A leash or leg rope is a urethane cord attached to the deck of a surfboard, down near the tail. A leg rope plug enables the leg rope to be attached here using a leg rope string. The other end of the leg rope is secured tightly around the surfers ankle with a velcro fastening strap covered in neoprene to provide comfort for the user. The purpose of using a leg rope is to keep the surfboard attached to a surfers ankle at a safe distance. Should the surfer fall whilst riding a wave, the surfboard will not be swept away, thus allowing the surfer to quickly recover his surfboard and return to the take off zone. The leg rope was invented in the 70's amidst controversy that it was a dangerous accessory. Initially, a minority of people expressed concern that if a surfer fell whilst riding a wave and wearing a leg rope, the surfboard may bounce back and hit the surfer causing serious injury. Although this can happen, most surfers today choose to use a leg rope whilst surfing as it is believed that leg ropes prevent more accidents than they cause.
The first leg rope on the surfboard was created by Peter Wright, in Raglan, (Waikato) New Zealand. It was established in the very early 1970s It consisted of nylon. He is not credited for his efforts because he did not copyright the leg rope. The urethane design was patented by David Hattrick (Australian Patent 505,451 issued September 5, 1977). Later in the 70's, he established Pipe Lines surfing products and developed a design that could be patented. This design also won an Australian Design Award in 1979.
A general rule for the length of leash is to have one as long as your board, but it can end up being stretched out much longer than your board through use.
Parts of the leash
The cord is typically made of polyurethane. The thicker the width of the cord, the stronger the leash will be and the less likely your cord will break. Thicker cords create more drag than thinner ones.
The cuff is the part that attaches around the leg. Velcro is used to hold it in place. Choose a cuff that looks comfortable and that will stay nice and snug when you surf. Also consider one with a key pocket so you can take your car key out with you for security. (Just make sure it's not an electronic key!)
The Rail Saver
The job of the rail saver is to protect the surfboard's rails from the cord. When you come off your board and the leash pulls tightly, there can be a lot of pressure on the rail. The wider and longer the rail saver, the more protection is given to the board. However, large rail savers tend to create more drag. The rail saver is the end that attaches to the leash cord, which in turn attaches to the leash plug on the surfboard.
The cord connection between the cuff and the rail are sometimes on a swivel joint. A swivel helps keep the leash from getting tangled up around the surfer's feet.
Attaching a leash to a surfboard
There are two typical connections that you'll find on a leash; either a sewn loop connection which the cord passes through or a Velcro strap that closes over the loop. With the sewn loop you must ensure that the cord has been threaded through the loop BEFORE you tie the knot. (You'll soon realise why if you do forget thread it). With the Velcro strap you can go right ahead and tie it.
Tying the leash string
The leash string is the string bit that connects the main leash to the surfboard. The first step is to tie the ends of the leash string together to create a loop. This has to be done leaving enough room to pass the leash through when attached to the leash plug on the board.
- Fold the cord in half and hold both ends.
- Create a loop in the cord and pass the unfastened ends through the loop. Don't forget -- if you have a sewn loop leash as above, then you need to thread the cord through the leash loop first.
- Pulling towards the untied ends, close the loop tightly. Leave a little of the open ends sticking out so the knot will not pull free when it tightens in the water (the knot will tighten when used for the first few sessions).
- With the sewn loop, move the knot round so it is covered by the leash loop. This will make it a little more comfortable when you are on your board and keep the knot out of the way for the next stage.
Attaching leash to surfboard
Once the knot is tied you then need to thread the cord through the leash plug on your board.
- Straighten the cord out and pinch the end opposite the knot together.
- Thread the end through the plug and out. If you have problems threading through, then use some fishing line to help. Thread the line through the plug then through the tied cord and back through the loop. You can then use the fishing line to pull the cord loop through the plug. A key or a stick is also helpful to push the cord through the loop.
- Now you need to attach the leash to the cord. (If you have the sewn loop type, then it will already be attached.)
- The Velcro leash needs to be threaded through both the loops of the cord. This ensures the strongest attachment and keeps the knot within the Velcro part and out of the way. Once threaded through, close the Velcro tight.
- If you have the sewn loop leash then you need to thread the entire loop through the cord loop.
- Take the leg attachment end and stuff it through the loop. Now's the time you find out if you've left enough room in your knot cord. If you can't get it through, then undo the knot, get back to the top, and try again!
- Pull the leash all the way through and tighten. Now you're done.
So here are the finished ties. Both the sewn loop and Velcro are shown, and both are (hopefully) solid as a rock.
The left-hand image above shows the Velcro board leash, and the right-hand image shows the sewn board leash. Notice anything different about them? Did you know that the Velcro-attached cord will have double the strength of the sewn cord? This makes the Velcro leash the recommended type based on cord strength, a factor to consider when buying a surfboard leash.
Warning: Don't make the loop too large. If the cord reaches the rail of your surfboard, the rail will become damaged while surfing. The loop should be a length that allows the leash's rail saver (the wide section of strap at the end of the leash) to rest on the board rail.