Understanding Surf Leashes
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Understanding Surf Leashes


Surf leashes have become a quintessential part of surfing. They promote safety for not only the user but for other nearby surfers and swimmers. Although surf leashes are helpful, there are also dangers associated with them. In this guide, you'll learn about the positive and negative aspects of a surfboard leash.

What is a Surf Leash?

A surf leash is a cord made out of urethane that attaches the ankle of the surfer to the tail end of a surfboard. The leash is secured to the surfer's ankle by a Velcro™ strap. Although originally made out of surgical cord, urethane is a great material for cords. It has an ample amount of stretch to give the surfer some freedom yet absorbs the force attributed from waves. This combination significantly reduces the chance of the surfboard stretching far away then snapping forcefully back towards the user.

How does it Work?

A surf leash is comprised of the ankle strap, cord, swivel, rail saver, and string for attachment to the surfboard. Here's a little more information about each part, beginning at the part in closest contact with the surfboard:

  • String: The string attaches the leash to your surfboard. It's usually made out of nylon and is tied in a knot around the surfboard leash plug. Modern surfboards have leash plugs already built into the surfboard for convenience.
  • Rail Saver: The next part you'll encounter is the rail saver. Tension from the leash being constantly tugged builds up and can cause serious damage to the rail region of your surfboard tail. The rail saver acts as a cushion that protects the tail of the surfboard from damage.
  • Swivel: Most surf leashes will have double swivels. One between the rail saver and cord, the other between the cord and ankle strap. Swivels promote a free range of movement for the surfer while reducing entanglement. You can think of the swivel as a 'joint' on the surfboard. It can rotate in different directions to reduce the chances of your cord getting tangled up.
  • Cord: The cord is a bulk of a surf leash. The urethane cord is usually the same length of the surfboard or slightly longer. The thickness and overall measurements of the cord varies based upon your surfboard length and your personal preference.
  • Ankle Strap: This is the part that attaches to your ankle via Velcro™. The ankle strap is secured to whichever ankle is planted on the tail of the surfboard. For example, if you have a regular stance with your left foot in the front of the surfboard and right foot in back, then you'll secure the ankle strap to your right foot.

Perks of a Surf Leash

Generally speaking, a surf leash is seen as a necessary accessory for surfing. Some state beaches even have laws that mandate all surfers to wear surf leashes. With thrashing waves, a surfboard leash prevents the issue of runaway boards. A runaway board can cause serious injury to an unsuspecting surfer and can even knock surfers unconscious. For this reason, surf leashes are a must for crowded waters.

In addition, a surf leash means that when you wipe out, your board is never far away. Exhaustion is deadly while in the water, especially with forceful waves and currents surrounding you. Swimming to a runaway board can easily exhaust a surfer making drowning a possibility before even attempting the lengthy swim to shore.

Possible Hazards

Although surf leashes promote safety, they can sometimes be dangerous. Because the use of surf leashes is so prominent, some surfers have become dependent on them. Thus, they experience a false sense of security and expect their surfboard to always be around as a swim aid. However, it's very possible for a surfboard leash to break away from a surfboard, allowing the board to drift away and strand the surfer momentarily.

Entanglement is also a serious issue. Due to the long length of the cord, it's very common for a surfboard leash to become tangled around a surfer's leg. Surfers should periodically check and untangle the leash from their legs. However, this becomes a second-nature habit for surfers.

Furthermore, obstacles lurking under the water can be a detriment to surf leashes. When the surfer and/or surfboard are submerged, the leash can sometimes get tangled with items like coral and seaweed. Fear not though! Surfboard leashes come equipped with quick-release mechanisms so you can easily detach from the leash if necessary.

Surfing Safety

The positives ultimately outweigh the negatives when it comes to surf leashes. Although wearing one can agitate some surfers, surfboard leashes encourage the safety of yourself and others in the water. Surfing is an incredibly fun, thrilling sport but has hidden dangers that can easily be prevented with the right safeguards.

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