Leashes are pretty important. They do a few handy things. First, you’re not swimming into the beach every time you fall on a set wave. Your precious surfboard isn’t getting bashed against the rocks, either. And perhaps the best thing they do — unless you’re a strange, selfish person — is they protect other surfers from your wayward knife as it bounces through a crowded lineup. Oh, there are surely a few redeemable things about surfing without a leash, like the strange feeling of freedom one gets and learning how to surf without simply doing flyaway airs with no sense of where your board is going. But for the most part, leashes are a good thing. Since it’s always leash season, here are nine of our favorites, updated for 2023.
What Are the Best Surf Leashes?
Best Overall Leash: FCS All Around Essential Leash ($38)
Best Longboard Leash: Creatures of Leisure Longboard Knee Leash ($49)
Best Budget Leash: Abahub Surfboard Leash ($12-$18)
Best High-Tech Comp Leash: FCS Freedom Helix Comp Leash ($48)
Best No-Frills Comp Leash: FCS Competition Essential Leash ($36)
Most Eco-Friendly (Basic): Wave Tribe ECO Surfboard Leash ($22-$36)
Most Eco-Friendly (Premium): Sympl Supply Co Re-Leash ($32 – $40)
Best Big-Wave Leash: XM Big Wave/Power Clip Leash ($40-$67)
Best SUP Leash: Dakine Coiled SUP Calf Leash ($38)
Best Overall Leash
FCS All around Essential Leash ($38)
Thickness: 7 mm
This is our pick when you just need a no-nonsense leash that will do what it’s supposed to do. It hits all the right notes on comfort, secure fit, and ease on putting on and taking off. You really can’t go wrong with this one for most waves – although it’s rated to 8′ so anything above you might need a stronger leash. But for most people and most waves, this is our go-to option.CHECK PRICE ON EVO
Best Longboard Leash
Creatures of Leisure Longboard Knee Leash ($49)
For the days when you gotta leash the log, a comfortable and unobtrusive leash is important so you don’t regret deciding to wear a leash (usually the right decision) the second you start cross-stepping to the nose. You’ll also want a leash a bit longer than the board you ride to prevent the dreaded snap-back if you do make it to the nose, which is where the 10′ length of Creatures’ longboard leash is key. Creature’s surf leash also comes with a quick release tag at the cuff should anything go wrong, not a bad idea if you ask me.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best Budget Leash
Abahub Surfboard Leash ($16 – $21)
Thickness: 5.5mm – 7mm
Length: 6′ – 10′
Amazon’s Choice for “Surf Board Leashes.” All I really have to say about it is that it’s cheap – more than 50 percent cheaper than the average leash you’d find at a surf shop, actually. If that’s the type of leash you want, and not one from a trusted manufacturer, buy this one. It should do the trick, but if it doesn’t,CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best No-Frills Comp Leash
FCS Competition Essential Leash ($36)
FCS’s Comp leash series are great for the surfer who doesn’t surf the biggest waves on a day-to-day basis. They’re made not so much for strength, but to be light, super comfortable, and relatively durable. Don’t use this one if you’re surfing waves over, say, 6-feet regularly. The silicone grip on the inside of the cuff is a massive win though.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best High-Tech Comp Leash
FCS Freedom Helix Comp Leash ($50)
Hate leashes? This one’s for you. The FCS Freedom Helix leash features a corn-based Bio-resin that results in a lighter and stronger cord. The helix shape of the cord and overmould allows for responsive shock absorption without being too elastic where it would snap back on you. It also has a quick release if you need it, to give you added peace of mind when charging the heavy waves. The whole unit is lightweight and responsive, and just what you need when you want a high-performance leash.
Most Eco-Friendly (Basic)
Wave Tribe ECO Surfboard Leash ($30 – $35)
Length: 5’6 – 10’0.
If you’re looking for a solid brand made for and by real surfers who care about the environment, look no further than Wave Tribe. While it’s not one of the heavy hitters in the surfing industry (yet) the folks over at Wave Tribe make gear that they use themselves, so they make it the best it can be. They have some of the best board bags on the market that last seemingly forever and protect your surfboards better than pretty much anything else on the market, and the leashes are built with the same mindset. Want more? They’ll replace your leash for free if it breaks within a year, no questions asked. We’ve chosen their longboard leash for inclusion here because, well, it’s a dang-good longboard leash. With double swivel technology, this thing’s not getting jammed up. The whole thing is made of recycled materials, and it’s just as strong — if not stronger — than any other leash. Same goes for the velcro. It’s not coming undone. These leashes have been thoroughly tested at places like Maverick’s and Teahupo’o. And of course, they’ve got the handy little key stash pocket.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Most Eco-Friendly (Premium)
Sympl Supply Co Re-Leash ($34)
Length: 6’0 – 9’0.
