More leash failures

1 year 2 weeks ago - 1 year 2 weeks ago #35209 by zachhandler
Yesterday I was on a trip in which there were 2 leash failures. The first was with an epic coiled leash. Just as we were getting on the water my friend pulled very gently on his leash as he was getting situated in the cockpit and the leash snapped. Pics are attached. The failure was where the plastic coil is tied to the nylon cord, all of which is encased in shrink wrap. I cut off the shrink wrap at the other side of the leash to examine it. While the portions of the plastic coil that are visible are strong and intact, the portion inside the shrink wrap has degraded almost to dust. Again, this decay is completely invisible under the shrink wrap and would not be noted with visual inspection. I don’t know if the decay is a reaction to the shrink wrap or do to the fact that that part probably never dries out fully. Regardless this is not a safe construction. We were at shore at the time and I had an extra leash in the car so we were able to carry on. But had my friend not tugged the leash apart at shore this could be a fatality report. He took a number of swims that day, but the first was not until we were miles off shore. 

The second failure was with my other paddling partner. As we were beach landing at the end of the trip he hopped out of the boat into the surf and the quick release shackle connecting coiled leash to calf wrap had self released. This has happened to me on multiple occasions with quick release leashes and has been discussed on this forum. I believe his leash was stellar branded but all the brands have put out leashes with the same basic flaws. 

This is very sobering. Yesterday’s paddle was 8 years to the day since I lost a friend on the same lake to a leash failure. That time the mechanism of failure was the velcro leg wrap.  He spent the night bobbing in 15C water while planes searched overhead and his 3mm farmer john was not enough to keep him alive. 

These leg leashes cannot be trusted.  I am sure the manufactures do some testing, but lets face it you and I are effectively beta testers. Throw out any leash that has a quick release. Throw out any leash that has plastic coil mated to cord under shrink wrap. Replacing old leashes before they seem worn is probably smart .  I use a paddle leash as an additional precaution.    
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1 year 2 weeks ago - 1 year 2 weeks ago #35210 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic More leash failures
I cut the shrink wrap off a different epic leash of mine that is probably 5 years old. This one had no decay. This one has a smaller diamete plastic coil that is opaque, not translucent like the one that failed. 

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35211 by wesley
Replied by wesley on topic More leash failures
Sober reminder Zach. Thanks for bringing this up. 

I have a leg leashes of different brands, Stellar, Think and have seen other brands. I rarely use a leg leash and prefer a paddle leash. My Think leash has the velcro that over laps which I prefer since velcro failure is far less likely. Some leg leashes appear to made by the same original manufacturer just rebranded with a manufacturers logo on it. I encouraged  Stellar years ago not to hide the  connection with shrink wrap so one could visually inspect it. I also encouraged them to use the overlay velcro too, and questioned why does it have to be coiled and why does the coil have to be so big? 
When giving lessons I tell novice, flat water paddlers that occasionally paddle in the ocean, and the rest just replace your leash couple of years, inspect it often. Don't be cheap and put your life at risk over not replacing your 25.00 leash. I go over the pros/cons of paddle leash vs leg.  I often recount the story of an excellent flat water paddler and competent ocean paddler who rarely paddled in the ocean but raced an ocean race in a Northeaster Storm with his 10 year old Epic leg leash. He capsized, the velcro failed, swam to shore, and his ski was rounded up by another  paddler before it was damaged too bad. I have 2 stories of my own where the velcro failed but fortunately I was able to recover quickly enough in moderate conditions not to get separated. 

 Flat water paddlers typically do not use leashes so don't often realize the the perils of not having reliable equipment suitable for ocean conditions. This would include the appropriate size rudder, proper fitting pfd, leash(paddle, leg, body), Communication devices: phone, vhf, epirb, garmin inreach, real time tracking, etc, whistle and a paddle that you can rely on. 

Wesley Echols
SurfskiRacing.com
#1 in Surfski Reviews.
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1 year 2 weeks ago #35212 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic More leash failures
Your´e absolutely right Zach. I had the same problem with an epic leash last year. The connection from the plastic cord to the Nylon cord looked dubious after a few years of usage so I gave it quick pull and it came apart very easily.
The plastic gets brittle with the years and I was surprised to discover that there is no inner nylon cord.
Since then I replaced the plastic cord with a rubber cord.

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.
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1 year 2 weeks ago #35217 by robin.mousley
Replied by robin.mousley on topic More leash failures
A good reminder about the potential for failure of any piece of safety gear.  

Over the years I've heard many stories of leashes either breaking or having their clips come undone at a critical moment.

