Senior Editor
Man falling off back of wave

Where’s that board going? Who knows! Photo: Unsplash

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: Epic Dilemmas is The Inertia’s series examining often paralyzing, recurring conundrums in the lives of surfers and outdoor enthusiasts. Find more in the series here and here. Enjoy.

If you surf, it’s very likely you’ve been hit by an errant surfboard. A few years ago, I took a surfboard to the underside of my chin. It was slightly uncomfortable, to say the least, but it could’ve been far worse. I could have, for example, taken the surfboard to my eyeball or, God forbid, to the same place Tom Carroll took one (don’t click that link if you’re squeamish). All things considered, a surfboard to the underside of my chin wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened. It just amounted to a puncture wound, a small scar, and few stern words to the man swimming after his surfboard.

Still though, I would have definitely preferred that it didn’t happen. You know why it happened? Because a man who couldn’t surf very well was surfing without a leash because he thought he was good enough at surfing to surf without a leash. Now, I understand that some people prefer to surf without a leash. I too like to surf without a leash. It makes sense in some situations, like say if you’re Joel Tudor or Leah Dawson or if you are surfing in a spot entirely alone. But if you’re not somebody like say, Joel Tudor or Leah Dawson, and you are surfing in a spot where other human beings exist, wearing a leash while surfing is similar to wearing mask in a pandemic. You might think it slightly uncomfortable, but your slight discomfort is far less important than the possibility of potentially gouging somebody’s eyeball out or turning their scalp into a large, wet, flapping piece of skin. Or in the case of a global pandemic, giving them an illness that could potentially end with them alone in an unfamiliar hospital bed, choking to death on a ventilator. But there are times when not wearing a leash might be okay, and I’m going to break a few of those times down for you.

You are alone.

What’s that you say? You never get to surf alone? Welcome to the club, pal. But if you do somehow find a spot that no one else has found with decent waves… don’t tell anyone.* And if you don’t want to wear a leash, don’t wear a leash.

*You can tell me.

You are a longboarder in a contest and cross stepping is necessary.

If you’re good enough at riding a longboard to have people give you scores for it, you’re probably okay to skip the leash. If you’re in a contest, that is, and you’re relying on that score to pay your rent or buy food or whatever. I get it — longboarding requires footwork, and footwork is often more difficult if you’re constantly tripping over your leash. But hey, sometimes things in life aren’t perfect. And your footwork is less important than someone’s teeth.

You want to risk other people’s safety.

Are you a person who wants to hurt other people? If so, then do not wear a leash. If you like the idea of your surfboard hitting a small child playing in the shallows directly in the teeth, by all means, do not wear a leash. If you like the idea of your surfboard rocketing through the whitewash like a fiberglass-coated missile towards some poor, unsuspecting leash-wearer, by all means, do not wear a leash.

You think Albee Layer doesn’t know what he’s talking about and you don’t want to get better at surfing.

Albee Layer is better at surfing than you are. Albee Layer goes full throttle. Albee Layer thinks not wearing a leash is dumb. “Why would you want to surf in a way where you know you’re going to make it?” Layer asked. “How is that any fun? That’s the most boring thing ever. It’s like walking. Wouldn’t you want to try something that’s hard? That’s how you get the achievement in surfing… as well as anything else.”



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