The debate over leashes and surfboards is a long and convoluted one. Across its many twists and turns boards have been lost, egos bruised, surfers injured and line ups crowded. In the 1950’s and 1960’s things were much more simple; surfers did not wear leashes, as leashes did not exist.

Early iterations had come and gone (Tom Blake with a waist mounted version in the 1930’s, Frenchman George Hennebutte in 1958, and surely other undocumented versions here and there), but, as Matt Warshaw in the excellent Encyclopedia of Surfing explains, it was in Santa Cruz that the leash finally caught on with none other than, ‘Pat O’Neill, son of wetsuit kingpin Jack O’Neill, who in 1970 fastened a length of surgical tubing to the nose of his board with a suction cup, and looped the other end to his wrist. Aside from the leash keeping the board nearby after a wipeout, it was initially thought that the surfer could use the new handheld product to leverage turns and cutbacks; by late 1971, however, the leash was much more sensibly connected to the ankle and the board’s tail section.’

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