Your Surfboard Leash
Your surfboard leash is designed to keep your board attached to you. A quality surfboard leash will do this optimally without risking damage to you or your board. The features of a well designed leash can greatly enhance your surfing performance and fun. A poor quality or the wrong leash can increase the risk of harm to you and others as well as interfere with your surfing.
Surfboard Leashes By Wave Size
FCS Freedom Leash is high tech and minimalist. It’s cord diameter is only 4.9mm which is thin but designed for everyday use. The swivels are discrete and streamlined built into the cord. The cuff is super minimal. In smaller to average size waves the less bulk and gear you have attached to your body the more fun you have which is what this leash offers
Purpose built for different conditions your surfboard leash comes in mainstream lengths. 5′ – 6′ for small to normal size waves and shortboards. 7′ – 8′ for bigger waves and mini-mals. 9′ – 10′ for big waves and longboards. 12′ long for monster waves. The main difference between these leashes, apart from their length, is the thickness or diameter of the cord.
A sample of the extensive Creatures of Leisure leash range. There’s a leash for every conceivable board, wave and surfer
Small Wave Surfboard Leash
A Comp leash makes small waves much more fun than your standard surfboard leash. The Komunity KS1.1 Ultra Comp gives you the strength and steamlined benefits of a one piece leash with a great 5mm diameter cord. Creatures has a Lite surfboard leash that’s 5′ with 5mm cord diameter. FCS has their 5′ surfboard leash with 5.5mm cord diameter. OAM’s is 5’5″. A surfboard leash length of 5′ is short, ideal for a Grom, but not so good if your board is in the mid 5′ and over length as your board will be too close to you in a wipeout. The OAM cuff is smallest and ideal, all you need in small waves
One of the big things you can do to enhance your small wave surfing is to go for a less cumbersome, thinner lightweight cord. Thinner surfboard leashes are almost unnoticeable. It is amazing that a millimeter or two can feel so different. If they get caught around your fins thin leashes create negligible drag. If caught under foot they don’t affect your grip or interfere with your surfing.
Most thinner diameter leashes are branded as Comp, meaning competition level. In competition you want the maximum benefit and minimum hindrance to your performance. Coming with a 5′-6′ length Comp leashes have a 5-6mm diameter cord and a finer lightweight cuff.
Normal Wave Surfboard Leashes
As the wave power increases from small to average size you need a surfboard leash with extra strength. The FCS Regular Leash comes in 6′ size but with 7mm diameter. The Creatures Pro is 7′ x 7mm. Ocean & Earth have a Regular series leash 7′ x 7mm. OAM has their Regular series in 6′ x 6mm and 7′ x 7mm
Everyday surfboard leashes are designed to cope with the stresses and strains of waves in the 3′-4′ range as long as they’re not too punchy. A 6′ leash with 6mm cord is standard but it’s also common to have 6′ length paired with 7mm diameter. You’ll notice the cord feels extra bulky over a Comp leash. Even though there’s only millimeters of difference in diameter if your regular leash gets caught under your fins you’ll notice the drag. The thicker leash caught under your fins can even cause your board to skip out on the wave and dump you.
Big Wave Surfboard Leashes
Powerful, big and monster waves need the right leash
As the surf increases in size so the thickness of your surfboard leash increases. And so does the safety your leash provides you. Waves of more power or bigger size should be matched to a leash at least 7′ in length by 7mm diameter. Big to very big waves need leash lengths from 8′-12′ with cord diameters 8mm and 9mm.
In big waves your leash length gets longer because the waves have so much power if your board hits you it will cause serious injury. So you want your board away from you when you wipeout, but not too far. A leash with well engineered cord material will keep your board at just the right distance once you’ve hit the water. Lower quality cords tend to overstretch keeping your board stuck in the wave. You can be dragged into or kept stuck in the impact zone. This is a real and dangerous problem.
The other reason why you want a longer leash is that you may have to bail out and dive for the bottom to get away from the breaking wave. If your leash is too short you won’t be able to dive deep enough.
