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 six of our favorites, updated for 2021.
What Are the Best Surf Leashes?
Basic Eco-Friendly: Wave Tribe ECO Surfboard Leash ($21.95 – $35.95)
Premium Eco-Friendly: Sympl Supply Co Re-Leash ($32.00 – $40.00)
Best Budget Leash: Abahub Surfboard Leash ($11.99 – $17.99)
Extra-Strength, All-Rounder: Dakine Kaimana Team Leash ($47.99)
Super-Tech Comp Leash: FCS Freedom Leash ($48.00)
No-Frills Comp Leash: FCS Competition Essential Leash ($29.99 – $34.95)
Longboard Leash: Creatures of Leisure Longboard Knee Leash ($42.00)
Big-Wave Leash: XM Big Wave/Power Clip Leash ($39.95 – $67.00)
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. 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?
I generally use leashes that are about the same length as the board I am riding. I have a couple of 6′ leashes that I use with my shortboards, a 7′ leash for my midlengths, a heavy-duty 7′ leash that I use with a 6-7 foot board for bigger waves, and a 10′ calf leash that I use with my 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. That being said, unless you’re surfing a wave as big and dangerous as Mavs, chances are you don’t need a quick-release.
Length: 5’6″ – 10′
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 Teahupoo. And of course, they’ve got the handy little key stash pocket.
Length: 6′ – 9′
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 unflashy colors.
Check Price on Evo.
Best Budget Leash
Thickness: 5.5mm – 7mm
Length: 6′ – 10′
Amazon’s Choice “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.
Check Price on Amazon.
Length: 6′ – 10′
Dakine’s been in the biz for a long time now. They’ve been making leashes since 1979, and since then, they’ve done their fair share of product development. You know that awful feeling when you suddenly feel a little ting and all the tension goes out of your leash? Probably won’t happen. With a seven millimeter cord diameter and dual anchor swivels made from marine-grade, stainless, anti-corrosive material, this is a leash built to stand up to heavy use. Designed for use in everyday waves up to a couple feet overhead, and with a streamlined, zero-distraction ankle cuff, this is a daily driver that can stand the test of time.
Super-Tech Comp Leash
Hate leashes? This one’s for you. The FCS Freedom leash features a tangle-free braided-nylon cord they claim is “thinner, lighter, and stronger” than the traditional urethane material. The cuff features silicone grip-paint to reduce slippage around the ankle, and is made of a super thin neoprene rather than the normal padded cuff. Wherever weight or bulk could be eliminated, they did it.
No-Frills Comp Leash
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.
Best Longboard Leash
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. A calf leash is essential to that end, as an ankle leash tends to get tangled and stepped on. 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 Evo.
The quick-release clip, minus the Peahi 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.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.