Leg Ropes, or Leashes, come with a range of features and are of various qualities. Whether it’s a surfboard leash, longboard leash, bodyboard leash, or SUP leash, each has unique and optimum features to progress your surfing. The more features and better quality your leash, the more it will add to your surfing performance and enjoyment while reducing the risks you face.
Above, Filipe Toledo putting his FCS leash on display. Below, did you think your leash was the most simple part of your surfing gear? Check the patents, patents pending and key features highlighted by Creatures of Leisure in their leash
What risks? A cheap low quality leash can break and you can have to swim after your board. If the waves are small and close to shore you might consider this risk minimal. What if your loose board hits another surfer? If you’re surfing in big waves out from shore and your leash fails the consequences to you, of perhaps not making it back to shore and need a rescue, can also be considerable.
Also your leash is ideally meant to return your board to you within an arm’s length. Risk can include your leash returning your board too quickly. It can spring back and hit you. Being above the water your head is the most likely point of impact. Alternatively your leash can overstretch and not return your board at all. Yanking with your leg it may take too long to get your board back into your hands. So stuck in the impact zone you’ll be hit by more waves. Staying in the impact zone, that is in front of the takeoff zone, also puts you in the critical path of other surfers. Not a good place to be.
All the leashes Manly Surfboards offers give you a great balance of features, quality and budget. Instore you can test them, check size and fit, and make the choice for the optimum leash that will maximise your surfing enjoyment and performance.
As a surfer there’s specific leg rope models designed for your type of surfing, as well as generic leashes. Here we cover not just a leash for your surfboard but also a longboard, bodyboard and SUP leash. Leash types follow general characteristics in terms of their length and thickness. Leg Rope characteristics suited to our local surf environment are as follows.
A surfboard leash for everyday surfing can range in size from 5′, five feet, to 7′ and will be between 5mm to 7mm thick.
Called by different terms, a surfboard leash can have different characteristics for its use. For example a Comp leash, used for competition surfing, is shorter than your everyday surfing leash, say 5′ compared to 6′, and it’s thinner, 5mm compared to 6mm. These characteristics match its use. This Comp surfboard leash is not designed for taking a lot of wave punishment. In a competition you’re not planning to fall off and you want your leash to be as minimal as possible as it’s only there as backup.
A StepUp surfboard leash can be longer, say 7′ with a 7mm diameter to handle bigger and more powerful waves.
Mini-Mal Leg Ropes
Functional and nothing fancy, the Mini-mal leash
A Mini-mal surfboard leash starts at 7′ and goes up to 8′ and is 7mm to 8mm thick. It’s the middle-of-the-road surfboard leash. Not too small and not too big.
You can also use a longer Longboard leash on your Mini-mal. The longboard leash will be longer however the extra length will help keep your Mini-mal out of your way in the event of a heavy wipe out. A good thing if you’re a Beginner. You don’t want to use too long a longboard leash as it can end up getting tangled. As a short term option though it’s definitely okay.
Longboard & Gun Leashes
Want your toes on the nose then you need a longboard leash with the length that will let you walk your board
Longboard and Gun surfboard leash starts at 8′ with 7mm thickness and can go up to 12′ with 10mm thickness.
A longboard leash can have two types of cuffs. The traditional ankle cuff or a knee cuff. The knee cuff is preferred by some surfers as it’s said to keep the leg rope cord out of the way of your feet. For a longboard leash this is an important thing as you don’t want the leash cord in your way when you’re walking your board to hang toes off the nose.
Gun leashes can include special features. For example the Ocean & Earth Big Wave Series includes a pin that you pull to release your leash. So if you’re faced with a heavy situation and need to swim down underwater or away from your board you just pull a pin and you’re free. Pulling the pin is easier and much faster than trying to get the triple overlapped velcro undone.
A SUP Leash can come in different forms. Two SUP leashes from Ocean & Earth. Note the left leash has a straight cord with an ankle cuff. The right leash has a coiled cord with a knee cuff. Whatever board you’re riding there’s leash options to optimise your surfing
A Stand Up Paddleboard SUP leash usually starts at around 8′ length with a 7mm thick cord and tops out at 12′ with 10mm thickness.
