How to Tow a SUP

There’s several ways to get a fatigued, injured or unconscious paddler back to shore. Here’s several tips for how to tow a SUP.

One of the ways is by towing. Giving the rescuee your leash is one way to do it if you don’t have a tow rope. The downside is that now you’re now leash-less.

Using a tow rope means that you can stay leashed up while still being able to tow the rescuee to shore.  Read on to learn how to tow a SUP.

Regular paddlers won’t have a tow rope on them, but it is a good idea to keep a tow system on your board or waist if traveling far off shore, on expeditions, downwinding or for teaching classes.
I’ve towed two people recently including a person who was too fatigued to paddle back to shore in moderate


Types of Tow and Throw Ropes…

Waist Tow Systems

Designed to be attached to your waist via a Fastex quick release buckle. The can also be attached to your board.  These systems have a carabiner on the end, and a floater just behind the carabiner to keep the biner on the surface. Some lines have floating rope as well.

I use NRS tow ropes as they’re easy to use hold up in heavy conditions. They also make great lines for cooling your beer while camping.

There’s several compact one and two line systems on the market which can be worn around your waist with a quick release buckle, or attached to your board via outfitting.

I prefer tow bags as a velcro pouch, so I can stuff the line back in quickly vs whitewater style where it takes longer to thread the line in.

Throw Bag

These are designed for rivers but can be in non-river situations. They often don’t have a waist option. You either throw the bag or line at the rescuee. The NRS Standard Throw Bag (pictured) is a good example.

Either way, you should have a method of releasing your end in case there’s a snag, etc.

DIY Tow Systems

Many kayakers I know make their own tow lines.
Leon Somme, the former owner of Body Boat Blade, a kayaking school in the NW has a great video on making his on short contact line.  Watch Here
Check out my blog post on DIY Throw and Tow Ropes

Towing Techniques..

  • The best way to attach a tow line to another board is to it’s bow/nose if it happens to have a leash plug or stick on loop (EZ Plug or NSI plug).  But 99% of the boards out there have no attachments in this location.  I’d recommend adding a nose loop attachment on your board (and rental boards).
  • You can also have the rescuee hold the tow line end (usually a carabiner) or wrap it around the shaft of T-Grip of their paddle.  It’s best to have them sit or lay prone (flat) to keep them stable while towing.
  • Loop the end around the widest part of their board and carabiner it around itself completing the loop, then the remainder lines up towards the nose and attached to you (make sense?)
  • For whitewater, you may consider getting a throw line/bag which is thrown from shore to a swimmer or pinned paddler.
  • The rescuee’s line should detach easily if there’s a problem. Never tie either end in knot or permanently (unless you don’t have a choice of course).

Check out my SUP Water Safety Online Course which has detailed videos and text on towing and rescues.

The photo is a skills class I taught with the Kayak Academy staff in Issaquah, WA

Related Posts

Safety Stirrup for Inflatable SUPs

7 Methods for Getting Back on a SUP

Paddle Board Balance Tips

SUP Water Safety (Online Course)


About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races throughout the year.
Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

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