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leg ropes, how they betrayed us.

{with background music}

In 1961 an American tourist landed in Sydney and went surfing at Bondi. His name was Chuck Dude and he was a nuggety little bloke with Dewey Weber hair and Johnny Fain mannerisms. Like flapping about on small waves, plus he came from Malibu California. This alone made him a notifiable event in the local news, and when he tied on a leg rope everything went nuts in surf village Sydney.

Good idea that, to tie himself to his board, so that when it speared up out of whitewater after Chuck lost it – {the guy was a kook} – it would come back down right on target and impale one of his living organs. Hopefully the head. This was the prevalent discussion at the time, in the carpark. Blokes in duffle-coats smoking Craven A cigarettes. Bopping to Crash Craddock. The Peer Group.

Chuck Dude was also the first person to wear white Levis in the Southern Hemisphere. Check with your grand-dad on this, he was probably decked out in sailcloth blue denim at the time, off the wharf at bargain prices, and handsomely matched with canvas blue boatie boots. And a duffle coat with wood toggles, and a hood.

This is why surfing fashion finds it hard to market a retro look. Everybody looked like they came from the Casino end of Lismore, or Queensland.  Now we have leg ropes and everyone looks like they have just spent 10 weeks in the Mentawis.

This is the problem.

Line up the last 35,000 surfers who threw their money at suspect charter-boat operators working western Sumatra – bring them in, line them up and ask them how many waves they would have caught without a leg rope. In one three hour session.


Everything changes when there is no leash.

Take those supple little local hotshots who sit inside of everyone and grab everything that comes along – those guys – their mothers might be good cooks but they can only rack up two rideable boards at the one time. They are financially inept, and they will not risk it.

Take the northern beaches legend who trips up north twice a year, the one who knows all the names of all the conmen who operate all of the gypsy charter boats out of dodgy Indotown. He’s up there with three boards, and fifteen leggies. Plus Ipad, Iphone and box of emergency pharmacy.

Take away his leg ropes and he stops coming. Even sitting wide he needs them.

The local crew. Like Avalon, it just comes to mind somehow – all those lads out there battling away for the inside running, fully leg-rope insured.

Like this guy – red haired guy, muttdog or something. Red Mutt. Woofer.

– he grabs the set, takes off late, misses the rail, misses the rail grab, misses the section, fucksitallup and scores a face-plant in three feet of water. Then he paddles back out and in half-a-minute he’s fully re-installed crew-wise. These blokes are like coppers, it’s not what you’ve done but who you know.

Take away this bloke’s leggie and he won’t be back before lunch and if this is you then you are a major mis-representation of all that is good and true. Like ^ him, you are a disgrace. Reading this should be an uncomfortable exercise.

This is why we are here, this is our message.

The leg rope, you see, is not so much an attachment to the board, it is a link to the surfer’s competence in the water. The more doubt there is in the surfer’s mind, the more need there is for him to get tied on. Ipso Facto.

So what if you untie, and paddle out with a bare ankle, and take a dip on your first wave. So there goes your board cart-wheeling and spearing away through the mob; subsequent true carnage, lots of bleeding and broken limbs – and whaddya know – less blokes in the water tomorrow.

losers can be winners here – a little blood in the water. We don’t ask much.

header image from wikimedia commons, shorts by some wallpaper outfit with excess stock

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. davo's liver #

    “Reading this should be an uncomfortable exercise.” Yeah, well sadly it’s not. Before the leggie there was the wristie. Suction cup on the nose, tied to surgical tubing, tied to wrist. Ask Jack O’Neill how those worked out.

    I’m not warming up to the “pros” jumping off their boards in the shorebreak reeling their boards in like laundry on the end of the line either. The leggie seems to have killed one of surfing’s most graceful moves: RIP the kickout. In the right place at the right time.

    September 10, 2012
    • Did a flick off once on an old water logged beast, got it just right and when I came up out of the back of the wave there it was splashed down on top of two kids sitting on their old man’s board – about 30 feet away. Swam over, said howareya boys and grabbed the board and left.

      September 10, 2012
      • davo's liver #

        See if you can find this Surfer’s Journal “Volume 13 NO. 5 – Winter ’04 – Stoner’s Stoners”, there’s a sequence of BK at Malibu that pretty well demonstrates the lost art.

        September 11, 2012
  2. hrdobbs #

    Mr Bowes,

    Yes, Chuck Dude is quite the barney.

    Is he that unaware? No one wears white after labor day.

    Especially if one resides in The Hamptons. Or Malibu.


    John Forbes Kerry and Maria Teresa Thierstein Simões-Ferreira Heinz.

    September 11, 2012
  3. A high-wire act without a net – crowd pleaser for sure..

    September 11, 2012
  4. Hippy #

    missing the point amigos.

    the leash ended personal responsibility in the lineup. the umbilical cord afforded any indescretion an instant redemption and a place back at the front of the line. complete surfing was erased by easy failures without shame or a swim.

    swimming was character building and good for the surf craftsmen.

    September 11, 2012
  5. Oh, and don’t we all miss the beaver tailed wetties, and the footy jumpers, and the paraffin wax, and the lamingtons at the bakery were better, and we still had our balls, and ….

    gimme a break.

    September 11, 2012
  6. Brad #

    I remember as a grom going back to Casino on holidays to see the Grandparents and rocking up to the weir or the pool in my smashing new Quikky boardies and being pilloried by footyshort/king gee wearing cousins. Bit like the original legropers I ‘spose and even the non legrope wearer now. Gees I really liked those boardies, wore em til they fell apart.

    September 12, 2012
    • attafuckenboy braddo

      September 12, 2012
      • Ben #

        Interesting article and some stimulating responses…but guys are you going to trade in your gas guzzling cars that get you to the surf and walk with board tucked under arm instead? Nope you wont. Even if you wish to go leggee free, the modern lineup will send you to the beach.

        September 16, 2012

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