A SUP leash can also come with a knee cuff to match your personal preference. Another option, having the cord coiled, can keep the leash out of your way when walking your board.
If you’re using your SUP for exercise then a short SUP leash is a good option as you aren’t going to be dumped off your board and it’s compact length will keep out of the way of your footwork. If you’re using your SUP for bigger wave surfing then your SUP leash should be longer as if you get dumped you want the SUP farther away to avoid any impact.
For a SUP leash you have a few options. You can use a Mini-mal leash in smaller waves. A longboard leash if you prefer the straight leash rather than coiled. You’ve also got the coiled SUP leash version too.
A bodyboard leash is not that long nor thick, as bodyboards are much lighter so don’t have as much pull to handle compared to a surfboard
A Bodyboard leash is typically in the 3′-5′ length range, and around 3-7mm thick.
Attached to your wrist it’s usually coiled so it stays short out of your way as your arms are doing all the paddling. A bodyboard leash can have finer cuffs as it’s used on your wrist that’s thinner than your ankle. The cord can also be finer as a bodyboard leash only has to handle the pull of the weight of a bodyboard, a lot less than that of a surfboard.
A bodyboard leash can be worn on either hand or up on your bicep, more out of the way. You may have a preference. It’s worthwhile trying out the bodyboard leash options to see which works best for you.
Generic Leg Ropes
Leg Ropes can be used generically, mixed and matched. For example a 7′ surfboard leash for bigger waves can be used for everyday size waves for your Mini-mal or Longboard.
However you would not use a thin 5mm shortboard leash on your bigger board as the weight of the board would be too much and over-stretch or end up breaking the cord.
Leash thickness is chosen to match wave power. For example in a small powerful wave a thicker leash will stand up to the power. It could be the same thickness as used for your Mini-mal or longboard but ideally shorter so as not to get in the way.
Leash length tends to increase to match either your board size or wave size. The extra length allows your board to get pulled father away from you so you aren’t hit by it when you wipe out. This is especially important with your SUP leash. As the waves increase in size there’s a lot more of your bigger SUP board that you need to be away from. So for bigger waves think about getting an extra long SUP leash.
Your leash consists of several key components: the cord; the swivels; the ankle cuff; the rail saver and string. Each is important and each must be of quality to give you good performance surfing.
Nearly all cords are made from urethane, except for the very latest models that use a urethane hybrid combination. Urethane quality can’t be determined with your eye and so is normally indicated by brand and price.
A good brand, and potentially more expensive leash, will have a higher quality urethane cord. The higher the quality of your urethane the more strength and durability, and right return-spring, your leash will have.
Cheaper urethane cords will quickly break or lose their return-spring, becoming ‘spaghetti’. Overstretched and becoming too long they’ll get in your way tangling around your feet and fins. At the other extreme cheap urethane can be too springy and rebound too quickly causing your board to hit you.
Swivels are attached to or embedded in your leash. The swivels are made from either marine grade stainless steel or brass. Some of the higher end metal swivels can be self lubricating giving an extra smooth spin though it is rare that any swivel will seize up. It’s also close to impossible for the metal of a swivel to break.
The purpose of the swivel is to keep your leash from tangling. When you lose your board in a wave your board is spun around and this creates tangles and tension in your cord. Tangles tend to get caught up around your feet and fins. If this happens your board can slow down ruining your wave or uneven footing will stop you being able to perform, tripping you up. The swivels allow your cord to unspin and return to its natural straighter state keeping out of your way.
The number and quality of your swivels is an easy to view and a good indicator of leg rope quality. A single swivel leash is usually cheaper, a budget model. Two swivels are better than one as they give your leg rope a responsive higher level of ‘unspinning’. Leg Ropes with two swivels are more expensive than those with one. Higher quality swivels give you more of the same ‘unswivelling’ benefit.
In store you can hold our leashes in your hand and turn the swivels to get an idea of their quality, ease of their swivel spin and how they’ll perform for you.
Three swivels were used in some leash models however this combination adds too much weight and the extra metal reduces flex so has not continued in use.
Cord to Cuff Connection
The point where your cord connects to your cuff is critical. On the left Ocean & Earth have their Diamond Flex tech. On the right is Creatures of Leisure DNA Flex Mould. Both are designed to give you extra strength
Your swivel is normally positioned near to or as part of the point of connection to your ankle cuff. This connection point and area where the cord goes into the cuff, called the horn, is a major point of weakness where most leg ropes fail.
