Kitesurfing Board Leash


I thought it was useless to write yet another article about the board leash in kitesurfing, as it is a subject that has already been dealt with many times.
However, I have the pleasure to teach kitesurfing on one of the most famous spots in Europe, and it is totally sad to see kitesurfers still using the board leash or even worse, schools that “teach” kitesurfing with the board leash. 

* The objective is not to sensationalize the issue with shocking photos, nor to discriminate against kiteboarders who use this accessory. 
The idea is to bring a constructive reflection on its advantages / disadvantages and solutions.  

What is the board leash in kitesurfing?

Danger Kitesurfing board leash

The board leash is a way to stay connected to the board in case of a fall for example and the board leaves our feet.
It is most often a reel type (with a spring return system) which offers a cable length of a few meters, generally between 3 and 5m. The board leash is attached to the fins while the kiteboarder wears the retention reel on his harness. A bit like a retractable dog leash. The price of a leash reel is usually around 70€.

More generally a board leash can be any rope, cable, elastic or spiral system connected between the kiteboarder and his board.

The main argument for the use of this accessory is that it allows you not to lose your board when you fall in the water because a kiteboard costs money (yes, it does…), and so you don’t have to do a bodydrag. 

The attraction for this accessory is understandable for any kitesurfing beginner who is not sure to recover his board quickly every time.

The dangers of the board leash in kitesurfing.

The main risk of using a board leash is the return of the board during a fall or a problem with the kite due to the elastic effect of the leash. 

In case of a fall, the distance covered by the kiteboarder can be relatively large, it is not uncommon to see kiteboarders who glide 8 – 10 meters before landing in the water. Although the height of the fall is generally low, it is more the distance covered horizontally, above the surface of the water that is impressive. Without a board leash, this translates into a good “splash” and a funny story to tell your friends during the post-session drink. 

With a board leash, whether it is a reel or not, when the length of the cable reaches its maximum, it translates into a return to the sender of the board by catapult effect.  – RETURN TO THE BINDING POINT => THE KITEBOARDER –

The resulting injuries are often significant, as a twintip kiteboard is a thin, relatively heavy and sharp object.

Other perspectives are to be expected, when the board does not realize a “head-shot”, the return of the board and its binding can come to be placed at the level of the lines of the wing and the bar causing the famous death-loop of the death which kites just as dangerous.


The other dark side of the board leash in kitesurfing.

Being a kiteboarder beginner for life ! 

Nobody plans to learn kitesurfing with the idea of being stuck at the “beginner” stage when they leave the lessons, but the board leash is a total brake in the progression and learning. Since they use a leash, there is no test of new things, no trial and error, and above all, you don’t learn the bodydrag at all. The progression stops at what you already know how to do. 

Most of the kitesurfers who use it with whom I had the opportunity to discuss are not very unaware of the risks related to the use of the board leash. 

All of them have a good reason to use it. (the fear of losing the board, not having to manage the board when relaunching the kite in the water,.)

“I always wear a helmet”!

Fortunately, name of a wooden pipe ! 
The board finishes its slingshot trajectory when you have already landed in the water, therefore there is only your head sticking out of the water, this is precisely the classic area of trauma related to the board leash. However, sometimes the board with its thin, protruding edges prefers to end up directly in the back of the neck under the helmet. Or, when the kiteboarder has had the reflex to turn around and see the board saying all his friendship, it usually ends up in the jaw or the nose (this prominent appendage that we only regret when it is definitively crushed). 

“I don’t do jumps”!

By my beard, will miss more than that! 

Making kitesurfing jumps while wearing a leash would be close to a suicidal tendency, but it is good to remember that most serious and less serious accidents do not occur during a jump but, during a simple fall, a mistake in the piloting of the kite or during unwanted events, which can occur during the practice of kitesurfing. It is always interesting to have a kind of “What if…” in mind before getting into the water.
“What if, I were to cross lines with another kiteboarder for example, what complications would arise from the board leash?”

“I only use it in light wind and/or deep water”!

 Whether the wind is light or strong, in general, we web ourselves (Ratio kite surface/wind speed/rider weight and level) in a proportional way. The ideal is to be able to sail and therefore to generate a force capable of getting out of the water and moving forward. The risks are still present. 
 In deep water, it is precisely at this level that the learning of the towed swimming intervenes, nobody makes a bodydrag if he is in a lagoon with 80 cm of water. 

Kite instructors, experienced riders,... How to talk about it?

Approaching a kitesurfer who uses a board leash must be done with extreme benevolence and without any judgment. In a spirit of sharing and mutual aid. To tell him in a brutal way all the bad things you think about this accessory will only lead to a sterile and useless ego confrontation. It is neither constructive for the rider who is learning and who will naturally respond on the defensive, nor for the one who wishes to start talking about it, because it will be doomed to failure. 

Keep the Kite attitude, have and take the time to talk about it. 

To discuss it with a kitesurfer, calling him just before he gets on the water is probably not the best option. His motivation is to go sailing, not to be shat on by a sanctimonious person who wastes his sailing time. 
On the other hand, after the session, once well relaxed by the navigation seems to me to be a better time. 

Be ultra-sympathetic, take the time to discuss it coolly, ask open-ended questions “Why, are you using a leash right now?” Explain nicely the risks of using a leash, and bring some solutions according to the reasons why he uses a board leash. 

