The Urethane Cord
The length of the cord is usually determined by the size of your surfboard. Generally choose a leash that is the same length or slightly longer than your board. A 7' board needs a leash 7' to 8' in length. The length of your legrope is also determined by the size of waves you will be riding, bigger waves, longer leash. A leash that is too short can cause your surfboard to come flying back at you.
The idea is to have a leash that is strong enough to stop your board, but not too long that your feet get tangled in it and that it creates to much drag in the water when you are paddling and surfing.
Thickness of the cord is also about the size of your board, but is mainly about the size of the waves and also your surfing ability. big board and big waves have a thicker cord. As you get better, you can use a thinner cord 5mm - 6mm, these are generally called competition leashes as they have less drag in the water and so help you go faster. Generally most mainstream leashes are 7mm to 7.5mm.
Hand tied swivels are almost a thing of the past, although you can still find them for sale. Old time surfers still feel a hand tied leash is stronger. In the past this was true, but with the advancement of composite plastics and design, moulded swivels are very strong too.
Swivels stop your leash from twisting up and tangling your feet. You should choose a leash that has 2 swivels. One at the end that is attached to the ankle strap and one at the end that attaches to the rail saver.
of Leisure have released a bearing swivel, which
never gets stuck, so stopping leashes from tangling up.
Don't buy a leash without one.
Rail savers do exactly what their name implies. Without
it the thin cord will tear through the glass of your surfboard
when your surfboard is being pulled by the pressure of the
Lots of colours and designs. The ankle strap should be well made and no signs that the stitching might come undone after a few surfs. It should also feel comfortable on your leg. Ankle straps can come with a quick release tab to help you undo the leash quickly, when needed and key pockets to put your car or motorbike key in, while you are in the water.
Which leash to choose?
Dont get too hung up on this, starting out you are going to let your surfboard go a lot in the waves. Choose something around 7mm and at least 6 inches longer than your surfboard.
You can find lots of pretty colours and signature brand name models. Don't get hung up on this either. Get a leash that will serve its purpose. Big brand name and a big price does not necesarily mean a better leash.
If you do go for a big
brand name surf leash make sure they have innovative design
features rather than just pretty colours. A good example
of Leisure, who are in the forefront of leash
design and innovation
Most leashes actually tell you what type of waves it is suited for and your local surf shop would be more than happy to help you choose the right leash for you.
How to attach a leash to your surfboard
Firstly, at the tail end of your board there is a small plastic well with a steel or plastic bar going from one side to the other. This is called a 'plug'. All surfboards these days have a plug already installed.
Secondly, your leash has a loop of strong cord coming out of the rail saver. On some leashes this cord is fixed and cannot be removed, on others you can undo the velcro bound rail saver and detach the loop of cord.
B: Cord is doubled over
leashes with a fixed rope cord and rail saver, the whole
legrope needs to go through the loop of cord to form a slip
Basically, you want the rail saver coming
in contact with the rail of the surfboard, not the leash
string. If the leash string is in contact with the rail,
you need to double the leash string, as in the picture above.
How to put your leash on your leg
Always apply your leash to your back foot. That is if you are a natural footer apply it to your right foot. For goofy footers to your left foot. Wrap the ankle strap firmly around your ankle so the leash doesn't turn around and make sure the leash trails off from the back.
When walking with your board, with your leash
on, hold the middle of your leash under one finger of the
hand holding your surfboard. This saves you tripping on
your leash and looking uncool to your friends.
A good habit to get into is to not put on
your leash untill you are at the waters edge, and remove
it when you reach the shore, minimising the time you need
to walk with your leash on.
Before attaching your leash to your leg for the first time, you'll need to figure out which leg is your back leg. Click here to learn about which foot is your front foot on a surfboard
Surfboard Leash Trivia
Back in the 70's surf leashes were a piece of nylon cord threaded through a hollow tube of rubber. When the rubber stretched to its maximum the cord came into play to stop your surfboard. 99% of the time the rubber would stretch to its maximum creating a real fun pain effect as the surfboard wrenched your leg.
In those days my mother.... I mean in those days, surfers mothers (I am not that old!!) wouldnt let us use them. They were considered dangerous in that they will make the board come back at you and hit you in the head. But we found a way around that and made our own
..... here is what we did..... 50% of the length, was nylon cord, and the other 50% was a bungie/luggage rope (octupus strap)... the ankle strap was a hankerchief. We used to hide these in the bushes and pick them up on the way to the beach. Please do not try this at home!! The bungie part of the leash really did make the surfboard spring back at you.
These days, everyone knows the greatest danger of a surf leash is not springing the surfboard at you, although this is still a concern, the bigger danger is the leash being caught around a rock or reef and holding you under.
I have experienced this and it is not fun as the pressure of the waves against you can make it impossible for you to reach down and release the ankle strap. Many theorise that the great Mark Foo legendary big wave surfer died just this way at Mavericks.
You might be interested in browsing a few surf leashes online