Leash Lessons! A humble history.

March 09, 2022 4 min read

Leash Lessons! A humble history.

There have been many a name given to the piece of twine that attaches our surfboard to our limbs over the years. The legrope, leash, leggie or boardcord as it was known in some parts of the world, has become an integral, if not common part of our surfing lives.

These days we don’t really go without them, unless we’re harkening back to an era of craft to pay homage to those who went before us! Yep, we’re talking traditional longboarding for the purists. But for the majority of us, we don’t go anywhere without them.

The humble leash has come a long way since its invention! We have to thank our ingenious pioneers who tried everything from nylon rope to surgical tubing and bungee cord all attached to the ankle (or wrist) by a stinky sock or manky handkerchief.  Some even lost their eye — thanks Jack O’Neill for taking one for the team! We owe a lot to you and your family, including being wrapped in warm neoprene while enduring long, chilly winters. It was in fact Jack’s son, Pat who engineered one of the first iterations of what was to become a predecessor to the urethane/Velcro combination.  The crude solution was a length of surgical tubing wrapped around his wrist and attached to the board via a suction cup!

It wasn’t all sunshine and barrels for him either. At an event in Malibu, he was laughed off the beach for wearing what his competitors called a ‘kook cord!” That was back in 1971.

Call us what you like, but can you even start to imagine the prospect of not having a leash attached to your board when paddling out at heaving line ups like J-Bay, Bells, Uluwatu or Santa Cruz! 

The mind boggles. Us modern day surfers have a lot to be thankful for. Not only were the pioneers trying to figure a way of keeping their boards from getting smashed on rocks, cliffs and reefs, but also from copping a stray board (or fin) to the head on the way back out.

Fast forward 30 plus years and we are spoilt for choice! Polyurethane cords, Velcro straps and swivel technology stop our leashes from coiling up and boards from jabbing us in the eye. Plus, they’re a great insurance policy against stray boards heading our way in crowded line ups.

If you’re new to the game and wondering what kind of leash you need – Read on.

We’ll ask you one simple question: what kind of waves are you riding? Leashes come in various thicknesses. Thin for small waves and thick for big waves. So, there you go, you’re all set! 

But in all seriousness, it is rather simple, but let’s take it a bit further.

Generally, there are comp leashes (thin), standard leashes (thicker) and big wave leashes (thickest). Then there are also specific leashes for longboards, stand up paddleboards and body boards.

Here’s how it works:

If you’re surfing small to medium waves — around 1 – 3/4ft — grab a cord from the RYD True range.

They are the thinnest out of the lot and will have the least amount of drag.  The thought here is you need the least amount of resistance when you’re riding small waves (you want to go as fast as you can), and you don’t need much protection from snapping a leash in these size waves either.   Think of this leash as your go-to leash for everyday surfing.  You’ve got two options here; a 5mm, 5-foot leash (also good for grom-sized boards) and a 6mm, 6 foot leash.

Click here to view the True Range.

If you’re surfing medium to large waves — from 4ft to 6ft + you’ll need a standard leash from our Layback range. 

These cords are all 7mm in thickness, but come in lengths of 6 foot, 7 foot and 8 foot.  Caio uses our layback range when charging Teahupo’o in Tahiti, and they are also the perfect partners for mid-lengths, mini mals and larger surfboards under 9ft in length.

Click here to view our Layback leash range.

If your name is Big Wave Dave, you need to step it up again.  You’ll need to decide between the big wave cords in the Alt and Faith range.  The RYD Alt  range delivers an 8mm option in two lengths — 8 foot and 9 foot. These are the real deal when facing 8 – 12ft + waves... and with the extra length and thickness you’ll find an extra layer of security and confidence.

Click here to view our Alt Range leashes

And if your name is Even Bigger Wave Dave, you’ll need a lot more than a strong leash to get you through a big wave session. The aptly named Faith  range is geared up for those surfers who take on extra-large, 15ft - 20ft plus aquatic mountains. These cords are 9mm thick and come in 10-foot, 12 foot and 15-foot lengths. And don’t forget to say a little prayer on the way out.

Click here to view our Faith Range leashes

Of course, if you longboard, SUP or body board there are leashes specifically designed to suit your choice of craft too. There are 9 foot and 10-foot 7mm leashes for longboards with the SUP offering also available in a coil option. And our 4-foot body board leashes come with the choice of wrist or bicep attachments.

Click here to view our Longboard leash range 

The modern-day leash is certainly one of surfing’s best inventions. Other uses for the humble leash include using as a clothesline when camping, as a strap to secure your boards to the roof of your car (if you’ve lost your RYD tie downs) and an alternative way to take your dog for a walk.


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