When you embark on a surfing session, one of the first things you will notice, is that if you get separated from your board without a surfboard leash you will have a long swim to retrieve it. That's assuming of course, that your surfboard hasn't been stopped by someone else's head. Oops.
Keeping your board on a leash is just good surf etiquette. A surfboard without a leash, or a leg rope or leggie as they are sometimes called in Australia, can be much like an untrained puppy without a lead, a bit hard to handle, and potentially embarrassing, especially in a crowd.
Other benefits of a surfboard leash: * Saves time and energy. If you don't have a leg rope, every time you fall off your board you have to swim after your board. Not only is this time consuming, but it doesn't leave much energy for actually catching a wave. * Your surfboard is right there. This can be handy if you aren't an Olympic swimmer. Having a surfboard leash ensures that your board is never too far away. If you become exhausted, you can lie on your board until you get your breath back. * Protects the surfboard from being washed away and smashed up on rocks. * If you get done on a big wave your surfboard leash will eventually pull you back up to the surface. This is reassuring if you are under the water a while and have become disoriented.
What length of surf leash is best for me? There are 2 factors governing what sort of surfboard leash will be right for: * Size of your surfboard. The shorter your surfboard, the shorter the leash should be. You guessed it, the longer the board, the longer the leg rope. I know, real complicated. :-) * Size of the waves you plan on catching. Smaller waves need thinner leashes, and bigger surf requires a thicker leg line for the extra strength. Another easy generalization is that if you are new to surfing you can buy a surf leash that is about 1 foot longer than your surfboard. More experienced surfers need only get a leg rope 6 inches longer than the board. A thicker leash will generally last longer than a thin one. Most surf leashes will stretch after use. (The amount of stretch will depend on the size of the waves, bigger waves, bigger stretch.)
How to use your surfboard leash. One end of the surfboard leash is attached through a plug at the back end of your board (known as the tail). These plugs enable you to change surf leashes with wave conditions if you need to. The other end of the leash has a Velcro cuff which goes around the leg that naturally stands at the back of the surfboard when you get to your feet. If you are surfing with a short surfboard, the leg rope will go around your ankle. Those surfers riding long surfboards (or Malibus) attach the cuff around their ankle or their calf under the knee. Many cuffs come with a pocket which can be handy for storing the car or house key. A word of warning. A surfboard leash can turn a surfboard into something resembling a boomerang or a yo-yo. When the leg line is stretched the board is going to come hurtling back to you at some point. Always be careful when coming back up to the surface of the water that you have your face protected with your hands. You don't want to wear your surfboard in your face or eye.
So to answer the question, yes, you do need a surfboard leash, especially when you are first starting out. A surfboard leash will protect other surfers, stop your board being smashed on rocks, and save you miles of swimming after your surfboard.