Selecting the Right Surfboard Leash
By Robb Bailey
Although often overlooked, matching the right surfboard leash with the day’s conditions and environment can make or break your session.
The purpose of a surfboard leash is two-fold:
- To keep the board from getting washed into shore.
- To keep the board from possibly injuring someone else.
Most surfers stick to one type of board and leash setup for everyday use. For the most part, one type of leash will do just fine. But the leash you use to surf a California beach break in 2-3 foot conditions is not the same leash you would use to surf 8-10 foot island waves with a reef below.
Different surfing conditions, surf locations, and board sizes will determine what leash to choose. Here are the general features that determine what type of leash to select:
- Leash length: Most glaringly obvious, the length of the leash is the distance between the ankle strap and the rear attachment to the board. The longer the leash, the farther away the board is allowed to move from you during a wipeout.
- Leash thickness: Waves are a powerful force, and your leash needs to be able to withstand some tugging on it. The thickness of the leash is determined by how big the board is and how big the waves are. Bigger board and bigger waves equal the need for a thicker leash.
- Leash features: With features like a velcro pocket for an automobile key and a pull pin to release the chord from the ankle attachment in case of emergency, there are lots of useful options available on almost all leash sizes.
Selecting the Right Surfboard Leash
Although nothing about a leash will help anyone surf better, choosing the right equipment for surfing can make your surf session a better experience. Getting tangled in a poorly made leash while in the lineup certainly makes for a more frustrating session. It can also lead to more serious problems in the water. Using the right equipment can prevent injury and save someone’s life. Don’t get caught in a sticky situation!
Check out recommended leashes for the following board types and conditions:
Funboards/Hybrids– Any type of surfboard in the 7-9′ range warrants a longer leash to keep the board a little farther away during a wipeout. Grab a 7-8′ leash (1/4″ thickness) for this sized board.
Longboards– Longboards range anywhere from 9-12′, and a longer leash is a must if planning to walk the nose of the board. A 9-10′ leash should do the trick. Get a Calf leash if walking the nose, get an ankle leash if the plan is to be fairly stationary after standing up.
Big Wave conditions– Surfing bigger waves means switching to a thicker leash. Thicker leashes are made in all lengths to accommodate more forceful swells. Get a leash that has at least a 3/8″ thick chord.
Island Wave conditions– Most island waves are reef breaks. The last thing a surfer needs is to have a leash snagged in the reef during a session. Floating leashes come in all lengths, and have hollow cores to keep the reef from grabbing at the leash while you’re bobbing around.
Lastly, look for a surfboard leash that comes with double swivel hinges. One hinge is located on the ankle strap, and the other one is on the surfboard strap. Some cheaper leashes don’t have this feature, but any quality surfboard leash will have brass swivels on each end to prevent the chord from getting twisted up while surfing. Swivels are just one of the many things to consider when buying a surfboard leash.
Need the right leash? South Coast carries FCS and Dakine surf accessories.