What Is a Surfboard Leash?

G. Wiesen

A surfboard leash is a length of tubing, which can be made from a variety of materials that is used to connect a surfboard to a surfer. This is typically connected to a surfer’s ankle, freeing hands for movements needed to maneuver on the board. A surfboard leash can be made in varying degrees of thickness, as thinner cords create less drag but are not as sturdy and are typically used in water with small waves. The length of a leash often matches that of the board itself, so that a surfer can keep it close but still have room to move.

Leashes allow surfers to stay connected to their boards.
Leashes allow surfers to stay connected to their boards.

Originally, surfboards did not have any type of strap or leash, and surfers had to keep track of their boards and swim after them. As surfers realized that the use of a surfboard leash allowed them to more quickly recover from a wipeout, it became a fairly standard addition to most boards. These straps were originally made from surgical tubing, but the extreme elasticity of the cords resulted in injuries as the board snapped back at surfers at high speeds. A modern surfboard leash is often made from urethane, which is stretchy but does not snap back as strongly.

Surfers don't want a leash that is too long, or it will drag while surfing.
Surfers don't want a leash that is too long, or it will drag while surfing.

The basic design of a surfboard leash is fairly simple, and it often consists of a length of tubing with one end that connects to a board. At the other end is typically a cuff that can go around the ankle of a surfer to keep the board in close proximity after a fall. Some leashes can even include a pocket or pouch that can be used for keys and other items a surfer wishes to keep around.

There are two major considerations a surfer should keep in mind when choosing a surfboard leash, which are its thickness and its length. The thickness of a leash is typically directly proportional to the size of the waves a surfer expects to encounter. Large waves often require a thick surfboard leash, to ensure the waves cannot break it, while a thin leash is sufficient for smaller waves. A thicker strap creates more drag when surfing, so most surfers choose a size that is appropriate but not too large.

The length of a surfboard leash is determined by the length of the board it is connected to. Most straps are about the same length as the board itself, usually rounded up when there is a difference. A surfer with a 7 foot (about 2.13 meters) board typically uses a 7 foot (about 2.13 meters) leash. This keeps the board close enough for easy recovery, but provides enough distance to avoid injury in a wipeout.

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