Surfing without a Leash

Dickie Stewart
by on
in: Surf Industry, Other, Magazine

I have beating around this particular badger’s set for a while, I have gotten lost in the tunnels, got turned around and made it out to where I began. In short I have been struggling to find a place and a reason to write these words. And then I just thought, fuck it. I can write what I want, it’s up to you if you read it. So here it is.

I love, absolutely love, surfing a surfboard of any kind without the encumbrance of a leash, both mentally and physically. I think more people should do it. I believe it improves your surfing in ways you can’t imagine. It also improves the feeling of the slide itself. This is the part where you are screaming that I am a hippie / hipster / soul cruising / dude hunting / vegan / dick. One or all of the above. I aim to prove you wrong. In fact, I may be a dick but the rest I aim to convince you of otherwise.

Here we go...


How did this all start? I had a friend (a good friend) visit me at the end of last year, he had attained some level of self-belief as a surfer recently through two words, when put together, personally (just my personal view, not that of Surf Bunker) get my goat :

‘Advanced’ and ‘Coaching’

Did I or any of my friends need it growing up surfing? No. And does this give me a sense of bias? a little bit. I never used to have an issue with it until everything culminated in one massive fuck-spunk of a dick-slap to the face. An argument, let’s say.

So my good friend had signed up for ‘Advanced Surf Coaching’, he loved it, thought it was helping his surfing (which in fairness it might have been) and turned up at my house to stay for a holiday. But he had changed, had been brainwashed it seemed, started spewing this nonsense, like he was reading lines straight out of a book that the biggest ‘surfing todger’ in the world had written.


Turns out he really thought he might be able to surf like a pro. I mean, what? He had a pro’s signature model with seven possible fin slots so he could switch up the board for every condition, what seemed like the whole of the European stock of FCS fins in his bag, each had its purpose and type of wave. Any board over a 6’6 was for kooks. Spongers and SUPers are all dicks. And more shite along these lines. But lastly... guessed it. Surfing without a leash was not an option. Ever. Ever.

“Why?” I innocently inquired...

“Because you have to finish your waves off!”, as if I was a pleb for even asking.

There are many points that I could have disagreed with but for some reason this one either really grated or was the straw that broke me. I took umbrage and to say it mildly expressed my opinion (possibly too strongly).


The reason I found it relevant to tell you this was not about the Surf Coaching thing, we will get to that another time, but this made me realise many others may think this. Unfortunately for you, I have a platform on which to stand and shout my mind so I thought, eh, let’s re-live my perspective on this.

Firstly - My advice of surfing without a leash assumes that you are responsible enough to know when to deploy such an idea. I.E. not in a crowded lineup or when it is seriously pumping.

Secondly - It is a good idea to note that surfing without a leash has been made ‘illegal’ in certain countries, so if you are planning to give it a go, don’t paddle out by a lifeguard tower.

Right, with those warnings in place. I will attempt to convey the benefits as I see them. I have included benefits that all levels can glean a little something from.

1) When paddling out and either learning to duck-dive or turtle roll when a set arrives, I find that by having no leash, no back up if you like, you will concentrate more on keeping the board with you and getting it right. If not you face a swim in to the beach get your board. Something to avoid if you want to conserve energy.


Other benefits of learning this lesson (keeping your board close) include other surfers not having to dodge boards that are scything through the lineup, pivoting on the anchored human and mowing whole groups of people down.

2) It teaches you to surf responsibly. There is no such thing as a ‘throw away last manoeuvre’ as you will think twice before losing your board. You finish the wave and flip off the back, taking your board with you and getting out there sooner to catch more waves. Unless of course you think you are Gabriel Medina and then you should be landing those airs.

Other benefits of this are surfers paddling out not getting landed on, smashed to pieces by a (which 95% are) non-made throw away air, done just to impress someone on the beach that might be watching. Badass.

(Below is a clip of a 'style-master' who is famous for prefering the no leash feel)


3) The feeling. The feeling of actually surfing a wave without being attached to your board via a ‘safety rope’ is, for some bizarre reason, one of the most underrated feelings. I can only equate it to surfing in a wetsuit made in the eighties and then surfing in a modern super stretch. Now I have experienced (quite a lot) surfing without a leash, to put one on feels somehow restricting.

Other benefits of this might be added performance through less drag in the water but not sure if this is a real factor and could all be in my head.

4) If you ever ride a log or any board in which you step up the board, you will feel me when I say that there are times when a leash can ‘get in the way’ to say the least. The reality is that if you get tangled in the middle of stepping up or down your board it can result in a world of pain. I still have the scars.

Other benefits means you don’t need to spend extra cash on an knee leash to keep the ‘safety rope’ out of the way of your twinkling toes.

5) The mental and explainable freeness that comes with it. Somehow it just feels right. Like that’s how we were supposed to do it.

Okay, now you can go ahead and call me all the hippie / dick names you can think of, I deserve it. I stand by my opinion and urge others to try it. But only when you are not in danger of maiming others or putting yourself in danger.


The message, I guess, is don’t believe everything you are told. Just because someone can surf, it does not mean they are not an opinionated twat. Make your own mind about stuff, try it and see, then have an opinion.

So, you see that I could be one of those dick-slapping, opinionated bell-ends but you won’t know about the joy of surfing a leash unless you try it. Remember kids, safety first.
Just cruising , leash free...

Just cruising , leash free...

The leash. It is a necessity all the time?

The leash. It is a necessity all the time?

Free and easy with that 'no leash' feeling.

Free and easy with that 'no leash' feeling.

Reverse heels over and tangle free.

Reverse heels over and tangle free.

Its just a confusing world. Are they all really that different and more importantly, will you feel the difference?

Its just a confusing world. Are they all really that different and more importantly, will you feel the difference?

Don't knock it until you try it. But be careful.

Don't knock it until you try it. But be careful.

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