But I've also had other pieces of gear fail on me like:

- My radio.  I was unlicensed for years so I seldom checked the radio except to make sure that it was charged.  When I finally became licensed, I did a radio check on my next paddle and discovered that the speaker on my radio had failed...  
- Rudder cables: After not having replaced the cables for years, I had them done...  and one of the crimps was clamped badly and two paddles later one cable came adrift.

Although I try to mitigate the risks of gear failure by checking, replacing and testing, I know that one or other item will break at some point and I try to be prepared for it.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35218 by tve
Replied by tve on topic More leash failures
I've never paddled without a leash, which has the effect that I've never been overly concerned about the boat when falling in. Or put differently, I know I don't have a "grab the boat" thought flashing through my head when falling in. I actually don't really know, maybe I am holding onto the boat, but probably not.
Sooooo my question is: how do I fix that?
Lately I fall in perhaps once a month, so I have to specifically practice somehow. I'm sure I can paddle 10 strokes, then do a bad stroke to pull myself into the water, and focus successfully on holding onto the boat. But there's no surprise or "argh dammit" element in such an exercise, so I wonder whether it helps much. Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35220 by Wombat661
Replied by Wombat661 on topic More leash failures
"But there's no surprise or "argh dammit" element in such an exercise, so I wonder whether it helps much. Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions?"
Sit on top of a thick lifevest. You will fall in eventually :)

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35221 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic More leash failures
Really its just like training your brace - you consciously train in controlled circumstances with 'fake braces', mix in some real life braces, and eventually its a subconscious reaction.

I always have worn a leash, even when unneeded like back east on small-medium lakes, but at the same time I mentally pretended I didnt have it. I dont grasp for the boat like my life depends on it (unless it does) but I generally try to catch it during a capsize as if my leash is not there. Kinda the same mentality as car insurance. If I get in an accident, its there to cover my butt, but I'd prefer not to use it.

I like the idea of a unreasonably high seat pad for the masochistic as well. that would probably result in some uncontrolled swims :) for me at least, repetition and muscle memory is key.

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35226 by nwsurfskier
Replied by nwsurfskier on topic More leash failures
Even if practiced it's not always possible to grab the boat e.g. large breaking wave with boat caught on one side and paddler on the other. I've seen it happen and the leash broke just like the one described above, however that leash was nearly new. That paddler almost lost his life that day. It amazes me that manufactures of leashes can't do a better job on designing them. Coming from a climbing and engineering background it's shocking we trust our lives on such poorly designed products that could easily be made more reliable. 

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1 year 2 weeks ago - 1 year 2 weeks ago #35232 by Bill L
Replied by Bill L on topic More leash failures

nwsurfskier wrote: ... It amazes me that manufactures of leashes can't do a better job on designing them. Coming from a climbing and engineering background it's shocking we trust our lives on such poorly designed products that could easily be made more reliable. 


Agreed.  (warning – waxing a bit philosophically here, so it’s your own fault if you continue reading)

But why?  Mostly because there are no recognized standards for leashes. Most leashes available are around $10 - $30 (US).  For that, you get a nifty looking piece of gear of which you have no idea how it may or may not perform.  Basically, the manufacturer is building it to sell, not to save (your life).  

If the manufacturer thought you would buy a ball of yarn (you know, the kind normally sold for cats to play with) while calling it a paddle or body leash, he would.  

So, your option is to build it yourself or, if you are not comfortable with that, find someone trustworthy (from a technical standpoint) to do it for you.  

Over the years, I have seen a few commercially available leashes that I thought might be worthy, but in no case have I ever seen any numbers (break strength, cycle life, UV susceptibility, etc.) to make me feel confident enough about them.  Now I am not knocking those vendors who are at least trying to make a good, strong, durable product (I know it takes a lot of money and engineering to bring a good product
to market), but, without any supporting data, there is no way for me to know.

As engineer I researched all the applicable aspects until I was comfortable to build my own.  Is it perfect? No, nothing is, but the design has proven its mettle on more than one occasion.  The body leash I built for myself (and trust my life to) costs about $50 (US) in materials, not including the labor to put together.  If I were to market it (as a primo leash), I would need to capture the engineering, development, testing, legal, and marketing costs – I have little doubt I would be selling them for $200+.  But, since there are no standards,I would be competing with knock-off garbage that costs $10 on amazon.  So I would sell a few to people who understand that cost is worth it, but would be unlikely to get a decent return on investment. 

Standards developed by competent authority and implemented by government regulation (e.g., for PFDs, for airplanes, for milk) are a pain to comply with and necessarily drive up the costs of a product, but, for the majority of the population, they are the only way they know if they are getting something that will help them as opposed to kill them.  

