If you’re new to surfing you’ll likely be wondering what that weird strappy thing is that surfers attach to their ankles.
Well, in surfing we call that thing a leash (or legrope).
…and it’s a damn important part of a surfers toolkit for a number of reasons (more on that in a minute).
But how do you know which leash to choose?
Is it all same, same? Or is there actually a difference?
Keep reading to find out.
WHAT IS A LEASH?
A leash is a urethane cord that surfers use to attach themselves to their surfboard to stop the board floating away when they fall off.
One end of the leash attaches to the ankle via a velcro strap called a ‘cuff’, and the other attaches to the leash plug at the tail of the surfboard with a thick string (known as a leash string).
Leashes come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses to suit different surfing conditions and board lengths, so it’s important to make sure you select the appropriate size.
Prior to the 1970’s surfers would surf without using a leash whatsoever. Back then surfers would attack waves of all sizes and when they fell they’d simply have to swim to shore to collect it.
There was even a bit of resistance and controversy at the time as leashes were introduced, with the biggest concern being the potential for injury as the board would now be attached to the surfer.
This friction was short lived however as surfers soon realised that having your board attached to you means you don’t have to swim to shore after every wipeout, rarely does your board hit you, and it's way safer.
PARTS OF A LEASH
QUICK RELEASE STRAP: For removing strap fast if leash gets stuck around rocks, etc.
CUFF: Fastens the leash around a surfers ankle
RAIL SAVER: Protects the rails of a surfboard from damage caused by the cord.
LEASH STRING: Attaches the leash to the leash-plug on a surfboard.
SWIVEL: Stops the leash from tangling up in knots.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD SURF LEASH?
A good leash will be durable, reliable, trustworthy, and hopefully not get tangled in your toes too often (easier said than done…).
So when hunting out a new leash be on the lookout for the following:
A leash is a safety device and not something that you want to skimp on. Invest in quality wherever possible.
A swivel helps to stop your legrope from getting tangled up. Having a double swivel (one at your ankle, and one attaching to the rail saver) will keep tangling to a minimum.
Believe it or not, but a leash cord can cut through the rails of your surfboard with enough pressure. That’s combated however with a rail saver, a thick nylon strap that attaches the urethane cord to the board.
The velcro is often the first thing to deteriorate on a leash, so choose something that’s hard wearing and strong.
DO I NEED A SURFBOARD LEASH?
If you’re new to surfing then yes, absolutely you’ll need a leash.
If you’re an advanced surfer, are in complete control of your equipment, and virtually never fall off, then sure, you’ll be comfortable surfing without a leash.
But for the rest of us mere mortals, wearing a leash at all times is a good idea.
HOW THICK SHOULD MY SURFBOARD LEASH BE?
Leashes generally come in two thicknesses: Competition or Regular.
THICKNESS: 3/16ths of an inch or 4.7mm
Comp leashes are a little thinner, generate less drag, and aren't as strong.
THICKNESS: 3/16ths of an inch or 4.7mm
Regular leashes are thicker, stronger, and more durable.
SURFBOARD LEASH LENGTH CHART
As a rule of thumb, choose a leash that is roughly the same size as the board you’re riding:
RECOMMENDED LEASH LENGTH
WHICH FOOT DOES A SURFBOARD LEASH GO ON?
Regardless of which surfing stance you are, your leash should always be attached to your back foot.
Leash on RIGHT foot.
Leash on LEFT foot.
BEST LEASH BRANDS
If you’re on the hunt for a new leash, these are some of the best surfboard leash brands at the moment:
CREATURES OF LEISURE
WRAPPING IT UP
By now you should know exactly what legrope you need for your board, which one to choose, and why.
My one word of wisdom for what it’s worth is to invest in quality.
Sure, it’ll be more expensive in the short term, but that investment could save your life one day.
So see it as a safety investment rather than an annoying expense and choose the best one you can afford.