What is a Leg Rope?

25 July, 2022

leg rope

The modern leg rope, or surfboard leash, is an essential piece of surfing equipment that was invented as early as 1971. Everyone knows that very often it is a critical lifesaver worldwide.

Nowadays, leg ropes or board leashes vary in terms of material and design. But the standard structure is basically a cord connected to the surfboard’s deck at the tail, and the cord is made of urethane. The rope/leash serves to keep the surfboard close to the surfer and ensures runaway surfboards are prevented from getting in the way of other people in the water. Many modern leg ropes are composed of urethane material with a strap band for the ankle on one end, and the other end has a mechanism to attach near the tail of the board. In case the surfer falls into the water while riding a wave, the leash prevents the surfboard from being swept away, allowing recovery.

It is often said that if anyone is not yet confident of skill and control on the board, then they need to surf with the leash. Actually, using it applies to all surfers in general. Leg leashes and ropes do offer safer and more secure surfing during surf lessons, but using it applies to all regardless of skill levels.

The history of the invention and origin of leashes/ ropes is not as clear, but its road to acceptance was not exactly a smooth ride. Many decades ago when surfing was still new in Australia, surfboards were seriously large pieces of hand-crafted timber that took real skill to control. It was no surprise that when early versions of leg ropes to control the boards were introduced, it was a cause for concern for many. For example, one American account of its origin states that the O’Neill brand of wetsuits was the first to come up in 1970 with a commercial version of the leash. Back then, it was a flexible bungee cord with one end on the nose of the board, and the other end attached to the surfer’s wrist.

However, 1970 is not even considered the definite year of the leash’s invention. Popular surf magazines showed that as early as 1965, some surfers already used ropes attached to their ankles, in turn, connected to the nose of the board. In fact, many reports on Australian surfing from the 1960s state that common leg leashes included curtain cords, clotheslines, and dog collars to reign in runaway boards. However, by the late 1970s, rubber and rope leg ropes equipped with Velcro ankle straps were already available. The rest is surfing history.

Fast forward to the present time: The idea behind the leash is it allows surfers to keep the board close in the event of unexpected freak waves and wipeouts. No one wants to spend the rest of the day scouring the whole beach and sea looking for a board, and more so if you are on a beginner learn to surf lesson!

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