(ok, calm down, go get a beer…)

Bill L

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35233 by Watto
Replied by Watto on topic More leash failures
Been holding off lazy arse that I am waiting for someone to bring up the recent thread on this somewhere here if you want to search for it. Save you the trouble: if you want a leash that won't break then use two metres of dyneema cord inside one metre of surgical rubber, tie off each end, add your velcro strap and easy peezy instant leash. Reduces to an arm span, extends to double arm span and enables you to get out and depending on the boat, adjust/fix/fiddle with rudder without undoing leash. 

Obvious and dangerous downside is will not separate you from the boat unless the leash attachment point and /or boat break. Highly unlikely though happens. Can you release the velcro below your knee underwater being towed in a wave? No, speed of wave drags you as if behind a boat. You just can't get down there while being towed.

Question not addressed in this thread that I've seen is why should a leash fail at all?  Answer, for reasons of safety. However, at what point should it fail? That is the question here. Independent of standards (I agree with all you put forward Bill), leashes need to fail at some point otherwise you become a lure to your travelling boat. 

I use both leashes, the unbreakable on my own and way out to sea. The other commonly available commercial leash I use for most paddling - that is here in Perth no more generally than 500 metres or so off a largely sandy coastline with moderate beach break and onshore prevailing winds - eventually boat is blown ashore. Broke my last leash about a week ago barely any wind, totally flat, leashed up getting into boat and in about four feet of water a swell just lifted up crested out of nowhere combed and belted me out of the boat head on into it up over my head snapping leash. Was then belted by a second one in shallow water. I was barely towed at all, maybe it was just the suddenness of it, however bang no leash. More fool me for breaking that rule. Had I the unbreakable one on ... hmm some sort of injury.

Leashes must break for safety sake. In keeping with the theme here though is that the fockers should not deteriorate and just crap themselves. They should at some point however break predictably.

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1 year 2 weeks ago #35239 by DMax
Replied by DMax on topic More leash failures
Certainly not a silver bullet solution, but rinsing the leg leash thoroughly in fresh water after salt water immersion is in my opinion, a must.  Left to fester between paddles, salt water will devour the plastic components of a leg leash, as will UV if boat (and leash) are left in the sun for lengthy periods.

The same is true for all the components on the ski.  For some reason, I don't see many paddlers (at least the groups that I paddle with) taking the time to wash their ski's down with fresh water immediately after a paddle (granted, some may do this once they get home I guess).  When I wash my ski down I also play close attention to the leg leash.  

I've used a leash designed and made by Fitness Paddlers Australia for the last 15 months.  Very robust and I like the design features.  They can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cheers, Dave

Current boat: Fenn Swordfish S (Hybrid layup).
Previous boats: Epic V8 (Performance layup), Stella SR (Excel layup).

Location: Sydney, Australia.

"The sea lives in every one of us" - Robert Wyland.

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1 year 1 week ago #35250 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic More leash failures
Dmax - rinsing salty equipment certainly sounds like a good idea. In my case I live thousands of miles from the ocean so this particular failure had nothing to do with salt water. 

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1 year 1 week ago #35254 by Wombat661
Replied by Wombat661 on topic More leash failures
So leash cannot be too weak, but at the same time must release when needed. That is a hard requirement to meet.
Maybe manufacture can incorporate something like this in the boat. It keeps the boat from going too fast down the wind. 
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1 year 1 week ago #35256 by tve
Replied by tve on topic More leash failures
Hmmmm, I think you're onto something! An alternative could be some form of parachute drag anchor. I wonder what is the most effective brake in big, high-wind conditions where the entire surfski gets picked up by the wind and rolled/blown down the waves. There may be none...

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1 year 1 week ago #35257 by Henning DK
Replied by Henning DK on topic More leash failures
Two problems with "braking" systems:

1) More components that may fail - will probably fail more often than leg-leashes, may even make the boat unusable.
2) Boat construction becomes more complex, less suitable for paddling, and reentry much harder with this stuff getting in the way.

So safety as well as usability will suffer, not be improved - go for simplicity, I think.

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1 year 1 week ago #35258 by Bill L
Replied by Bill L on topic More leash failures
Some good ideas and discussion points from all.  Some of my experiences, thoughts:

Rinsing: unless one immerses the gear for a time and allows the salt to dissolve into solution, a lot of the salt often remains - still, it is certainly worthwhile and I rinse much of my gear. 

Leash built in breakpoint:  Good idea, yet, with all the different conditions and stresses, I tend to think the "best" breakpoint force would be difficult to quantify.  I use a releasable shackle located at the lower center front of my PFD - easily reachable if I became a towed "lure" (love that expression, now I get to think of myself as chum); while there is always a possibility the release cord could snag and release inadvertently, it is very small and unobtrusive and so far no problems.