All Creatures of Leisure leashes feature the Sure Fire Release. A raised tab that’s easy to grab and pull to remove your leash. Creatures leashes need this assist because their velcro is also super strong. For bigger waves Creatures pairs its Sure Fire Release and super velcro with their heavy duty Reef and Outer Reef series. The cords for these leashes come in 8mm and 9mm diameters. Their range for more powerful waves starts at 7′ length for smaller but punchy waves, rising to 8′, 9′ , 10′ and 12′ lengths
The Ocean & Earth One XT Big Wave Series surfboard leash for heavy dangerous waves, comes in 10′ and 12′ versions. The left image shows the emergency release cord and pin. One tug and the leash is off. The second image shows the triple wrap strap so your leash can’t be pulled off by the wave. The last image is the extra wide extra long rail saver to cope with the extra wave power, along with heavy duty double leash cords that thread through your plug
In big waves it’s not as common, but in monster waves, you may have to urgently remove your surfboard leash to bail out. This has happened at Mavericks where a leash was caught around a submerged rock trapping the surfer. Getting your leash off, especially with a triple seal cuff, takes time, time you don’t have in an emergency. So ideally big and monster wave leashes have a release pin you can grab and with one tug your leash is off. This offers an essential safety factor in heavy surf.
Surfboard Leashes By Board Size
In this pic you can see the leash stretching all the way from the rider’s knee to the back of the board. If you want to hang off the nose or walk the length of your longboard you’ll need a leash that’s long enough to make the distance. If your board is 9′ you’ll need a 9′ leash. This Ocean & Earth longboard leash is designed for your knee so you get maximum freedom of movement for walking your board. It’s less likely to tangle around your feet. It’s also a one piece leash and comes with a special longer longboard rail saver
Wave size and power aren’t the only factors that dictate surfboard leash length and thickness. If you’ve a longer board like a mini-mal or longboard then a 7′ leash would be standard, increasing in size to 8-9′ to match your board size, regardless of wave size. For example if your board is 9′ long and you want to walk the board to hang off the nose you’ll need at least a 9′ leash just to make the distance.
How To Attach Your Leash
It’s all about having just the right amount of string length. The first two images show the leash string threaded in the deck plug in a doubled over manner. The rail saver is attached and protects your board’s rail. The next images show the string threaded through the plug then threaded on itself. Note the string is now too long and has direct contact with the rail. A powerful wave can pull on the string and cause damage, cutting into your board.
A quality surfboard leash comes with its own string. Some have the string separate. Some have the string attached to the rail saver. Having the string attached to the rail saver has one advantage in that anywhere you take the leash you can attach it to your board. One of the most frustrating things is to go to attach your leash and find you have no string. The string is threaded through your board’s deck plug and then the rail saver is attached to the string. It’s important to have only just enough space to thread the rail saver through the string. If there’s too much length the string will put pressure on your board rail that can lead to damage.
What To Look For In A Surfboard Leash
The components in a quality leash work together to increase your fun and reduce your risk.
It may look like an array of eye catching colours, yet quality leash cords are engineered with special characteristics. They: don’t overstretch; return to their original length; have resilience to spring free of the pull of the wave in a wipeout; don’t shoot back too far or too fast so as to hit you
Quality cords are engineered with specific characteristics. They’re strong having a high breaking strain. They don’t over stretch and keep their integrity. They return your board to you an ideal arms length away, but don’t return it too fast.
The return time of a well engineered cord, to get your board back, is important as you need to get your board back to start paddling to get yourself out of the impact zone as fast as possible. Cheap leashes tend to keep your board in the pull of the wave so it doesn’t return to you. If you can’t get back on your board you’ll get hit by more waves. Being stuck in the impact zone is a dangerous place to be. It’s where the waves are most powerful, pushing you under. It’s also where other surfers are making their takeoffs and where’ you’ll be right in their way.
Free Spinning Swivels
Swivels are usually stainless steel but are sometimes brass. They can be simple or include a bearing mechanism. A new feature includes the triple swivel shown here as part of Komunity leash. In the centre of the image are two pics of another new feature, the Plug Buddy, a small thin piece of plastic that helps thread the leash string through your deck plug. Like the triple swivel this does not necessarily work as well as it was intended
The swivels should be well attached, usually embedded in the cord so they won’t pull out. They should spin freely so the cord doesn’t twist and tangle getting bunched up caught around your foot or fins.
Triple swivels have a double ended swivel inbetween the cuff and the cord. These seem like a good idea but do add to the bulk and stiffness of the leash, right near your ankle.
