An Honest Stab Review: The FCS "Freedom Leash"
A revolutionary re-design? We doubted it.
"Lighter. Stronger. Faster." We've seen and heard it all before.
Another gimmick infiltrates the industry, landing on your screens, the shelves, all before quickly vanishing into the world of commercial obscurity. Heated wetsuits, webbed gloves, superglue-like wax and diamond nose guards; they arrive, they dissipate and the core community revert back to their old habits.
This time, the leash, leggy, leg-rope – whatever you want to call it – has been thrown under the knife by FCS' innovators and come back sporting a fresh face and feel. Or at least that's what we were told.
Seriously though, how much can a leash change?
The leash has made vast improvements since its earliest inceptions as Pat O’Neill’s “kook cord” (see Mike Ciaramella's Ode To The Surf Leash), which was constructed from nylon and subsequently conducive to eye impairing bounce back. Next up, we witnessed the crucial changeover to urethane cords and more recently the double swivel - a damn useful addition to a low-tech piece of hardware.
Since then, there’s been numerous attempts at a leg-rope revolution (remember the tangle-free weighted leash?), but no gimmick could ever lay claim to being adopted by the masses or even marginally influential; not even the highly anticipated shark leash made an indent.
This however, is no surprise. The majority of surfers aren't sitting around concerned about their leash's performance. We've got enough on our plates already with board volume, concave and even the stiffness of our rudders, before we consider what is strapped around our leg. If it keeps your board close, doesn’t stretch to buggery or snap after a session in three-foot slop, the majority of us are stoked.
So when emails flickered, the boss-man hollered and the post-man came knocking, bearing two “Freedom Leashes” in hand, we were sceptical of the revolutionary claims we'd heard.
"Every component of the leash has been re-designed so you can surf free". Other than the ankle strap, cord and 6ft length that is.
“Lighter. Stronger. Tangle Free.” were the words embellished on the FCS pamphlet. “With a focus on strength and minimalism, every component of the leash has been re-designed to compliment the cord so you can Surf Free”.
It’s clear FCS is getting their money's worth out of their marketing copywriter, but when it comes to product, no surfer lays down coin for fancy packaging, a couple shots and romanticised words. They buy shit because it works.
So three of us in Stab's Bondi Beach office gave the leash a handful of test runs: widely varying abilities, slightly varying, yet always-onshore Bondi conditions and three largely similar opinions.
FCS have reiterated the use of the word 'rope' in leg-rope.
Since I’m the ‘creative’ or whatever, first thing I notice is the design. Like, look how sexy the thing is. It’s minimal, uncomplicated, and looks and feels… so right! Like my preference of matte paper stock over gloss, this leash has less sheen than your typical leash, most notably the rope-like texture of the cable, which looks and feels supreme. Did they get Bang & Olufsen to design this thing?
Other things to note: It has that micro-velcro, which is responsible for the lack of bulk and also has grippy rubber bits which eliminate ankle slippage.
The 'micro-velcro' in question.
The one noticeable thing after the test is that the rope seems to have little give, as in it doesn't stretch to the same extent as a standard leash. I was a little dubious about that, but after bailing on a few four-foot sets, my ankle never felt like it was about to get ripped off. As well as the leash not snapping, the ‘no give’ thing was a real positive, my board never felt like it was going to slingshot back at me.
10/10 would use again. It’d be an actual bummer to have to revert back to the traditional leash.
Negatives? I’d love to see a blacked out version, and see less neon.
She is slightly sprucey on the ice.
We surfed absolute soup when the first round of testing took place. Bondi was a touch over head high and raging onshore, with plenty of raw, confused energy – enough to really rip at your ankle if you came unstuck. Perfect conditions for a legrope evaluation you might say.
My expectations were that, due to lack of elasticity of this rope, I was going to feel some pain in the likely event that I fell. I did. However, merely marginally more than the typical rope and only on the wildest beat-downs.
This weakness was outweighed by the lack of weight and resistance of the thing. I couldn’t help but envision Ned Flanders and the infamous “like wearing nothing at all” scene. Coupled with the super comfortable strap material, this formula with thrive in XXM waves and below.
What else? Well, my boardshort’s pocket recently blew out, which meant that I also lost a layer of security for my key-holding string and this legrope didn’t come with a stash pocket. Thankfully this was just a short lunch session, however in another time and place I’d have to hide my keys and I really don’t like putting my valuables up for grabs.
Acknowledging this is a ‘comp-style’ legrope puts everything into perspective. It’s made minimally with pure performance in mind. So with those intentions, I’d highly recommend and personally, I’ll be keeping it attached to my Churro as long as possible.
It even looks alright on this honest and hairy cankle.
I was the last one to give the new “Freedom Leash” a crack, so my preconceptions surrounding it were skewed from the boys' earlier musings. Shin was promoting the leggy to such an extent questions were raised as to whether he was on their pay packet, therefore my expectations were pretty high.
As previously mentioned, it looks sleek and feels sick, even on the sand run down. Normally, leashes are tough to coil up in your hand between your car boot and surf, but this rope-like cord is easily coiled up into a tight little circle.
Throwing it on my ankle I realised how minimalist the design is - other than vibrant neon splashes. There’s no excessive bulk, or aggressive padding, but they’ve still managed to place a quick-release tab on there. Essentially, it's a performance leash, as much as a leash can be referred to as "performance".
As per usual I spent most of my time paddling out then falling off, allowing me to test out the leg ripping and no-recoil properties. In the 2-3ft proper tripe I was surfing the ankle stress wasn’t noticeable, but what certainly was noticeable was the lack of spring back. I could now fly-away to my hearts content without the niggling concern of a heat seeking, fibreglass missile.
Whilst we haven't encountered it yet, rope burn seems a strong possibility.
As far as leash innovation goes, it's impressive. There's no revolution, but there's a noticeable difference between wrapping this around your leg compared to a standard leash.
If your leash is snaps, tangles or if you’re currently getting bullied for wearing an oversized magnet on your ankle, then the Freedom Leash could be for you. It’ll cost you 60 Aussie bones, but most leashes hover around the 45-50 mark anyway. What’s an added 10er for what will likely reduce the amount of waves you blow getting caught in the legrope web.
Full Disclosure: We weren't paid to write this, we just love hardware and know you scoundrels are the same. All we scored were two free legropes and three super-average sessions in the salt.