When it comes time to buy a leash, there are a lot of options available to you—not just in brands, but also in sizes and styles. What you buy depends on what type of waves and board you are riding.
Too short of a leash can snap your board back at you dangerously. Too thin might end up breaking. But too big of a leash will create the unwanted drag, slowing you down while paddling and riding waves.
In general, when riding smaller waves, try to use a leash that is roughly the same length as your board. Remember that larger boards are heavier and will pull harder on your leash, so a little extra length isn’t a terrible thing. Standard leash lengths include 6', 7', 8’, 9, 10', and super long leashes in the 12' to 20' range.
For most shortboards being ridden in small waves, you will likely want to use a 6' leash. While mini-guns (ridden in overhead+ surf) and mid-length longboards (“funboards”) might call for a 7’ or 8' leg rope.
Competition leashes are thinner than normal, and are used by advanced surfers who are less likely to fall, and who want less drag for increased speed. This is especially important in small wave competitions, which is how they get their names.
But it’s important to realize that a thinner leash is more likely to break, so this is
probably not the best option for everyday use, for use in larger, more powerful waves, or if you are a beginner and fall a lot. Longboard leashes are specifically made with noseriding in mind. They are long (often 9’ or 10’) to accommodate movement up and down the board, and sometimes come with a cuff built for your calf, rather than your ankle. This helps keep the leash out from under your feet while walking the nose.
Stand up paddleboards are heavier than normal surfboards, so SUP leashes need to be thicker and stronger. Leashes for SUP leashes should range from 8 to 20 feet in length and get the thicker leashes., usually 5/16”. They also sometimes include quick release pins that can be pulled in dangerous situations where you might want to be disconnected from your board, and are unable to pull against the leash hard enough to unstrap the cuff.
When attaching your leash to your board, it is important to do so properly to avoid damaging the board’s tail. Your leash string should be tied as short as possible to avoid hanging over the rail’s edge, while still loose enough to allow the leash to fit through it. A leash string that hangs over the tail will often cut into the rail during a wipeout, since it is strong and thin, and the rail of your fiberglass surfboard is relatively fragile.
Remember that your leash string will stretch when it is wet and has tension on it, so you will want to go shorter than you first think. The only real exception to this rule is on a swallow tail board, which typically has the leash plug close to the center of the swallow tail, so the leash string will typically hang over.
When tying your leash string, the best thing to do is to fold it in half and tie an overhand knot, forming a loop around two inches in length. Insert the untied end of the loop into your leash plug, pull it through, then pull the knotted end through the loop and pull it snug. This will affix your leash string securely to your board, and leave a look that is roughly 1.5 inches in length—long enough to get your leash through, but not so long as to hang down over your board’s tail.