Why A Waist Leash?!Paddle Boarding Safety
Posted by Lydia Burdett
Our Quick Release SUP Leash Waist Belt allows you to attach any coiled SUP leash to turn it into a ‘waist leash’. But what for?
If a leash gets caught on a fixed object in fast-flowing water, an ankle cuff can be impossible to release if you’re suspended underwater in a strong current. Whereas a quick-release belt is much more easily removed, particularly under full load. This is why we introduced our Quick Release SUP Leash Waist Belt...
When do you need one?
If the water’s fast-flowing and there’s any risk that your leash might get caught on something, a quick-release waist leash is the safest option.
How fast is ‘fast-flowing’?
Testing by various bodies worldwide shows that people have trouble releasing an ankle or calf cuff if suspended in water flowing at 3 knots or more (That’s 3.5mph or 5.5kph). So if the water’s moving at walking pace or faster – ie; noticeably tough to paddle against – it’s probably wise to wear a waist leash.
Where’s that likely to be?
Obviously, rivers flow – some much faster than others, basically driven by landscape and rainfall. Gentle rivers (particularly those that have been ‘canalised’, with locks built to make them navigable by industry) usually don’t flow dangerously fast. Whereas at the other end of the scale, anywhere near hilly or mountainous areas you might even expect white-water conditions which would definitely necessitate a waist leash.
Near or at the coast, tides produce current too. Tidal rivers can become very risky places to paddle when the tide is flooding or ebbing. This current can also become dangerously fast in narrow river estuaries or other pinch-points around mid-tide, wherever large volumes of water funnel through tight passages, either natural or man-made.
Coiled or straight leash?
We recommend coiled leashes for all flat-water environments, no matter whether attached to your ankle, calf, or a waist belt. Our Coiled SUP Leash will just sit on your board rather than trailing in the water behind it, greatly reducing the risk of getting caught on anything as you paddle past.
What about surf?
Definitely not! A waist leash could prove dangerous in breaking waves. SUP-surfers should choose a straight, ankle-cuff leash every time (such as our Surf Leash).
Does everyone need a waist leash?
If you never paddle on water with significant current, you’re perfectly safe wearing an ankle leash. In fact, most paddleboarders (with the exception of white-water specialists) won’t ever encounter ‘leash entrapment’ – as long as they SUP sensibly and avoid objects a leash could get snagged on.
However, if you do ever paddle on fast-flowing water, it’s definitely worth investing in our Quick Release SUP Leash Waist Belt so you can wear a waist leash when necessary…
And a buoyancy aid?
If there’s any chance you might become separated from your board – which is exactly what will happen if you deploy your quick-release waist leash – then a buoyancy aid is all you’ll be left with for flotation. It’s vital that it doesn’t interfere with safe operation of your waist leash in an emergency though. Therefore, as our Airbelt PFD is also worn around the waist, we’d instead recommend pairing a waist leash with our low-profile permanent SUP Buoyancy Aid on fast-flowing water.
Would that make you completely safe?
No. Your safest course of action is to avoid fast-flowing water where there is any risk of entrapment altogether. Whilst a quick-release waist leash definitely improves your chances should your board or leash get caught on something, testing has shown that they certainly aren’t infallible. The best way to stay safe is to stay away from danger in the first place.
Safety is knowledge – and to improve yours, check out www.sup-safety.com for a new series of eBooks. Part One is all about equipment, including the various kinds of leashes, buoyancy aids, and how best to use them.