UV - UV is the ultimate destroyer of all things carbon-based, i.e. plastic.  Anything that is made of a synthetic exposed to UV long enough will at some point fail.  Sometimes the discoloration makes this obvious, other times not.  Any synthetic (safety) gear used in the sun should be replaced at some interval.  Hard to know what this interval is, but much better to err on the conservative side.

velcro (velcro is a brand name, but applies to all "hook-and-loop") - I love it and use it for a lot of things; but, there is a issue with velcro that people should be made aware of when it is used in safety gear:  velcro has a cycle-life: every time you close it and open it it reduces the strength of the closure.  For the US military, the military specification (mil-spec) is that it must be able to withstand 5000 cycles before it reaches 50% of its original strength.  5000 sounds like a lot, but using the same closure for several years can add up. Furthermore, nylon (of which the strongest closure velcroes are made), is highly susceptible to UV damage. So, that 5000 is getting less and less (and that is only if you start with the good stuff:  I got some cheap stuff once that I don't think lasted 50 cycles before it was virtually useless).  Polyester velcro is much more UV resistant, but, has a much shorter starting cycle life.   The most important thing, it needs to be checked and replaced periodically, even if it still seems ok.    

On surfski drag ideas - very interesting, may have merit.  Although, a number of years ago, I had a ski that was blowing away from me that only my leash stopped. The winds were probably 30 knots plus, broadside to my ski, so it was literally rolling and skipping above the water until the leash reached full tension and snapped it back. Although my leash held, I think it was just luck as it was fairly light-duty and not really designed to take that kind of load. After that, I changed my leash method and beefed it up. Frankly, years ago, after I read ZachHandlers account of the Mille Lacs incident (as well as the articles Rob has put on ss.info), I spent a LOT of time rethinking my safety gear (leashes, comms, etc.); if any of you have not read it, it might be worth your while: 

www.surfskiracing.org/2011/10/todd-ellis...ent-by-zach-handler/    

Others have said it before but it is worth repeating - when you go out surfskiing offshore, even with a bunch of people, when conditions are rough, it is very difficult for anyone to provide direct assistance (other than call for help).  So it is always worth it to act as if your life depends on the gear (and its quality) that you have brought with you.  

Bill

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1 year 1 week ago #35259 by SpaceSputnik
Replied by SpaceSputnik on topic More leash failures

Wombat661 wrote: So leash cannot be too weak, but at the same time must release when needed. That is a hard requirement to meet.
Maybe manufacture can incorporate something like this in the boat. It keeps the boat from going too fast down the wind. 


This looks difficult to remount and hazardous when you flip the boat up just before remountung.

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1 year 1 week ago #35260 by robin.mousley
Replied by robin.mousley on topic More leash failures

Others have said it before but it is worth repeating - when you go out surfskiing offshore, even with a bunch of people, when conditions are rough, it is very difficult for anyone to provide direct assistance (other than call for help).  So it is always worth it to act as if your life depends on the gear (and its quality) that you have brought with you. 

This is such an important point.  

In more moderate conditions, it can be very worthwhile to buddy up if one of the paddlers is inexperienced - because an inexperienced paddler can get into serious trouble in conditions where a more practised buddy is completely at ease.

BUT:
  • I've been in conditions where it was impossible to turn the ski upwind if I'd wanted to, to try to reach someone in trouble.
  • In really big conditions it's really, really easy to lose sight of your buddy.
  • In extreme conditions it can be dangerous to stop - sitting stationary with your legs out, you can get taken out by a wave and become a casualty yourself.
So I've always been a bit dubious about the value of the buddy system in extreme conditions and I totally agree that you must be fully prepared to work your way out of trouble on your own, with the equipment that you have on you.  Not on your boat, but the equipment that you have on your person, because you might lose the boat.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...
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1 year 1 week ago #35261 by robin.mousley
Replied by robin.mousley on topic More leash failures

Wombat661 wrote: So leash cannot be too weak, but at the same time must release when needed. That is a hard requirement to meet.
Maybe manufacture can incorporate something like this in the boat. It keeps the boat from going too fast down the wind. 


The first thing a surfski does in wind, is that it goes broadside to wind and waves and starts rolling.  The configuration of the drag board in this illustration would have no effect on this. 

Just by the way, I lost a ski in 30kt of wind that had a paddle leashed to it - the paddle had very little to no drag effect at all and I was unable to swim fast enough to catch the boat.  Fortunately I wasn't far from shore.  ( https://www.surfski.info/latest-news/story/1007/how-to-sabotage-a-sale.html )

To get around the rolling effect, any kind of drag mechanism would have to be attached to one end of the boat, not to the middle.  I think it's worthwhile to think about this issue, but in the spirit of keeping it simple, stupid, I suspect that improved leashes are the way to go.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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