(Nov. 15, 2019) So here’s a typical surfboard. It will include a fin or fins, a leash, a waxed deck if currently being ridden, and possibly a traction pad or pads.
Here’s the thing; some of these items are actually accessories as opposed to being standard or typical and not absolutely necessary.
Consider the leash. It wasn’t previously part of the equipment.
Most vehicles that are meant to ride waves, at least the ones that are stood upon, will have a fin or fins in order to more easily direct the board.
Something will be needed to provide traction on the deck in the form of wax or a traction pad.
The leash though, is not part of the board, despite what some might think.
Before leashes came into wide spread usage, there simply weren’t any. The best surfers were prone to hang onto their boards even upon wiping out.
If the board got away from the rider, swimming to retrieve it was considered part of the activity and most surfers were pretty decent swimmers. Swimming and surfing went hand in hand.
Plus, in earlier times, surfboards were heavier and more bulky. You wouldn’t want a board attached to your body anyway.
Leashes started out as bungie cords with attachments on either end for the board and the rider.
For the board attachment, the range went from suction cups to holes drilled in fins to bolts holding fins to boards with a ring to accept a leader line from the leash.
On the other end, an ankle attachment could be made of leather or webbing of various water-friendly material.
Some tried holding a leash end by the hand or attaching it around their waist.
There was even a certain danger using these early leashes in the form of “snap back” until the cords were perfected enough to only stretch so much.
Jack O’Neill of O’Neill wetsuit fame even put an eye out when a suction cup attached leash came undone and rocketed back into his face.
These days, leash attachments are incorporated into a board’s construction in the form of leash cups, leash loops, or in the glasser’s art, specific fiberglass attachments.
There was much controversy prior to wide spread leash usage.
“Leashes are for dogs,” was a common place comment. “If you lose your board, you swim,” was another.
Even these days many longboarders will sans a leash in order to favor walking the board, especially for nose riding.
The bottom line is that leashes are safety items and convenience items.
They can help keep loose boards from injuring others. They can help a surfer catch more waves and ostensibly help the surfer have more fun.
One thing is for sure, leashes should be no substitute for one’s ability in the water without a board, without a floatation device.
They can come away from a board or body. They can get cut on fins. There’s no guarantee a leash will do its job.
Sure, it’s probably not going to be a tenuous situation as long as it’s in good condition and all the attachments are made fast, but no assumptions should be made.
Surfboard and bodyboard leashes are great additions to any surfer’s equipment.
They’re another fine advancement to the sport/art of wave riding, but once again, no substitute for a surfer to be able to return to shore under their own steam.
– Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in Ocean City.