Latest Surfski News

Monday, 22 March 2021 10:35
[Given a recent encounter with bluebottles here in Cape Town, South Africa, this article from 2007 is hereby recycled as being very relevant!] On a 2007 "Miller's Run" on singles in a big South-Easter, from Miller's Point to Fish Hoek, about 20 minutes into the paddle, my paddling partner Gavin Gottschalk and I were stung by bluebottles.
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Monday, 22 March 2021 10:35
[Given a recent encounter with bluebottles here in Cape Town, South Africa, this article from 2007 is hereby recycled as being very relevant!] On a 2007 "Miller's Run" on singles in a big South-Easter, from Miller's Point to Fish Hoek, about 20 minutes into the paddle, my paddling partner Gavin Gottschalk and I were stung by bluebottles.
Read more...
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
Read more...
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
Read more...
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
Read more...
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
Read more...
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
Read more...
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
Read more...
Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
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Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
Read more...
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
Read more...
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
Read more...
Monday, 24 February 2020 12:01
I finally got my hands on a demo Fennix Swordfish S this weekend and did two Miller's Runs in succession to see if I could feel any difference in handling between the 2018 Swordfish S and the new Fennix model.  Conditions were challenging: False Bay was covered in whitecaps, whipped by a combination of a 25-30kt southeaster and small, confused seas.  The result?  I definitely want to spend more time in this boat.
Read more...

Latest Forum Topics

Leashes: When, What, How & Why

Friday, 09 December 2005 17:13 | Written by 
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(By Rob Mousley)

A perennial debate in Surf Ski circles is about the use (or not) of leashes.  This article discusses:

  • When you should consider using a leash
  • What types of leash are available
  • How you use a leash
  • Why you should you use a leash

When should you consider using a leash?

In anything above a moderate breeze, the wind will blow your ski along the surface of the sea much faster than you can swim.  If you're out at sea and you lose your ski (especially if you're on your own), you're dead.  A leash makes it much less likely that you'll lose your ski.

If you're paddling on the open ocean, use a leash.

On the other hand, if you're paddling close to shore, you probably don't want a leash.  If you have to go in and out of big surf, you need to remember that, in waves, leashes can be a liability and the wrong type of leash can be downright dangerous.

What types of leash are used?

In South Africa, the Paddle to Ski leash is the most common.

Paddle to Ski
The most popular leash is paddle to ski.  It's effective because your instinctive reaction is to grip the paddle hard as you fall off the ski.

Advantages:
You're not permanently attached to the ski; if you get into a big wave situation, you can just let the paddle (and therefore the ski) go.
If you're holding the ski, you can release the paddle and it won't drift away.  This is useful in circumstances where you need both hands to operate a cell phone or to operate flares.

Disadvantages:
It's not fail safe; if you lose your grip on your paddle and the wind is very strong, you'll still lose your ski.  The paddle does not make an effective sea anchor.
If you fall off in waves and hold onto the paddle, the force of the wave pulling the ski may break your paddle (if the leash itself doesn't break).

Ski to Ankle
Another option is a leash from your ankle to the ski.  This is effective if you're in the open ocean, but is dangerous if you're near the coast; you must have a quick release system that you can activate near the shore.  

Advantages:
You're not going to lose your ski.

Disadvantages:
Falling off in surf while wearing an ankle leash is a recipe for serious injury.  
You still have to hold onto your paddle.
You can get tangled up in the leash as you try to get back on your ski - especially in extreme conditions.

Body to Ski
Finally some paddlers use body to ski leashes.  This type of leash runs from the ski around your waist; you must have a quick release system that you can activate near the shore.  

Advantages:
You won't lose the ski.

Disadvantages:
Falling off in surf while wearing a body to ski leash is a recipe for even more serious injury than with an ankle to ski leash (broken back, anyone?).  
You still have to hold onto your paddle.
You can get tangled up in the leash as you try to get back on your ski.

Wrist to Paddle
I have heard mention of a wrist to paddle leash as well.  This may be a good idea if a body to ski leash is also being used; your main priority is not to lose your ski.  (As one rescuer put it as he picked up a paddler who'd attached himself to his paddle and not to his ski, "the guy lost the plot - and his ski!")

How do you use a leash?

On most skis, the footstraps provide the best anchor point for the ski side of the leash.  

I simply wrap the Velcro end of my Paddle to Ski leash around the footstraps on my ski.  The other end is looped around the shaft of my paddle.

The photograph below shows a custom modification made to a Fenn XT.  The owner has attached a fitting screwed into the stainless steel reinforcing plate located under the footstraps.  

Leash fitting on Fenn XT (Photo: Rob Mousley)
If you do use a custom fitting, make sure that it is screwed into a secure part of the ski.  If it's simply attached to the fibreglass, it will pull out under the slightest pressure.  Contact your ski's manufacturer to find out where to place screws.

An ankle leash is usually attached to your ankle by means of Velcro and to the ski via a quick release buckle.  

Body leashes go around your waist and are attached via a quick release buckle to your ski.

What length should the leash be?  As short as possible.  It shouldn't restrict the movement of your paddle; neither should it flap about.  

Check the strength of your leash regularly.  I had a translucent plastic leash that deteriorated over time and snapped when I needed it, resulting in the total loss of my ski.

Summary

Your ski is much, much more visible in the water than you are; if you end up in the water without your ski, your chances of being rescued plummet.  And this is especially important if you're in the open ocean.  You do NOT want to lose your ski.

The primary reason then for using a leash is to prevent the ski from being blown away from you, should you fall off into the water.  

Secondary reasons are:
  • To prevent the paddle from drifting away should you need both hands for some other task e.g. firing flares;
  • (In some circumstances) to prevent your losing the ski in the surf (but be aware that if you get into really big surf, your leash is either going to snap or do other damage like breaking your paddle.)

 {mos_sb_discuss:28}