Do I Really Need a Leash? And if so, what size?
Beginners’ guide to surfing
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Table of Contents
Article 1 – 5-minute beginners guide to surfing equipment
Article 2 – How difficult is it to learn to surf?
Article 3 – How late is too late to start surfing?
Article 4 – Is surfing an expensive hobby?
Article 5 – Surfboards: How to choose a surfboard?
Article 9 – How to choose a surfboard leash (legrope)
Article 10 – Why do surfboards have fins?
Article 11 – Why do surfers put wax on surfboards?
Article 12 – Surfboard Tail Pad & Boardbag. Do you need them?
Article 13 – What wetsuit should I buy?
Article 14 – Top 15 Mistakes When Buying a Surfboard Setup
Article 16 – How and Where Should I Start Learning to Surf?
Article 17 – Top Ten Resources to Teach Yourself to Surf
Article 18 – Where to Learn to Surf
Article 19 – What are the Best Surf Schools?
Article 20 – What is the best time to surf?
Article 21 – What are the Best Surfer Hacks?
Article 23 – What should surfers do to be safe?
Article 24 – How often do surfers break surfboards?
So, we’ve taken you through a bunch of stuff you need to know before learning to surf and covered in detail what you need to know about the kind of surfboard you should be looking for. Now, we’re going to cover off a few more niche items that you’ll need out in the water, beginning with leashes. As you might expect this is a little bit more straightforward than choosing a board, so we’ll get through this in one piece rather than the four we needed to take you through surfboards.
Leashes are a pretty pivotal part of your surfing arsenal, particularly as a beginner. There are occasions where you’ll see surfers without a leash – namely longboarders on smallish waves who are in full control of what they’re doing – but if you’re just starting out you’ll certainly need one if you want to avoid getting stranded at sea without a board.
Leashes serve a pretty simple purpose – they attach you to your board to make sure that, even if you fall and become separated from your board, it won’t stray too far away. This helps not only you but also others in the vicinity – if you’re attached to your board by a six-foot leg rope, you don’t have to worry about your board colliding with anyone further away than the distance of your leg rope and your board combined.
Leashes attach to the base of your board at one end, and your back ankle at the other. This means if you’re a goofy-footer – ie someone who has your right foot at the front of your board – your leash will attach to your left ankle, while if you’re regular it will attach to your right. It’s a common and sometimes embarrassing mistake for beginners to tie it to the wrong ankle – when you try to stand up you’ll quickly find it’s much more of a hindrance than a help and can result in some awkward wipe-outs.
Leashes come in a variety of different lengths, and the most suitable one for you will roughly correlate to the length of the board you’re using. If you’re on a six-foot board you’ll want a leash of around the same length – any longer and you’ll probably spend a lot of time getting it out your way and trying to untangle it. Conversely, if you’re on a nine-footer a six-foot leash won’t cut it. Basically this is because when you sit on the board you’re further from the tail than you would be on a shortboard, as you are when standing. You’ll also want a little more distance between you and the board when you fall. If you go down on a nine-foot board and your leash is six-feet long, you can do the maths – there’s a good chance you’ll cop a big, heavy longboard to the nose.
This might all make it sound like they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but trust me, that’s not the case. Leashes are an integral part of surfing for almost everybody, and are as important in keeping you and others safe out in the water as your board itself.
There are also a couple of things you can do to keep them out of your way. For starters, make sure whenever possible your leash is facing outwards, away from your ankle, rather than pointing in towards your other foot. This will help to prevent you from getting tangled up in it and avoid the uncomfortable situation of popping up on your board with the leash looped around your ankle. Be sure to tighten your leash enough to prevent it spinning around on your ankle as much as possible without cutting off circulation to your foot. It may still move around a little, but if it’s tight enough it should hold fairly still.
At the other end of the leash, tying it to your surfboard is generally relatively simple but how exactly you go about doing it will vary a little from board to board. Every board will have what’s known as a leash plug – typically this will be a small indent right at the tail of your board with a bar across it. With most boards, you’ll need to first fasten a string to the leash plug. An easy way to do this is to tie the ends of the string to one another, then put one end through the plug and loop it once more. Often boards will come with this string already installed, and from there you won’t have any issues getting your leash attached.
And one final piece of advice – when you’re walking to or from the water with your leash attached to your board, make sure you know where it is! Don’t be one of those beginners who lets it drag through the sand – that’s a sure-fire way to end up tripping over it and falling face first into the ground.
So, that’s all you need to know about leashes – what they’re for, why you need them, and how to use them. Next up we’ll go into detail about another key piece of equipment – your fins. Many people underestimate the importance of these, but a board without good fins is like a boat without a good rudder so it’s vital to understand them.