In January 2019 I had a leg leash fail on me in big water. It was a short leash, like the length made for surfski. Trying to move around a 21’ canoe I did not have enough length to maneuver, and the tension pulled the leash off my leg. It shot off like a giant rubber band. In that instant I witnessed how quickly a technical failure could lead to dire circumstances in the ocean. I knew if my canoe and I separated by one meter the wind could take it away. I would not be able to swim to catch it on its westward journey perhaps a thousand miles to the next land. I also would not be able to swim to the beach. I could see the beach. It was upwind from me. I raised my paddle to alert the other paddlers in my group I had a problem. I waited until they were close enough so if I lost contact with the canoe they were right there to help. We got the canoe back over. The last kilometer I paddled then to our destination was the longest ever mentally for me. Why? Two days earlier I had learned of a drowning death of a paddler in my circle. Someone who should have been paddling with us.
When I stepped onto the beach my goal as a paddler had shifted: to stay alive. As long as we are alive, we can paddle. One cubic meter of water weighs around a ton. We will never be stronger. We have to be smarter. We have to be wise. When in doubt about the conditions, just don’t paddle. The ocean will be there tomorrow, and we should be too.
That night at the villa, I pondered two problems: (1) how to resolve the leash wrapping around the hull that makes us outrigger paddlers take a leash off after a huli and (2) resolve the loose, slippery cuff problem.
105 days later my down coach Guy Ringrave was separated from his OC1 in big water in southwest France, and he also drowned.
It is at once horrifying and unacceptable to see my friends lose their lives paddling in the oceans we love. We must change our culture and include safety training as invaluable.
I had not feared drowning because it had not been real to me. I started my season this year by using a rope I trusted as my leash. I sewed webbing by hand. I stopped using the cheap leashes for good. I don’t know how Guy was separated from his canoe but there are only so many scenarios. I just can’t believe he’s gone. This should never happen to any of us. Guy’s family posted through Woo that they would continue his outrigger business in his spirit.
in this spirit I continue to paddle with the deepest respect for the ocean and wind. I want to make this increasingly popular sport safer for all.
And finally I found someone who could help take my rope (Dyneema) and jacket it into a retractable cord. I’ve spent months agonizing over details to make a superior leash. It is not meant to save your life. It is made to keep you with your boat, which is a flotation device that at all times is functioning to keep you alive while you enjoy the wonders of our water world.. Pay attention to the weather report and always keep communication on your person. Don’t attach it to your boat.
I present to you the Meta Leash. The first video is a short review, comparison of its features. It is smaller, lighter and stronger than any other leash on the market. It has continuous engineered strength and is stronger than steel, outlasting it in a marine environment 3:1. It’s core is Dyneema, jacketed in rubber (1600 pound, 730 kg average strength). It fits better above the calf and can also be worn at the waist. It is superior in every way to any other leash. The second video shows you how to recover from a huli WITHOUT having to remove the leash.