The major brands tend to have their own named techniques to connect the cord and swivel to your cuff such as ‘DNA Flex Mould’ from Creatures of Leisure, or ‘Diamond Flex’ from Ocean and Earth.
Looking at and pulling on the point where your cord and swivel connects to your ankle cuff can let you seen how robust this area is. Simple strong crimping can perform well and sometimes better than some fancy mouldings.
Even high end brands have been known to have bad batches of leg ropes where their mouldings at this connection point often failed.
Note the FCS leash cuff is well padded but not overly so. Of special importance is the inner surface that prevents the cuff from slipping around, it stays in place. This FCS rail saver includes the deck plug rope and a handy small scale wax comb
It’s easy to assume your cuff is a straight forward connection from your leash to your body. The cuff’s overlapping velcro strips get stuck down and away you go.
However the quality and features of your cuff play a very important role. Lower quality velcro will quickly fail when abraded by a little sand, weed or sea junk. It won’t fully seal and while it can seem to be done up on dry land will quickly undo in the water and you’ll lose your board at the slightest tug.
With a bodyboard leash you should make sure you try it on. As it’s on your hand it’s a more sensitive area than your ankle. You don’t want the cuff rubbing around chaffing. You should also test the release of the bodyboard leash to see if you can easily undo it with your left or opposite hand so you can use the leash on different hands as needed.
Your cuff should be comfortable and padded. Soft neoprene like that in your wetsuit is normally used on the inside of your cuff to give you comfort. You don’t want this to be too thin. Think about the wave power tugging on your ankle. You don’t want the hard edge of the cuff cutting into or being abrasive against your skin.
While comfort is important you don’t want the cuff to slip around on your ankle, your cuff has to stay in place. Normally you attach the cuff with the horn facing behind you away from your body. This keeps your cord out of the way of your feet. If your cord gets under your feet it can trip you up. This will ruin your ride if you’re on a wave. If you’re trying to jump off rocks a trip can lead to serious damage to you and your board. So your cuff needs to stay in place and not swivel around when tugged on by the wave.
You can test your cuff instore to see which suits you best. Which has the right length velcro and comfy fit.
Another new feature on the latest leg ropes is a ‘leash release’. This is an easy grab piece of plastic that is attached to the end of your cuff’s velcro. When you’re getting out of the surf it’s super handy to grab it with one hand and release your leash. Similarly if you’re in a danger situation in big surf or your leash is caught around an object you can get it off speedily. Creatures of Leisure call this their SureFire Leash Release.
Overlooked, your rail saver performs the vital function of keeping your board unharmed. The thin cord of your leg rope when loaded up with the power and pressure of the wave can easily cut through the tail area of your board that is itself the thinnest part of your board.
Your rail saver prevents this. It provides a wider point of connection that dissipates the wave power spreading it over a wider surface. Its width also prevents it getting stuck on one point so it slides over your surfboard rail and tail. The rail saver also directs your cord away from getting caught under your fins.
Some rail savers include a sewn in string to thread into your board’s leash plug. This can be handy as it means you’ll never be caught without a leash string. For example if you have a new board, as long as you have your leash with you.
A problem with this included string is that it’s often too thick and will not fit into your leash plug. So you need to use another smaller diameter string. In this case you can keep the included leash string tucked up in the velcro of your rail saver.
A feature that can work well is a ‘Plug Buddy’. This is a small thin length of plastic that extends out of your leash string. It’s designed to easily thread in to your board’s leash plug. Then you can drag your leash string through fitting your leash quickly and easily.
Lots of Options
Leg Ropes from Creatures of Leisure and OAM On A Mission showing leash colours and combinations
Leg Ropes come in many colours and colour combinations. There’s classic black, to black with coloured cords, to full colour combinations.
Coming in store you can see the options first hand. Check the more important features between your different shortboard leash, longboard leash, bodyboard leash and SUP leash.
You can test the swivels, try on the cuff. Make sure it’s not too big, not too small, just right for you. You can get the leash with all the features and quality to give you the best performance and surfing fun.