Lifesaving Sup Safety Tips: When To Wear Your Leash and Lifejacket And When Not To:

Global Partner

No Lifejacket, No Leash = No Good!

Types Of Leashes Used In Stand Up Paddleboarding

Many stand up paddlers don’t know the difference between leash types and when to use them. There are a few different types of sup leashes including a coil leash, a hybrid leash, a straight leash, and quick release leashes.

IMPORTANT: Using the wrong leash in a waterway can prove fatal for you or your loved ones!

Lifejackets are also essential safety equipment for standup paddlers and in most places it’s actually included in the law. However, there are times when a lifejacket should not be used.

Types Of Lifejackets Used In Stand Up Paddleboarding

type 5 special use / rescue life jacket that comes with a quick release harness system

There are many different types of life jackets including a few we mainly use in sup: inflatable belt pack lifejackets, type 3 inherently buoyant lifejacket, and a type 5 special use / rescue life jacket that comes with a quick release harness system.

What Types Of Lifejackets and Leashed To Use and When:

Calm Flatwater Conditions

coiled leash for Calm Flatwater Conditions

For calm flatwater like lakes and ponds you should use an inflatable belt pack lifejacket and a coiled leash. The leash can either be worn on your ankle or on your calf.

In The Surf Zone

straight leash for the surf zone

In the surf zone you should only be using a straight leash which will prevent your stand up paddle board from getting washed into shore and potentially injuring someone else and will not cause the board to spring back to you like a coiled leash can.

You should not be using a lifejacket in the surf zone. Only attempt to surf you have considerable swimming ability. Life jackets will not allow you to swim under the waves which is necessary to not get taken over the falls and to get out to calmer water. A life jacket will also keep you close to the surface which can leave you in a position to get cut by your fins or knocked in the head by your board.

However, wearing a coiled leash and a lifejacket is a smart choice when paddling on a day trip out in  the open ocean where you will not be in the surf zone.

In Moving Water Such As Streams and Rivers Including Whitewater

safety equipment for whitewater stand up paddleboarding

In moving water you should always use an inherently buoyant lifejacket! If you choose to wear a leash it MUST be a quick release leash that is attached to your life jackets harness so you can reach it with both hands in case you get snagged on something.

Be very cautious and do your research. There have been reported stand up paddleboarder deaths from people getting caught by their ankle leash and dragged under in moving water current.

If you are going whitewater stand up paddling then you must wear an inherently buoyant lifejacket, a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads.

Here’s the breakdown:

Use a Coiled leash In:

  • Flat water
  • Some Open Ocean
  • Current or tidal areas with no risk of entanglement in obstructions

Use a Straight Leash In:

  • In The Surf Zone

Use Upper Body Mounted Quick Release Leashes In:

  • Moving water or whitewater
  • Considerable risk involved with wearing
  • Must be a quick release and accessible with both hands

When To Use and When Not To Use A Belt Pack Lifejacket

  • High visibility when inflated
  • comfortable for continuous wear in hot weather
  • Lightweight, compact design
  • Not recommended for non-swimmers
  • Not recommended or approved for children under 16
  • Not for use in whitewater or ocean surf
  • Will not float you without inflation
  • Some, but not all, need to be worn to be in compliance with state and federal laws

Stand Up Paddleboard Courses available at

Here is a super important sup video outlining when to wear a leash and a life jacket and maybe even more importantly, when not to wear them.

Previous articleMore than $1 million raised! 650 Stand Up Paddlers | The Great PV Paddle
Next articleSup’n With RRD In One Of The Most Beautiful Cities In The World, Venice
Standup Journal is the world's first and highest quality sup publication that is passionately following and writing about this special lifestyle, the culture, and the adventure and lifelong friendships we share!