Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Die Paddelleine - the paddle leash

One of the subtile differences between the Dutch and German seakayaking philosophy concerns the paddle leash. I have never met a Dutch seakayaker with the paddle on a leash. Within the Salzwasserunion it's compulsory. At our course with Dutch and German participants this situation caused some confusion and even some commotion.
My personal view on the leash-thing is quit indifferent. With or without paddle leash: there is no excuse for losing your paddle! Dutch kayakers are trained to keep a hand on the paddle all the time: also in a rescue situation. When you have difficulties with this, a paddle park or a paddle leash can help. So when you feel better with a paddle leash: use it! It's up to you!

In our mixed course I noticed that the German paddlers -in the beginning- didn't know what to do with the paddles of the Dutch victims in a rescue situation. That's no wonder as they were not trained for this situation. They soon got used to it. On the other side: I must admit that some Dutch paddlers did loose contact to their paddles during the excersises. Grrrr... They should train somewhat more ;-). OK: using a paddle leash makes handling a rescue situation easier... And when you use it the right way it's not in the way while paddling, rolling or bracing.
Contra the paddle leash might be (the fear for) a chance of strangulation, and it can tangle around all kind of things... Again: Make your own decission.

I have a short line with two carbiners on the front deck of the kayak. It's meant for short tows, or to tie the kayak up when it's floating on the water. But in a rescuesituation I can wrap it around the paddles of myself and/or the victim and use it as a sort of paddle park. The idea is not original: Atlantic Kayak Tours even sells prepared lines for this use...
The picture above shows a very sophisticated (and expensive) NRS-Paddle leash. However you don't have to spent much money: it's very simple to make one yourself (don't forget a quick release option).

At the end of the Spiekeroog course two Dutch kayakers were paddling with the paddle on a leash.


Anonymous said...


The paddle leash. Anathema! I can wait to tell Derrick.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hans,

Sometimes when the weather is heavy I use also a paddle leash: I have always one in the pocket of my lifejacket.

I would like to ventilate some thougths about the paddle leash because I am not enthousiastic about it for all conditions.

To begin with: It is a convenient thougth to have your paddle attached not to loose it.

However the paddle-leash can also be a burden:
I experienced during my rescue with Willem, a few years ago, problems because of the paddle leash: not with mine, but with Willem´s (the victem´s) leash.
I had big problems with his paddle because after the first rescue-attempt the paddle was half way washed underneath the kayak partly because of the turning upside down and turning back the victem´s kayak and partly because of the waveheigth of approx. 1 meter.
The positive thing is that the paddle was still there. But, because of the strain on the leash and the strange position half under the kayak, it was impossible to regain it. Willem even got entangled in it with a leg at a certain moment.

So, although the paddle leash contributes to seakayak-safety, I would plead to keep on learning how to handle the situation with AND without a paddle leash and make the decision to use or not to use according to the conditions.
Having learned to stay alert about he position of your paddle, while not having it attached with the leash, gives you an advantage on someone who blindly trusts the leash because he or she always uses it.
The advantage is that you are trained to keep an eye on your paddle which can help to keep everything under control.

I would also recommend not to use the paddle leash while paddling in surf: After a wet exit in heavy surf you can get entangled or the paddle will make wild movements while attached to the kayak and may hit you on the head.

Who has other thougths about all this??

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Found this nice site by accident - great!

Regarding the paddle leash - I paddle alone, so I always use one. It's a bungee with a loop and a wooden ball at the end, so I can put it either on the boat (just flipped under the deck bungee) or on the wrist. It can be released very quickly. You can see it at my website (klick my name).