Essential for pretty much every surfer, the surfboard leash helps you to get back on your board after a wipeout and provides safety to yourself and other surfers. This article looks at the best surfboard leashes that are available and which brands to choose, plus how to use and attach a leash to your surf board.
Table of Contents -->
Best Surfboard Leash Reviews(Partially visible? On mobile scroll through using the bar at the bottom of the table)
|Surfboard, Longboard, SUP
|SUP paddleboarding only!
|Surfboard comp leash
|5ft to 10ft (straight cord)
|10ft (coiled cord)
|6ft to 8ft
|6ft to 7ft
|7.2mm urethane cord
|7mm urethane cord
|5.5mm polyurethane cord
Aimed at short surfboards that are under 7ft, the Kainui leash from Dakine comes with a 1/4″ thick cord and safety release.
Another Kainui leash from Dakine but this time aimed at longboard surfers so the length of the cord is extended. Comes with a 6.4mm thick cable.
Accessories for Surfboard Leashes
After buying a surfboard leash, it’s always a good idea to keep a spare piece of surfboard string in your car and house as it’s one of those items that’s always hard to find when needed!
Why use a surfboard leash?
The surfboard leash is strapped to your ankle and prevents the surfboard from floating away from you when you fall off a wave or wipeout. Without it, you’d spend half of your surfing time swimming after your board. It’s also very necessary as it helps to prevent your surfboard from hitting other swimmers and surfers and allows you to get quickly back upon your board.
Types of surfboard leashes
The main types of surfing leash are:
A regular surfboard leash tends to be a bit thicker and is strapped to your surfboard and your ankle. These get used on all sizes of surfboard and if you’re uncertain then just stick with a normal leash because this will work for most users.
These are thinner and lighter so they don’t drag on the water. It’s overkill for a beginner surfer but might make the difference once you start getting good.
Strapped to the knee or ankle, you might consider one of these leashes if you’re a paddleboarder or longboarder.
Ankle leashes vs calf leashes
The vast majority of people use an ankle leash. It’s simply more comfortable and easier to use compared with the calf leash. However, a calf leash (sometimes called a knee leash) might be a better choice if you’re surfing on a longboard or paddleboard. On longboards, a calf leash will stop the cord from tangling as much and you’ll be able to walk up and down the board, plus do tricks like hanging your feet on the nose of the board more easily. If you’re new and unsure about which type to choose, then choose an ankle leash as this works best in most cases.
Surfboard leash length
The length of this section varies depending upon the type of board that you’re using but it’s typically from 6ft-10ft long. When choosing the size of your surfboard leash you want it to be about the same size to 1 foot longer of the board that you’re using. This is especially true if you have a longboard and want to be able to place your feet on the front of the board and ‘hang ten’. However, you don’t want a cord that is too long as it is more likely to become tangled.
Surfboard leash buying guide
In summary of the details above, when choosing your surfboard leash you should consider the following:
Most people choose an ankle leash but in rare cases you might consider a calf/knee leash. Choose a normal leash, unless you’re an experienced surfer in which case you might want a comp leash.
You want the length of your leash to be either the same size as your surfboard or 1 foot longer than it.
The cord of the surfboard leash for regular surfers is usually 5/16″ or 8mm. If you’re getting a comp leash then the thickness may be thinner at 1/4″or 4.7mm.
Check to see if the leash comes with one, two (on both ends) or no swivels at all. Swivels mean the leash is less likely to become tangled.
Some leashes comes with a button or safety release that is located next to the swivel on the ankle strap end of the leash. In emergencies you simply push on this button and your foot will be released from the surfboard leash and surfboard.
Located within the ankle strap you might find a pocket that can be used to store small items such as keys. It gets closed when you strap up the velcro.
Parts of a surfboard leash
A surfboard leash strap, also known as the cuff, is usually strapped to your ankle but is sometimes strapped to the knee or calf when doing long boarding or paddle boarding. This strap is typically made of neoprene and velcro that is stitched into it on the outside, and has a soft lycra inside section for wrapping around your ankle. The ankle strap is normally 2.5-3 inches wide and 1.5-2 foot long.
Some straps have a small pocket for storing keys inside, which is handy if you’re going down to the beach with a car.