This is the way!

Telle est la voie de l'instructeur de kit

What are the alternatives to the board leash?

You don’t want to lose your kiteboard and that’s normal, there are several alternatives that will allow you to approach kitesurfing without a leash and with great peace of mind. 

Dodydrag kitesurf

1. Take a bodydrag Course.

There is no shame in taking a refresher course! 

Either by pride, by time or for financial reasons, once out of the courses, very few kitesurfers take the step to take improvement courses such as learning how to do a self-rescue if it was not seen in school, being able to bring back another kitesurfer’s board, how to help a rider in distress, learning to jump, …

For the board leash, the motivation of finances is in my opinion a false pretext. A board leash costs about 70 €, it’s finally more expensive than a one hour private lesson to learn the bodydrag correctly.

You will find below the course of a bodydrag lesson and an advanced kitesurfing lesson.

Body drag en kitesurf

2. Be effective in bodydrag

The bodydrag allows you to move upwind and downwind when you lose the board, it is the basic kiteboarding skill that must be taught in a complete way as soon as a toe touches the water. Up-Wind – Down-wind, without and with the board. 

It is a fundamental without which a kitesurfer cannot be considered autonomous and independent. 

You will have understood, the bodydrag is an essential step during the kitesurfing lessons but it is still necessary that it is mastered and learned in order to be effective in all situations (waves, currents, difficult wind,..)

Little tips from Mat to be efficient in bodydrag.

In 10 years of teaching kitesurfing, the mistakes we observe when practicing bodydrag are almost always the same.

To be efficient in bodydrag up-wing you will have to : 

Shock the kite when changing directions! It is imperative to release the bar completely (choke = raise the bar) when passing the kite from one side of the wind window to the other, otherwise the kite will not pass completely on the edge of the window at about 12 o’clock, but will drag a little power forward which will make you lose all the progress you made during the bodydrag edge.

On your side, not on your stomach! It is imperative to position yourself on your side so that the water takes support, the body replaces the board and thus gives an upwind heading with a light speed of advance on the water. If you are on your belly flat, the water goes under your body and you go downwind without touching the objective which is to go upwind. 

Don’t try to get upwind too much! The windward climb is done by an angle of about 15° to 30° max to the wind in relation to the lines of your kite, if you try to force your windward climb to the extreme (for example an angle of 90° in relation to the lines of your kite) you will lose the effect of windward climb and you will turn into an anchor, moreover, it is not comfortable at all. 

Don’t confuse speed with haste! Eating sea bunches during a bodydrag while our board is far behind us is not necessarily the most pleasant moment in kitesurfing, however making bodydrag edges too short penalizes you, keep an eye on your board, breathe, and make edges long enough for them to be effective. 

One last one for the road: 

Practice! Ok, ok, it’s not the most fun to do, but frankly, an efficient bodydrag to go get your board back requires practice. Take advantage of a calm spot, drop your board a few times and go back to get it faster and faster. With a bit of practice, the stress of losing your board is over, you always keep it in sight and you systematically recover it in less time than it takes to say it.  

3. Install a Gojoe System

Gojoe kitesurf Alternative to the board leash

If you’re still afraid of losing your board, a Gojoe system is a perfect accessory to make your board visible from a distance and help your kiteboard go downwind. 
It’s a buoy that fits over the handle of your board, easy to install, for about the same price as a leash reel except it’s totally safe.  (Style-wise, it’s the same, a leash is no more stylish to look at than a buoy on a board).

If you’re more of a DYI person, you can create a very similar system at a lower cost with a pool fry, a ball in a net, a nation’s armband, etc. Be creative.

Why is the board leash always present?

Even if it tends to disappear gradually these last 10 years, we still meet it and always the spots of kite. 

The fault of the kitesurfers? No, certainly not, if it is an accessory that is sold, it is because it meets a demand and fills a need among the beginner kitesurfer. 

It seems to me that the responsibility for its use remains fully with the schools, federations and the teaching method of kitesurfing. 

The motivations coming from instructors and schools who teach with a board leash or who do not teach the bodydrag can be diverse:

These reasons are never valid, our job as kitesurfing instructors is to train kitesurfers and therefore always aim to make the student kitesurfer autonomous at the end of the course. On this side, we can’t argue any longer about the use of the board leash during the lessons or about missing the teaching of the boydrag.  

And what about the federations?

As far as we know, most federations simply forbid the use of the board leash for teaching kitesurfing. 

IKO : the biggest federation in the world of kitesurfing is IKO (International Kiteboarding Organisation). Created in 2001 and more than 600.000 students certified. IKO categorically prohibits the use of the board leash in kitesurfing instruction. 

FAV: specific to Tarifa and for all of Andalusia (Andalusian Sailing Federation) holds the same position and categorically forbids it in teaching.

Some federations, especially in France, have not yet decided or do not strictly forbid the leash in kitesurfing teaching. 

From a more personal point of view, it seems to me that it is not up to the federations to play the policeman, the federations play a role of framework and guide in the evolution of the recognition of kitesurfing and its promotion. It is more the actors of the field such as instructors and schools that must promote a positive image of the discipline, working together for the safety and pleasure of everyone in the practice of kitesurfing. 

See you on the water 


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