Leashes killed surfing

Image: © Andrew Sarnecki/Brand X/Corbis

Somewhere in my past I have uttered this phrase.

On the surface it's hyperbole, something that is said to get attention or make some other usually obvious point.

Looks good as a bumper sticker.

Yesterday, I paddled out on a board, with leash attached and my friend mentioned that I had made the statement previously and so I was forced to think about what it is I was trying to express at the time.

All without the benefits of coffee mind you.

So I stammered something unintelligible, further cementing my reputation as a babbling old fool whilst making a case for the immediate elimination of all blogs whose owners can't pass some sort of basic cognition testing.

So now with a little time to reflect and a good strong cup of tea, let me begin.


No one thing can kill surfing, let's get that over with right away.

But the widespread use of leashes changed our collective approach to surfing in such a basic way that it deserves some thought and discussion.

Not that the all changes were bad.

Surf spots are ridden today that, do to shoreline or approach conditions, would be out of the question previously.

There is a very real safety benefit too.

A loose long board in the soup can do enough damage to visiting tourists that the local city fathers might want to reconstitute the black ball.

And no one wants that!

What saddens me is that with the advent of the leash whole generations of surfers learned to surf without learning to body surf. No time spent in the water without their boards at hand. The time spent swimming and body surfing in to retrieve your board gave you time to analyze your mistakes and did a fair amount for your overall conditioning as well. By the time you developed average surfing ability you were a better than average swimmer and had some knowledge of the local ocean. The time in the water also gave you a quick education in the motion of side shore currents, riptides and may have introduced you to a cute little sea creature we like to call the jelly fish.

Beautiful aren't they!

Perhaps one of the most troubling effects of widespread leash use is on the crowd factor.

Let say you have a group of 30 surfers surfing a lone beach break peak.
(I live in SoCal so this is entirely in the realm of possibility)
In the pre-leash days, you might have 10 surfers sitting and waiting for the next wave, 5 surfing, 5 paddling back out and 10 beginners swimming in after their boards.

Since the leash, you have still have 5 surfing and 5 paddling back out but now there is 20 people waiting for the next wave.

And half of them are kooks!

If you are talking about the summer months and live in Huntington Beach just add a zero to all the numbers and you have some idea of why I like the fall.

But that said, leashes are here to stay.

I even use one at the local sandy beach break, on occasion.

Photo courtesy of some paparazzi

But if you could stop ditching your board right in front of me just cause you get you board back right way I would appreciate it ;)


You're right, the death of surfing cannot be contributed to simply one thing. If one really wished to analyze the death of surfing, the entire 'ease of use' devices can be called into question. Wetsuits, leashes, wax, etc... Anything that makes surfing easier, more accessible, and easier have lead to the demise of surfing. We're products of it, we're contributing to it, and quite frankly, I hope we're the death of it.

Nigel S. Peppercock
pranaglider said…
True true.
Sadly, this cuts right to the heart of it.
The fact that I'm actually doing research in this is even more sad. Another good question to ponder is this:

Is surfing natural, or artificial?
pranaglider said…
Expand your paradigm so that surfing can encompasses being natural and artificial.

Let me know what you find out in your research.
Moonbat said…
Natural is to walk
naked to the water's edge
and swim out to bodysurf
unaided by fins

Beyond that
nearly everything
about modern wave riding
can be traced back to the
military-industrial complex
chiledub said…
Surfing is like breathing, if it's dead for you, you're dead.

"Don't be afraid,they are soft."

UDTs, maximum horsepower = wave engagement

watch out for boards, they can break your ribs

beware of the climate industrial comple$

"Nuff said" Zippy Pinhead

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