Do Surfboards Have Straps? What are they for?

A surfboard consists of a urethane cord worn around the ankle with Velcro straps. Although some users consider the surfboard leash as uncomfortable, it is advisable for surfers, especially beginners, to put them on when surfing. Do surfboards have straps? What are they for?

The ankle strap’s primary function is to keep the surfboard close to the user after a wipeout to prevent it from washing up onto the shoreline. The straps prevent the surfboard from flying into other surfers and causing harm during a wipeout. 

Surfboards come with a strap that attaches to the board’s tail and the leg of the surfer. The strap enhances safety and adds to the fun of surfing. 

Why Wear a Surfboard Strap?

A surfboard strap is a cord that holds the surfboard to the surfer’s ankle. They were introduced in the 70s and have been used by many surfers since then.

Surfboards straps have five main parts:

  • Ankle strap
  • Cord
  • Rail saver
  • Swivel
  • String 

The cord is the central part of the strap. It is made of urethane, a sturdy material that does not snap easily. Surfboard cords come in different lengths and toughness. The length and toughness of the cord to choose depend on your preference and surfing experience.

All surfboard straps come with two swivels, one at the surfboard tail and one around the ankle strap. This swivel rotates to improve mobility and reduce cord tangles. 

The rail saver protects the cord and surfboard tail from snapping when subjected to extreme tension. The string is the part that joins the strap to the board. It is made from sturdy nylon, and surfers usually fasten it in a knot around the surfboard leash plugs.

This part fastens the other end of the cord to the surfer’s ankle. The ankle strap features sturdy and durable Velcro, which secures the cord to the surfer’s leg.

Types of Surfboard Straps

There are three main types of surfboard straps:

  • Shortboard straps
  • Longboard straps
  • Comp straps

Shortboard straps measure between five and six feet. They can take a decent amount of tension before they snap.

This type of surfboard straps is suitable for surfing on waves that are twice your size. They are also the go-to straps for surfing knee-deep waves.

Longboard straps measure between eight and ten feet. They feature a thicker and heavier urethane cord for added strength. This type of strap is fastened around the calf. They are the best if you want maximum movement on the board.

Most pro surfers go for the longboard strap. It allows them to flip and do stunts while surfing without tripping on the board.

Comp straps are the shortest type of surfboard straps. They are strong and lightweight for high-performance surfing. This type of surfing cord is suitable for beginners. It allows you to surf light waves without making your ankle feel uncomfortable. 

Because they feature lightweight cords. Comp straps are not ideal for surfing double overhead waves. 

Tips for Buying Surfboard Straps

Surfboard straps come in different sizes and materials. Choose a surfboard leash that feels comfortable and meets all your preferences. Consider the length of the surfboard cord. A longer surfboard strap allows easy movement and prevents cord tangles. 

Professional surfers like to use surfboard straps that are one foot longer than their surfing boards. Choose a surfboard with a long surfboard strap if you want to surf huge waves. Leash swivels promote mobility. 

A double-swiveled surfboard does not only makes movement easy; it also prevents tangles, which can be dangerous during surfing. Consider the thickness of the surfboard leash. Lightweight cords are ideal for surfing on small waves. On the other hand, thicker surfboard leashes are suitable for handling bigger waves because they are less likely to snap when surfing.

Consider the type of material used to make the cord. Quality surfboard straps feature a sturdy polyurethane material that does not snap easily. For added safety, choose thick surfboard leashes reinforced with Velcro.

When shopping for surfboard straps, consider the type of cuffs they come with. Surfboard leashes with padded cuffs are more comfortable to wear.

Some surfboard straps can be wrapped around the ankle twice for a snug fit. In addition, some cuffs contain tiny pockets for storing keys or jewelry. 

Consider the quality of rail savers. They should be long enough to protect your board and not too thick to cause drag. Many rail savers on the market look similar. Do your homework first to ensure you get your money’s worth.

Your budget determines the quality of the surfboard straps you will get. The cheapest surfboard leashes on the market do not always have the best quality. On the other hand, high-performance straps can be quite costly. If you are buying surfboard cords for long-term use, consider saving up for quality ones.

Importance of using a surfboard strap

Whether to use a surfboard with a strap or not is a personal preference. However, consider using a surfboard with a strap if you are new to surfing. 

A surfboard strap has the following benefits:

  • It can save your life 
  • It keeps other surfers safe 
  • Keeps the board close


If you are new to surfing, you are likely to be wiped out by strong ocean waves. The waves can send you deep into the ocean if you do not have a floater. 

Since some surfers do not wear floating jackets, the surfboard helps to keep them afloat in case of a wipeout. Unless you are an experienced surfer who can swim through waves, a surfboard strap is recommended. 

It Keeps Other Surfers Safe

During wipeouts, the strong waves can send your surfboard flying. This can be dangerous if your board hits another surfer and injures him or her. 

A surfboard strap ensures the board remains fastened to your ankle during wipeouts. It provides the reassurance of knowing your surfboard does not injure other surfers in case of a wipeout. 

Keep Your Board Safe

Many surfing beginners lose their surfboards during a wipeout. The surfboard can be carried by the waves and snap once they hit the corals. Fortunately, a surfboard strap makes it easy for you to find your board once the wave subsides. You only need to follow the cord and get back on your board. 

A surfboard strap ensures that your board remains close to you after a wipeout. If the waves become excessively strong, you can quickly swim to your board for safety.

Disadvantages of Surfboard Straps

Surfboard straps can feel uncomfortable on the ankle, especially if you are not used to them. Short surfboard straps can exert an uncomfortable pull on your leg, which can ruin the surfing experience. 

A significant problem with surfboard straps is tangling. Longboard straps are particularly prone to tangling, which can cause you to trip off your board. Some professional surfers feel surfboard straps provide a false sense of security, which can ruin the surfing experience.

Short and low-quality surfboard straps are prone to snapping when exposed to moderate tension. People who use such surfboards will lose their boards despite the amount of faith they had on the straps.

Avoid relying solely on your surfboard straps if you are not an experienced swimmer. You risk drowning in case the surfboard cord snaps. 

Surfboard straps promote your safety and that of other surfers. In addition, it prevents your surfboard from getting lost after a wipeout. Surfboard straps are recommended for both professionals and beginners. Choose a surfboard with straps that fit snugly, durable, and not prone to snapping. 


Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.