It’s not the sexiest item a paddler can buy, but the paddle leash is an absolute essential item for anyone who kayaks—regardless of whether your kayak is inflatable or hard shell.
So what’s a paddle leash? A paddle leash is, as the name suggests, a “leash for your paddle.”
The first end of the leash is a carabineer or clip that attaches to either you or your kayak. Where you attach this end of the leash is up to you—many people attach it to their life vest. Others, like me, attach it to their boat. In my case, I attach it to rope I’ve strung down both sides of the kayak.
The second end of the paddle leash is a big “loop” that is slipped over the paddle’s blade and then tightened to the paddle’s shaft (the shaft is what the paddler holds when they paddle) by using a Velcro closure strip or a simple cinch lock strap.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, see picture below to see how a paddle leash works.
Paddle Leash FAQ’s
Why Should I Get a Paddle Leash?
To avoid being “up the creek without a paddle,” that’s why.
Ok, enough with the old sayings. But in this case, the old saying is very true—especially for solo paddlers.
All kayak paddles float. So what happens if you drop your kayak paddle into the water? It floats. And depending on the strength or direction of the current, you might watch your kayak paddle float away and right out of reach.
While kayak paddles float, they tend to “float” slower than your kayak will. As such, if you drop a kayak paddle into the water you’ll watch helplessly as you and your kayak drift away downstream.
And if you don’t have a paddle, well, how are you going to retrieve it? Dive into the river, swim to it, and then swim back to kayak? While that would work, I guess, there’s certainly a simpler and drier way to deal with this problem.
And that’s by using a paddle leash. The leash attaches the paddle to you or your kayak, preventing the paddle from just “floating off on down the stream.”
How Much Do These Paddle Leash’s Cost?
You can pick them up for about $10, or you can spend more for fancier ones—which you might want to if you have a whitewater kayak. But for normal inflatable kayaks, a $10 one from Sea Eagle or Premier Kayak work just fine.
Does the Leash Interfere With Paddling?
No. Just be sure to buy a leash that is fairly long (especially true for inflatable kayaks) and that you have a place next to where you sit to clip the leash (if you don’t want to clip the leash to your own life vest). If you do that, you’ll rarely even notice the paddle is leashed.
Where Should I Clip the Leash?
Many paddlers clip it to their life vest. I personally don’t like that. If I fall out, I don’t want to be leashed to a paddle. So instead I just clip it to my boat, to the rope I’ve strung that runs down both sides of my inflatable kayak. If you don’t have rope on your boat, clipping it to a d-ring or even your seat works just as well.
Where Should I Buy a Paddle Leash?
Good luck finding them in stores. I hunted around forever—including my local REI—looking for one. I finally gave up and ordered mine online.
Online, paddle leashes are common.
If you have a Sea Eagle inflatable kayak (or similar style kayak), I’d suggest ordering their paddle leash. It’s just very simple to use—it isn’t “complicated” like some of the fancier and more expensive leashes are. And it’s priced around $10 or so.
Another source for paddle leashes is Amazon. The Premier Kayak paddle leash, shown below, is an excellent and inexpensive paddle leash that works for just about every type of kayak, too.
Other stores that sell paddle leashes are NRS and REI.