Surfboard leashes were designed by Pat O’Neill (whose dad Jack O’Neill designed the first wetsuits!) back in ’71 and has since made surfing safer and easier for a whole generation of surfers. However, even the best surf leash can break so they should not be considered a life-saving device. Better be safe than sorry so don’t paddle out further than you can swim. But, without further ado, here’s all you need to know about surf leashes.

The Cuff

Finding a comfortable cuff is the most important thing for long hours at sea. Nowadays, double-wrapped velcro cuffs are the most widely used for their strength and extra security. Some cuffs even have key pockets to make sure you don’t lose your car while paddling out.

The Swivel

Swivel is the part between your cuff and the cord and its purpose is to keep the leash from tangling to your feet. You can get a leash with two swivels, one swivel or none at all. Though, we suggest you get a leash with at least one swivel.

A leash that is a foot longer that your board is a great place to start. Once you progress to bigger waves you might want to consider a longer leash.

The cord

Most leash cords are made out of polyurethane which is also used in skate shoes and snowboard boots. The strength of the cord depends on its thickness and a thicker cord will provide more durability in the long run. However, they will also provide more drag in the water.

The rail saver

The rail saver attaches the leash to your board and its purpose is to shield the rails from grinding against the cord. Thicker and wider rail savers will provide more protection but also increase drag in the water. Whether you want less drag in the water or less stress for your rails is up to you. Rail savers tend to be very similar but it’s always worth your while to browse around before purchasing.

Finding the right length

Whether you’re riding a shortboard, a longboard or even a sup, the length of the leash should be at least the same as the length of your board. If a leash is too short you might end up hitting yourself against your board. Some manufacturers list the length of the leash as the cord length which does not include the rail saver and the cuff. So make sure what you’re getting before you buy. Remember, the best surf leash is the one that fits you the best.

The thickness of the leash

Surf leashes come in two widths, regular leashes and competition leashes. Regular leashes are roughly 8mm (5/16″) in diameter where as competition leashes are 4.7mm (3/15″) thick.

Which one is better for me?

Regular leashes offer longevity and durability due to a thicker leash. That is why we suggest beginners and big wave riders to get one of these to prevent dangerous leash malfunctions. On the other hand, a thicker leash has a greater drag in the water, which might be unfavorable for experienced surfers.

Competition leashes are thinner and have less drag in the water which makes them great in a contest setting. They are also not as prone to tangling to your feet due to the thinner profile. However, just like with anything else, this all comes down to your personal preference.

While thicker leashes are less likely to snap, they have more drag when compared to thinner leashes.

Ankle or calf leashes?

Ankle leashes are the most widely used designs on the market today due to their ease of use and comfortability. On the other hand, sometimes ankle leashes tend to get tangled to your feet.

Calf leashes are nearly always used with a SUP or a longboard. This makes it easier for surfers to walk with their board without getting tangled. The downside is that they might be more uncomfortable to use for a longer period of time.

Did our buyer’s guide help you pick out a perfect surf leash? Let us know in the comments.

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