Sympl Supply Co has made a full commitment to sustainability, meaning you can choose any of their products with the peace of mind that you’re choosing a low-impact product. Their surf leashes are not only made of recycled plastic bottles, but they look damn good too with minimalist styling and a range of unpretentious colors.
Best Big Wave Leash
XM Big Wave/Power Clip Leash ($54 – $66)
The quick-release clip, minus the Pe’ahi overkill. XM Surf More Leashes are made in San Clemente, CA and have been trusted by surfers around the world since the 1970’s when Surf More was at the forefront of developing leash technology such as the velcro cuff and urethane cord. This is the leash you reach for when you know it’s going to be big.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best SUP Leash
Dakine Coiled SUP Calf Leash ($38)
Dakine has been a leader in surf accessories longer than many of you groms and ex-groms have been alive. Over their decades of innovating, they have steadily come up with an arsenal of essentials designed to make your day out on the water hassle-free. So it’s no surprise that when SUPs came along, they would make leashes that check all the boxes for comfort, durability, and safety. The coil helps soften the jarring effect on big bails with such a big board. The calf strap helps even further allowing you to place the leash where you’ve got a bit more meat on the bones. But fear not if you prefer to have it on your ankle, they also make the same leash with an ankle strap.CHECK PRICE ON BACKCOUNTRY
|FCS All around Essential Leash||$38||7mm||6′||Best Overall|
|Creatures of Leisure Longboard Knee Leash||$49||7mm||10′||Best Longboard Leash|
|Abahub Surfboard Leash||$16-$21||5.5mm-7mm||6′-10′||Best Budget Leash|
|FCS Competition Essential Leash||$36||5.5mm||6′||Best No-Frills Comp Leash|
|FCS Freedom Helix Leash||$48||5mm||6′||Best Tech Comp Leash|
|Wave Tribe ECO Surfboard Leash||$30-$35||Varies||5’6′-8′||Most Eco-Friendly (Basic)|
|Sympl Supply Co Re-Leash||$34||6mm||6′||Most Eco-Friendly (Premium)|
|XM Big Wave/Power Clip Leash||$54-$66||8mm||6′-10′||Best Big-Wave Leash|
|Dakine Coiled SUP Calf Leash||$38||5mm||10′||Best SUP Leash|
How Thick of a Leash Should I Get?
While it might be hard to distinguish one surf leash from another, thickness is one factor that can make or break (pun intended) your leashed-surfing experience. Leash thickness is measured in 16ths of an inch or millimeters. Competition (or “Comp”) leashes hover around the five to six millimeter mark, and big wave leashes, such as the Dakine Peahi Leash, can get up to 11mm. Of course you don’t want your leash to break, but dragging around a half-inch-thick piece of urethane cord is, without a doubt, overkill. As a general rule of thumb, If you’re unsure of what leash thickness to get go with a six to seven millimeter leash (about 1/4 inch) — durable, but not overkill. If wearing a leash really bums you out and you don’t mind swimming if it breaks, try out a comp leash, but don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
How Long of a Leash Should I Get?
A good rule of thumb is to use a similar length to that of the board you ride . 6′ leashes are usually good for shortboards, a 7′ leash for midlengths, a heavy-duty 7′ leash to use with a 6-7 foot board for bigger waves, and a 10′ calf leash for longboards. None of my longboards are 10′, but it’s nice to have a bit of extra length for getting to the nose of my surfboard.
Features That Matter
Leash technology has been a bit stagnant as of late, but some of the new features cropping up could definitely be worth springing for. Some leashes are now coming with a silicone grip on the inside of the cuff to reduce slippage around the ankle — definitely a must-have on the next leash that I buy. Another cool feature that’s made it out recently is a quick-release loop on the ankle cuff of big-wave leashes. At dangerous reefs this can be a great idea — the story goes that Mark Foo, the legendary Mavericks charger, died at the famous big-wave break when his leash got tangled on the reef and he was trapped below the surface. Quick-releases are also gaining popularity among river-surfers due to the swift currents and plethora of tangle-hazards lurking just below the surface. You never know when it just might come in handy.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.