DIY Surfboard Leash Cord Mod

The surfboard leash, in my opinion, is a good thing.

Have them pull a sled next time

Talk to some “old school” surfers, and they’ll call it a Kook Cord, meaning that only newer, clumsier surfers require being attached to their surf craft. I say leashes are litigation deterrents- a little insurance in a crowded lineup of surfers and swimmers. If I’m alone and the surf’s small, okay, I’ll skip da leash. Otherwise, better to be safe all around.

My issue has been finding a decent lightweight leash that’s 9′ long to use with my longboards. The Comp weight doesn’t seem to tangle as much as the thicker cord types, but the 9’+ length can be tricky to find. I’m never going to surf Pipeline, so I don’t need the reinforced titanium nitro supa thick variety. Also, for longboarding, I like to use a Knee Leash as opposed to an Ankle Leash to help keep it from being tangled around my feet. Hopefully.

I ended up buying an XM 9′ Comp leash I found and just wrapping the ankle strap around my knee instead.

Freakin’ hurts

Ow. The exposed edges of the Velcro raked the heck out of the back of my knee after a few weeks of use. Since open wounds and ocean water make for a doctor’s visit, I decided to make the strap a bit more comfy.

First, I took off the side of the strap with a seam ripper.

It came apart pretty easily

I saved the pull tab to reattach it later

Using some scrap neoprene taken from the chest panel of an old wetsuit, I made an extender strip as wide as the original leash strap.

I used the chest panel since it’s got a rubber layer over the neoprene

Once I had my new longer neoprene strip ready, I glued it back into place using E6000 industrial glue. I had some nylon thread as a backup, but I didn’t need it! Woo Hoo!

I sandwiched one end with glue on both sides

I used quilting clips to hold everything in place while it dried

Next, I took a bit of the loopy side of some 2″ Industrial Velcro and used glue with the adhesive on the back of the strip, similar to what I did on the Board Bag mod.

I used a lot of glue

Clamped and drying

I gave the leash about 48 hours inside to fully cure, since the weather’s been so hot.

Much better!!!!

After surfing with it

It feels MUCH better on my leg now, with no more burn. Hey- if I’m going to get rug burn from Velcro, I’m going full YOLO….

Aim high kids

Time for a New Surfboard Leash

Last week, we had a few days of fun longboard swell, so I took out my heavier 9’0″ Dewey Weber Performer longboard. When I attached my usual longboard surf leash, I had noticed that the Velcro was beginning to fray badly and the attachment points had become far too supple, almost to the point of tearing. It was time for a new leash, and this one was finished….

Typically for my longboards- which have ranged between 8’6″ and 9’2″- I’ve used a standard 9′ long surf leash. Your leash needs to be about as long as the surfboard you plan to ride. I have a 9′ leash for my longboards, one for funshapes/shortboards that’s 7′ long, and a 5′ leash for my little 4’6″ Beater board.

Surfboard leashes have become an essential safety item to me, since the lineup here in Florida can become crowded quickly with surfers AND swimmers alike. I don’t want to take the chance of a wipeout potentially injuring someone else. I also consider it important in case I become too tired to swim if I lose my board, which was one of the main drivers behind the invention created in the late 1960’s in California (History of the Surfboard Leash).

Pat O’Neill (of O’Neill Surf Company fame, and the son of founder Jack O’Neill) gets the credit for making the “kook cord” popular. Ironically, he lost his eye when his board snapped back in his face due to the initial poor design of the surf leash. Today, better designs make this much less common, but there are some things I still do to prepare my leash before its’ first use.

Once either end of the leash attach points become frayed or loose, spend a little coin and get a new leash. It’s not worth taking the chance over spending $20-30 bucks at least once a year if you surf frequently. More if yer a gnarly ripper, brah. Lawsuits can get pricey. Same goes if the cord comes loose from either end- no gluegunnin’ it here- this is SAFETY equipment. Y’all feelin’ me?

Now, all brand new leashes have the same problem- they’re kinkier than Christian Grey.

Kinky.

Every one of my new leashes gets a turn on a sturdy palm tree to stretch it out a bit. I like having both my eyes, so getting it stretched out a bit keeps it from “snapping” back as much during initial surf sessions. Of course, future wipeouts will help stretch the leash as well. Yikes.

I’m finally getting some strength exercise in…..

Much better than before.

This particular leash I purchased is a “Regular” leash, meaning the cord thickness isn’t too thin, nor too thick for most recreational surf breaks. It’s what is typically found at most surf shops.

Comp” or “Competition” weight leashes have a thinner cord. The concept is that the thinner cord reduces drag when paddling, surfing, and doing tricks. Personally, I really like them because they are light, and more than enough cord thickness for our usual 2-3′ waves here in Cocoa Beach. Comp weight leashes are hard to find in 8’+ lengths at many stores, but I’ve seen them on occasion.

Big Wave” leashes have supa thicky-thick cord. Unless you’re planning on surfing huge Pe’ahi or Cloudbreak with your 10′ elephant gun, OR your name rhymes with “Blaird Blamilton,” you can probably pass on this type of leash. If you ever need it, trust me- you’ll already be in the know then.

Can’t wait to try out my spiffy new leash, but it’s gnar chop city for a few days, so I’ll have to find somewhere else to go…..

DIY Leash Loops

Leash loops are the forgotten little part of the surf equipment ensemble that can screw your day royally.

They are the most likely to break, get lost, almost be worn through, and then they are never available when you need them. And that is when you’re getting ready to go paddle out. Right. Now.

I’ve actually hand-braided cord on a disk in the past to make mine, but, here’s a cheaper, faster way of making a crazy amount of them in no time. Keep a few for yourself in the car, put some in with wax and a wax comb as surfer’s stocking stuffers, or give them out in the lineup after you burn fellow surfers on waves. Always a nice gesture, Kelly Slater would say “it’s a good thing”. 

Anyway, I picked up some 550 Paracord at the craft store. Michaels, Hobby Lobby, even Wal-Mart has this stuff since doing the paracord survival bracelets are so popular. I picked up 25 feet of green for $2.99 with a 40% coupon (almost EVERY craft store has one of these, USE it!), so, with tax, it was a little under two bucks.

25 feet of fun!


For each leash loop, I measured out around 18 inches, give or take.

Getting ready to cut 18″ long lengths.


I wanted to ensure I would have enough to fold the 18″ length in half, then make a DOUBLE overhand knot on each one, leaving about a 1″ tail of the two bitter ends. Bitter end is a nautical term. Seriously, look it up, nautical stuff’s pretty cool! 

A double overhand knot for this loop is much more secure- it can’t wiggle and back out like a simple overhand knot could.

Folding the length in half to 9″.

Double overhand knot Part I.

Double overhand knot tightened up, Part II.


It’s better to have the leash loop too long than too short, for those who might complain about  it smacking the rail- it can be tied lower AND….

It needs to be singed (burnt) on the ends with a lighter or the ends will fray. Some leash loops will singe the ends together and squish the melted nylon into the knot to secure it. This is fine if you know the length you want. Otherwise, singe the ends separately (OUTSIDE or in a well-ventilated area, preferably with a mask!) to finish the loop.

I made 16 loops, so much Aloha to share for only two bucks. That translates to 16 waves I get to snake….hmmm…

That’s a lot of leash loops. In green.