Non Swivel Cuff
Creatures of Leisure has patents or patents pending for their unique leash features. The Non-Slip cuff is one of these features. The Leash Lock is another great feature in the form of a special section of velcro that seals the cuff especially well
The cuff design has several beneficial criteria. It’s comfortable with no abrasive areas so it doesn’t rash your ankle. The cuff shouldn’t swivel. Not only will swivel increase your discomfort, the cuff needs to ensure the cord position remains unchanged, pointing behind and away from you. If you’ve ever jumped off rocks or a boat you know the danger of your cord unexpectedly shifting around getting tangled around your feet or obstacle.
The cuff should be sized to match wave size. A small lightweight cuff is ideal for small waves but can get ripped off in powerful waves. A bigger cuff is needed for bigger waves as it disperses wave pull over a larger area. A triple lock on the velcro will ensure the leash won’t come off regardless of the wave power. However if you are surfing big to monster waves then look for a leash with a quick release so you can get it off quick in an emergency.
Leashes Do Fail
Leashes do fail. Cheap leashes break because they’re made with low quality materials. Do you want to risk your safety, or the safety of others if your leash breaks and your board bounces it’s way to shore?
Good quality leashes are much less likely to, but can still break from a range of causes.
Most fin system fins are finished so their edges aren’t too sharp. However if your cord gets dragged under pressure across one of the defined fin edges it can still nick
Your fin can nick your cord creating a small cut. It might not immediately break but it’ll only be a matter of time. A nick can be checked for. Run your cord through your hand and you’ll be able to feel it. If your cord breaks from a nick you normally see a clean finish on both broken ends.
Your cord is not indestructible. It can break if you get hammered by a wave heavier than your leashes’ design criteria. In this case the broken ends have a rough finish. The way to prevent against this is to use the right size length and diameter leash for the power of the surf. Use your 7mm and bigger diameter leash as the waves get bigger and more powerful. On a sand bank or rock shelf, a smaller wave may still have a lot of power.
Join Weak Points
Quality leashes overcome the most common break point, where the cord joins the material of the horn. Above, Ocean & Earth and Komunity have shared technology with their One Piece leashes. You can see the cord from where it is attached to the horn is smooth, one piece of urethane. It’s one piece for the entire length of the cord so there is no weak join to break. Below, Creatures of Leisure have their DNA Flex mould at both ends of the leash that stretches with the cord
One of the most common breakages occurs at the point where the cord joins the ankle cuff or ankle horn. At this join it rips out or breaks off. With a good quality surfboard leash this will be much less likely. The major brands, recognising this weakest point, have several technologies, some patented, to prevent this kind of breakage.
It’s rare that the ankle cuff will fail but as the waves get bigger their power can rip the cuff off your foot. So leashes for big waves have bigger ankle cuffs with heavier duty velcro. Some have a three layer overwrap closure to make sure they stay sealed no matter what.
It’s rare that a quality leash will have any problems with its rail saver
A breakage in the rail saver is rare. Occasionally your cord may separate from the saver or your string break. So do a quick check of that rear end of your surfboard leash before you surf. The rail saver with its triple seal doesn’t come apart so is normally the least problematic part of your leash.
Get A Quality Leash
With all surfers having differing levels of swimming fitness, the leash does provide a degree of safety. It keeps your board close to you so you don’t have to swim. When the waves are big your leash becomes critically important. It’s heavy to see one of those big wave surfers berate their leash because it didn’t stand up to the waves. For them it could be life or death. You don’t know when your leash might become super important to you. So get the best quality surfboard leash you can.
Considering you use your leash a lot when surfing, invest in several leashes so you get the best out of the conditions. For example a Comp leash for small surf, Regular for normal size waves, and a longer thicker leash if you surf bigger waves
A quality surfboard leash will greatly benefit your surfing by being unnoticeable most of the time. That’s what you want. Its lightweight and performance design will help you in your quest for bigger moves. If you blow a move, it will keep your board perfectly returning to you when needed. A quality surfboard leash will help keep you safe while you’re having a heap of fun.
To find out how our leash brands can radically improve your surfing check here-
Check our full range of Leashes and Surf Gear at Manly Surfboards>Surf Gear.