The surfboard leash was invented in the early 1970s by Pat O'Neil. As the son of Jack O'Neil, inventor of the O'Neil Wetsuit, and a keen surfer himself, Pat understood the frustrations of scrambling to retrieve a board following a wipeout.
The first time Pat wore his leash in an event, he was disqualified. There were also concerns that the leash would lead to serious injuries as surfboards bounced back and struck the surfers, but within just a couple of years, it was commonplace throughout the industry.
Today, leashes or "leg ropes" are considered to be an essential accessory, one that prevents more injuries than it causes, and saves surfers a lot of time and money in the process.
What is a Surfboard Leash Made of?
A leash has several different components:
The cuff is a Velcro attachment that fastens to your leg or ankle. Some leashes contain pockets where you can store valuables such as your keys.
The purpose of a swivel or double swivel is to allow the leash to spin and twist without getting tangled and causing problems for the wearer.
The cord is often made from polyurethane and can vary in thickness, with thicker cords being less likely to snap and more likely to create drag.
The part where the leash attaches to the surfboard, with the goal being to provide a safe and secure connection without placing too much stress on the rail.
How Long Should Your Surfboard Leash Be?
Ideally, a leash should be equal to or longer than the length of your board, which means you will need a different leash for a Shortboard than the one you use on a Longboard.
The thickness of the leash also needs to be considered. Thicker leashes provide more durability and stretch, and they are less prone to snapping. However, they also create more drag, and if you're in a competition looking for every edge that you can get, that's something you will want to avoid.
The Most Popular Surfboard Leashes
All of the following leashes are affordable, strong, and reliable. You can purchase most of them from Amazon and other major retailers. All were in stock at the time of writing, with prices varying from $20 to $50.
Dakine Kainui Team Surfboard Leash
Dakine is an established brand in the leash business and one that creates a top-of-the-range product with a surprisingly low price tag. This $30 leash is made from urethane with neoprene cuffs. It's long, it's strong, and it's ideal for those challenging surfs.
Channel Islands Surfboards Super Comp
Using the Hex-Cord technology, Channel Islands is able to create a thin leash that offers the strength of a much thicker one. It's not as prone to stretching and kinks as other leashes and is also surprisingly affordable at less than $30.
Dakine John John Florence Kainui Surfboard Leash
Another solid leash from Dakine, the John John has minimal drag and is both lightweight and affordable. It features a neoprene cuff that has a quick-release mechanism.
FCS Competition Essential Leash
A leash that is designed to be light and comfortable, cresting less drag while still providing you with the strength that you need. However, these leashes are best limited to small and medium surf and are not suited to large waves.
How To Attach A Leash To A Surfboard
To attach your leash, you should first feed the leash string through the leash plug. Simply tie both ends of the string together and then loop one end through the plug.
Attach the rail saver with the Velcro straps and make sure the string is short enough so that when you rotate the leash, only the rail saver, and not the string, touches the rails. Attach the cuff to the ankle nearest the tail of your board, and you're good to go!