Surfboard Leashes, Fins and Traction Pads Guide

This article is a 101 guide to the three most essential surfboard accessories. Why and Which surfboard leash, Traction-Pad, or Fins to choose? Find out why some people don’t even bother using a traction pad, fins, or a leash at all.



surfboard leash features

To leash – or not to leash?

The leash works as a safety line that’s attached between the leg and the board. Once you fall off the board, a leash comes in handy cause you can pull the board back to you. But do you need a leash? Surfing in crowded areas – it’s a must to have a proper leash. Wear a leash – if you don’t want to knock somebody with your surfboard out and ruin your reputation on the local surf break.

Surfing without a leash

Many advanced surfers have had experienced surfing without a leash. Why would anybody ever do that? Well – it helps to maximize the concentration on the wave. You don’t want to ditch your board and paddle out all the way to grab it. So – surfing without a leash is good since you want to perfect and finish off the wave as well as possible. It’s like free-climbing without the ropes and anything.


Surf leash kength

The length of the leash depends on the length of the board. Generally ranging from 4ft grom surfboards up to 12 feet on SUPs or Longboards. A surfboard leash should be about the length of the board or shorter. The longer the leash – the bigger the “kill radius” and the more drag it creates. Surf leash length plays a huge role in comfort and safety – you sure don’t want a leash that’s too short or too long.


Surf leash thickness

There are two central thicknesses.

  1. Regular
  2. Competition.

The thickness of a competition leash is 3/16th of an inch (5mm). Competition leashes are used to create less drag, but they are also more prone to snap due to the usage of heavy surf.

The regular surfboard leash is 5/16th of an inch (8mm). Those are the most widely-used leashes due to their more durable design.


Should you attach the leash to your ankle or calf?

Attaching the leash to your calf leaves less amount of the leash dragging on the water. The other reason why many surfers tend to attach the leash near the knee is the smaller chance of getting it tangled around your feet when surfing down the wave. The only downside is – that the board will be in a closer radius when you happen to fall or jump off the board.

On the other end – attaching the leash to your ankle creates more drag, has a more significant “kill area” when ditched but will be safer to you when crashing in the wave since it will be few feet away from you.

Retractable Surf Leash

cord style surfboard leash

Another popular leash used on SUP surfers – a coiled or retractable surf leash. Perfect for paddling on flat waters, where the leash doesn’t play much of a role when it comes to performance

  • Surf Leash Length: 40 – 110cm
  • Leash Type: Cord
  • Thickness: 7mm
  • Designed for Stand Up Paddleboarding on flat waters only.

Premium Surf Leash

strong shortboard leash for surfboard

Designed and tested in the surf capital, California. This Premium Surf Leash features materials for maximum strength. So “Maximum,” that they also have a one-year warranty on it. Suits for all surfboards up to 7 ft long. This Premium Surfboard leash also has a small pocket to store your car key in there. You’ll probably need a key ring and something to attach it securely. Great buy anyway!

  • Thickness: 1/4″ (7mm)
  • Leash length: 5′ / 6′
  • Leash Type: Regular



Tailpads are traction pads used to get a better grip or traction on the board. Mainly, traction pads are located at the tail part of the board. There are also traction pads used in the middle of the board as well, called the front traction pads. Traction Pads are a must when surfing with a shortboard on fast and good quality surf.


Dakine – Superlite Traction Tail-Pad

Comes as a 3-piece pad. The pattern type is known as the diamond. Available in the following color schemes: gunmetal, resin fade (pictured), camo, and black. It also features beveled corners to reduce drag. Dakine quality makes sure that it would not come off – unless you want it to take it off – So, make sure you make outlines with a pencil before applying it on.

  • Leash length: 2″ high, 14″ wide.

traction pad for surfboard

Channel Islands Surfboards Front Traction Pad

Great for surfboards where you need an excellent grip and are not into waxing your board all the time. These kinds of traction pads have memory foam in them, which also works well in hot and cold water. Channel Island is making top-of-the-range products for surfing, and this is another simple yet effective way to get a good grip.

  • One Size, 4-piece
  • Comes in White or Black color-schemes

traction pad for surfboard middle part


Fins For Surfboards

There are five main types of fin-set ups to choose from:








  • Fixed fins are the ones that are already glassed on the board. This was a standard method back in the day, as the surfer knew which kind of fins were perfect for the exact board. This is not a very common sight nowadays.
  • FCS and FCS II have a different fin box slots.
  • Futures fins have one solid tab.

What are the fins for anyway?

Fins under the surfboard play a considerable role in the performance when riding down the wave since they will be guiding the mass of the surfboard and the surfer through the water. The amount and the location of fin-options your shortboard has already been fixed in the process of shaping the board. The fins all generally look the same, but the size and shape give the board a different feel.

Fins and the Etiquette

If you are going to surf in crowded areas, some people recommend sanding down the sharp edges of the fins to maximize the safety of the water. If you happen to surf over someone, the razor-sharp can easily cut through the wetsuit – not to say on bare skin. And it is not only the others since the fin might snap back at you as likely. Nobody is planning to fail on purpose; it happens suddenly.

different types of surfboard fins



large surfboard single fin

Single or Centre fins are generally used on longboards, soups, and even on shortboards.

Related: Ultimate Surfboard Guide

A single fin on a surfboard is generally large and long – compared to the other fins found on most surfboards that are usually smaller. The reason is logical – as is it the only one and in the center of the surfboard, it must take all the guiding to itself.

ADJUSTMENT: You can adjust the location of the fin by fastening it in its slot or box. If you choose to change it to the front

  • Single Fin Placement on the front of the slot – Makes the board turn harder, which is beneficial in slow waves.
  • Attaching the fin in the center of the board is a great way to start knowing the adjustment.
  • Single Fin Placement on the back of the slot – Allows the board to turn smooth, which is suitable for faster-moving waves


twin surfboard set up

Twin-Fin Set-Up is often seen on fish surfboards. As the fish has a clear concave-tail, it’s reasonable to have one solid fin for each side. Single as that


thruster surfboard fin set up

Triple-fin set-up or more known as the thruster is a combination of three fins. As a rule of thumb, the two side-fins are closer to the center fin by the size of their length or a little more. This set-up is probably known as the most used set-up for fins. The side-fins have slight curvature at the edges to create more glide, while the center fin is recognized to be sharp on both sides.


quad surfboard fins

This set-up is known to be very stable and responsive. The larger fins generally go in the front of the board while smaller on the middle or rear part of the board. Quad fin set-up is designed like the twin-fin, to have an equal amount of fins on each side.


five surfboard fins

Five fin set-up is mainly used on performance shortboards. Surfers who have had a long experience in surfing the waves have the knowledge on which set-up, size, and curvature of the fins to use. A five-fin set up is said to be the most stable option out there, but also the most expensive.


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I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.

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