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Rivers & SUP Leashes: What You Don't Know Can Kill You

Identify and avoid, is literally my mantra while on the river. This has been engrained into my head by Reta Boychuk owner of CANRVRSUP. Identify a hazard and avoid it. On a moving current this can occur faster than you realize. Requiring you to move your watercraft well ahead of when you think you need to.

Did you see the rebar under the silty water? What about the shopping cart someone threw in the river? Hazards other than wood, rocks and natural occurring items exist which can mean life or death for paddlers.

What do these hazards mean for a paddle boarder and wearing a leash?

If you fall off your board/get caught on a hazard, your board can drag you under being attached. There is no PFD on earth that can stop you from drowning when you are pinned by an object.

READ all about this recent one in Edmonton:

There were many mistakes made by this paddler to lead to this situation.

Since we are the only type of water craft that attaches ourselves physically to our boards we must be aware how this affects its use.

The infographic below gives an overview of what leashes to wear in each type of water condition.


I will never wear an ankle leash on my leg in a river. EVER!

*Alternatives for ankle leash use:

  • attach ankle leash to PFD with carabiner somewhere you can easily reach it

  • attach ankle leash to a buckle/strap on your PFD that you can undo easily and the leash would come free

  • no leash

  • a waist leash

  • a quick release leash system

But I Don't Want To Lose My SUP

You have just stated that your paddle board is more important than life itself. To mitigate this you shouldn't be paddling alone and you should be aware of who you're paddling with and their skill level. DO NOT PADDLE ALONE!

Can they help you self rescue onto your board and/or retrieve your board for you? Or are you the strongest paddler in the group? How strong are your paddling skills? Be honest!

Worst case scenario you fall off your board, lose it, swim to shore, get rescued and retrieve your board later. YOU are still alive. This is all assuming you have a Full (non-inflatable) PFD on that fits properly and a whistle on your body. Read about in detail if You're Ready To Run The River

When You Know Better You Do Better

What I've learned over the past two years has changed fundamentally how I view the river and using a SUP on it. Innocence is bliss, however it becomes ignorance when you know better but choose to do the opposite anyways.

I was once innocent, it was glorious and I enjoyed the river in peace. Fast forward and the amount of knowledge I've garnered has made me jaded. Stories of people dying and attempting to rescue myself off a "sweeper" in Swift Water Rescue scenarios have opened my eyes fully!

Here's are links to articles of deaths from just the past year on all types of waterbodies, these are not isolated incidents and many are in our province. The number of deaths each year are rising as more people embrace the sport.

Ignorance Isn't Bliss It's Deadly

You've just been informed on the risks, dangers and what to do in order to prevent them. If you choose willing to not make changes to your paddle system while exploring the river that is unfortunate. You now are putting others in jeopardy to have to either rescue you or recover your body. Sorry, there is no way to sugar coat the severity of these outcomes.

Enjoy the water, be smart and stay safe.

Sending You Love N' SUP,

Lisa Stocking

Owner Paddle Athabasca

CANRVRSUP Collective Instructor

River 1 SUP Paddle Canada Instructor

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