How to choose a surfboard leash

The surfboard leash or otherwise known as a leg rope was invented back in 1971, and ever since has been a lifesaver for surfers worldwide, it’s a complete necessity for your board.

The idea of the leash is to keep track of your board by keeping it attached to you in nasty waves and heavy wipeouts, No one likes swimming back to shore to collect their board, let’s be serious, it’s easier to just get back on your board and catch the next wave.

As good as a leg rope is though, they will can and will break, so keep safe, if you cannot swim back to shore without your board, don’t go out so far, surfing is a dangerous sport, and should be treated as such.

I’ve written this in-depth guide on picking a surfboard leash to cover the basics, on construction, functionality and, understanding differences.

Photo Credit: Surf Nation

Cuff

It’s 2018, these days, it’s expected that your leg rope comes with a double wrap-around velcro cuff, this adds extra strength and security to your leg, the better leg ropes and leashes will come with a key pocket in your cuff, this gives you a place to securely place your car key whilst you’re out on the waves. These are typically not waterproof, but more high-end leg ropes are coming out with watertight compartments.

Swivel

When looking for a fin, it’s highly recommended to look for a surfboard leash that comes with a swivel, this allows the cuff to spin and twist without the rope itself twisting or tangling, this means less strain on your rope, meaning a longer lasting product. These are typically using 1 or 2 bearing swivels. Ensure they’re using quality bearings and something that won’t corrode over time.

Cord

Cords are typically made from a high-quality polyurethane, typically coming in 2 thicknesses, 4.7 and 8mm depending on the thickness will depend on the strength of your leash. However, the thicker your legrope the more drag it has in the water.

Rail Saver

Designed to provide a secured connection to your board, and offer less strain on the rail, the rail saver is made from a quality fabric that attaches to the cord. A higher-quality leash will have a wider, and longer fabric, this will protect your rail when you fall off, and the cord is taut. Although a wider, and longer rail saver may offer better protection, the disadvantage is greater water drag, this is a personal preference whether you want rail protection, or more concerned about the drag.

Length

A strongly argued question, the length of your leg rope or leash, this has been a heated argument between surfers since the beginning of time.

How long should your leg rope or leash be?

Your legrope or leash should be equal to the length of your board, or slightly longer. Ranging from 4' for a grom board, and a massive 12' for your SUP or Longboard.

There are however many different leash lengths to choose from, the length of leash that is right for you greatly depends on many variants.

How long is your board, and what is your surfing ability? These are probably the two more important variants. The general rule of thumb is your legrope should be the same length or slightly longer than the length of your board, This means the same legrope should not be used for your shortboard, as your longboard.

Additional Note: If your board is between two sizes of legrope, we strongly recommend going to the size up.

Thickness

There are two common thicknesses to a leg rope, and these are referred to as competition leashes, and regular leashes. A competition leash is usually 4.7mm (3/16th of an inch) thick whilst a regular leash will be 8mm (5/16th of an inch) thick. This is the harder part of picking a leash, working out what thickness you need, it comes down to a few important key factors. Wave height, your experience and ability level, and your surfboards length.

Competition Leashes

A competition leash is thinner due to the drag in which a leash has, a semi-pro or pro will want to reduce water drag using a thinner, and lighter-weight leg rope. This does mean they’re more prone to breaking than the ultra-thick regular ropes. A comp leash will also tangle less than a regular, due to it’s thinner profile, this means fewer leg tangles or wrapping around fins.

Looking at length is a commonly argued question, how long should my legrope be.

A safe answer is if you’re surfing on a board less then 7' a competition leash should be fine to use.

Regular Leashes

Regular leashes are the most commonly used leg rope due to their strength and reliability for every day or casual surfers alike. Beginners and big wave riders should use a thicker regular leash due to more frequent falls and unexpected strain.

Attachment Point: Ankle or Calf

Working out whether you should use an ankle leash, or a calf leash is a pretty easy decision, and one you’ll easily be able to choose.

Ankle

Ankle ropes/leashes are to make things simple, the better choice for the larger majority of surfers, the ankle is a comfortable position for the cuff to sit, this is evident when paddling, or riding a save. However, due to the cuff being so low on your leg, this means a greater chance of being tangled, and when a swivel comes in handy.

Calf / Knee

You’ll often find calf or knee leashes used on a SUP or a longboard, the higher your cuff means walking your board more freely, fewer tangles and significantly less drag. Although some riders may find this rather uncomfortable.

Conclusion

Choose a quality, well designed and manufactured brand of leg rope, a reliable brand, and supplier.

Make sure the length you choose is equal to or longer than the length of your board, and that you choose a regular or competition leash depending on your skill level and wave sizes.

Choose whether or not you want a swivel, and the size of your rail saver, once again this depends whether you’re okay with a little drag in order to save your rail, or would prefer less water drag.

If you have any questions about leg ropes or leashes, send us an email, and we will be more than happy to help.