This isn’t always included, but some surfboard leashes come with a swivel section that is next to the ankle strap or the rail saver. When choosing your leash check to see if it comes with one, two or no swivels at all. This swivel helps the board to not become tangled as easily and prevents you from tripping up on the leash when you’re standing up.
The cord of the leash is usually made from polyurethane. The thickness of a cord is normally from 1/4″ to 5/16″ (or 4.7mm to 8mm). Normal leashes tend to have cords that are thicker and stronger so they can take more wear and tear. However, the downside is that they tend to be heavier and create more drag in the water. Competition leashes on the other hand are thinner and lighter so they create less drag in the water plus they are also usually tangle less.
You might see a coiled leash and think this is a great idea as it will prevent drag in the water. However, coiled leashes are usually used for stand up paddleboarding and not normal types of surfing as the strength in the coil weakens the cord.
This section of the leash attaches the cord to the surfboard. The rail saver is needed as a lot of pressure is applied to the cord and surfboard during wipeouts. The extra surface area of the rail saver helps to spread this pressure and you also need it because it stops the cord of the leash rubbing on to the attachment and side of the board (the rail).
Without the rail saver, there is less drag in the water but over time both the leash and the surfboard rail would rub against each other, causing extra wear and tear. You attach the rail saver to the leash plug/cup on the surfboard. The rail saver is normally about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long.
How to attach a surfboard leash
- Check the strap type – Look at the rail saver end of your surfboard leash (not the ankle strap end) and figure out if the rail saver is sewn together or whether it comes with a velcro strap.
- If the rail saver comes with a velcro strap then you can tie the knot of the leash string first and then afterwards strap the velcro of the rail saver around it.
- If the rail saver comes with a sewn strap then first loop the string through the rail saver and then tie your knot.
- Get a piece of leash string – You need a leash string that is about 9 inches or 23 cm in length. When cutting the string, some people like to burn the ends of the string with a lighter so the ends do not flare.
- Tie a knot – Create a loop using the leash string and tighten it to one end. The type of knot you want to tie is an “overhand knot”. You want the loop on the string to be just big enough to be able to hold the rail saver part of the surfboard leash. If using a sewn together rail saver then remember to loop the string through the rail saver first before tying the knot.
- Attach the string to the surfboard – Push the string with the loop end through the leash plug on the surfboard. The leash plug or cup is located on the tail end of the surfboard.
- Loop the string back over itself
- Attach the leash string to the rail saver on the surfboard leash – This is done by opening the velcro strap on the rail saver, looping the leash string through it and then closing the velcro again.
- Check the length of the leash string – If it is too long then it will rub on the end of the board and cause damage. Instead the rail saver should be hitting your board and not the leash rope/string. You may need to readjust the length if this is the case.
Which ankle should you attach your leash to?
Practice a pop up – This is where you lie on the floor and jump up into a surfer’s pose. Do this a few times and you’ll find that naturally one foot feels better in front of the other. Whichever is the back foot that you pop up onto is the foot that you should attach the surfboard leash onto. If you’re left foot forward then this is called natural footed whereas right foot first is called goofy foot.
How to wear a surfboard leash
- First, straighten out the leash so there are no knots or tangles in the cord.
- If wearing a wetsuit, roll up the wetsuit leg of the ankle you’ll be putting your leash onto.
- Wrap the strap of the surfboard leash around your ankle. You want the strap to be facing backwards and to the outside of your ankle.
- The strap should be secure enough so that it doesn’t move and can’t move around your ankle.
- Fold back your wetsuit over the surfboard leash strap.
- Calf leashes follow similar steps but tend to be strapped to the outside of the wetsuit and to the top section of your calf to prevent the leash from falling down.
Surfing without a leash?
It’s highly recommended that you always surf with a leash. Very few people have the skill, safety and maturity level to be able to surf without a leash. Not only are you putting yourself in danger but when you fall off (which will happen), other swimmers and surfers are also being put in danger.
Having said that, some people still insist on surfing leash-less. If you do decide to do this, then it’s best to surf without a leash when:
- You’re a very experienced surfer that is safety conscious of other people.
- You’re a very capable swimmer that is able to withstand large waves in the whitewater.
- There’s no one else in the water or there are very few people about.