a leash would help keep you and your board together.

When Not To Wear a Leash

A leash can become dangerous to the user in situations where the water is moving at fast speeds, and there are multiple objects you could get caught on. For example, if you’re paddle boarding down a river with water rapids and rocks, a leash could potentially get caught on these objects. Instead of keeping you and your board together, it could cause you to get stuck in a dangerous situation or swept away with your board. You should have experience before attempting to paddle through these waters, and you should only wear a quick-release belt leash in these situations so you can easily disconnect yourself in seconds if need be.

Do You Need Both a Leash & a PFD?

Deciding when to wear leashes and life jackets during SUP is easier when you understand what each device is for. Both provide different protection in different scenarios. Therefore, you need both—one cannot substitute for the other. You might not wear a leash the entire time, but you will need to wear or at least have a PFD on board at all times.

When you buy a paddle board for yourself, ensure you’re also investing in a leash and a US Coast Guard-approved PFD. In some instances, these devices can be the difference between life and death for the stand-up paddle boarder. Safety is of the utmost importance when you’re on the water. Learning when and how to wear these devices is the first step in ensuring this.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.