Have you ever surfed without a leash? Did you like the experience, or did you worry too much about losing your board and smashing it on the rocks? Either way, check out our Ultimate Guide to the Surf Leash below.
HISTORY OF THE SURF LEASH
It is now pretty well established that the inventor of the modern day surf leash is Pat O’Neill, son of Jack O’Neill who founded O’Neill Wetsuits. Interestingly, the incident that took Jack’s left eye involved one of the early versions of the surf leash. By all accounts, the surgical cord used in the leash prototype was very stretchy, and, after falling on a wave, Jack’s board flew back towards him, taking out his eye in the process. Never one to waste a marketing opportunity, Jack donned an eye patch and grew out his beard, his O’Neill brand skyrocketing with popularity as a result.
At a contest in 1971 in Malibu, California, Jack was disqualified for wearing his leash, with fellow competitors coining the phrase ‘kook-cord’. Wearing these early leashes often resulted in more injuries than ever, with boards flying back towards the surfer after they fell on a wave.
Many iterations of the surf leash have been tested, one of the best stories told by Mike Doyle (inventor of the first soft surfboard). When on a surf trip to Tahiti in the 60’s, Doyle’s friend Joey Cabell modified a ‘pig tether’ to use as a surf leash. The local Tahitians would tie a rope to a post and then tie a t-shirt to the other end of the rope and attach it to the pigs leg to stop them running away. Using this idea, Joey tied a t-shirt around his leg to give some protection from the shock of the wave, then tied the t-shirt to a cord, and then attached the end of the cord to the fin on his surfboard. It seemed to work on the heavy reef passes of Tahiti, but never really caught on with his return to Hawaii later that year.
Development continued, with the first person to trial a Nylon leash being Peter Wright of New Zealand in the 70’s. Some years later in the mid 70’s the urethane leash was patented by David Hattrick of Yallingup, Western Australia and sold via his brand Pipelines Legrope Co. The design of the modern day leash has not changed a great deal since then, the only obvious addition being the rail saver, which then developed into the detachable rail saver (see below).
SURF LEASH BUYING GUIDE
I’ve outlined a few things to look for when you are buying a leash. Not all are 100% required, but they will make your life easier, and your surfing experience more fun!
Padded Ankle Strap
Double Swivels (ideally stainless steel)
Ankle Strap Release Tab
Detachable Rail Saver
Plug Buddy (Ocean and Earth leashes only)
Premium Grade Urethane
You can skip to our Top 10 Leashes below
HOW TO TIE THE LEASH STRING
The first thing you need to do when you want to attach a leash to a surfboard is tie the small string onto the leash plug. It sounds simple, but it can be particularly difficult, especially if the waves are firing and your buddies are already in the water!
My favoured technique is outlined below.
HOW TO ATTACH YOUR LEASH TO YOUR SURFBOARD
Once you have the leash string in place, you are ready to attach the leash. This is pretty easy nowadays as most leashes have a ‘detachable rail saver’.
Check out this quick video outlining the whole process.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SURF LEASH
There are a few factors to consider when choosing a leash to buy.
Length and type of surfboard
As a general rule, your leash should be around the same length of your surfboard. If your board is in between sizes, opt for the longer length. As an example, if your board is 7ft 6, I would suggest an 8ft leash.
If you are riding a 9ft longboard, you will need to consider the added weight of the board compared with regular ‘shortboards’.
Waves you will be riding
Small waves vs heavy Hawaii surf
READY TO BUY? OUR RECOMMENDED SURF LEASHES
Whilst this list of recommendations does not include every leash ever made, we feel the selection below is pretty comprehensive. Depending on your surfboard, surfing ability and wallet size, any of the leashes below should fit your needs. If you end up buying from this list, hit us up, and let us know how you got on.
NO LEASH? NO BUENO?
Up to now we have been assuming you must use a leash, but there is the argument any purist longboarder will make to surf without a leash. I am totally one to live and let live, but I have seen instances of people surfing without leashes when either they do not have the control of their board…..
Write some final thoughts here…
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