As surfers continue to progress the sport at a rapid pace, brands must also continue to innovate, refine, and further improve their equipment so that it’s built to perform at the same level as the athletes pushing the sport.
After team riders made it quite obvious that the leashes were not performing as they should, the team at Dakine realized they must do something about it. It was at this time that Dakine started an almost four year redesign project right in their backyard, product testing at Peahi to build a better surf leash that would excel in even the gnarliest of waves.
Fast forward to today, and the brand has now released its newly redesigned surf leash at retail, just in time for summer 2017.
To learn more about this project, TransWorld Business caught up with Micah Nickens, Dakine surf marketing director, and Albee Layer, professional big wave surfer and Dakine team rider.
When did this project get started? What prompted it?
MN: It all started in 2013 when the boys decided that Peahi was a wave that could be paddled. We were forced to redesign the leash for Peahi. Out biggest leashes at the time were good, but there was room for improvement. We have clips of some of the boys praising Dakine for saving their lives because the leash didn't break. Then there were times when my good friends were yelling at me on the cliff because they just lost a $1,200 board on the rocks and almost drowned.
Ian Walsh is like a little brother to me. He was the reason we hit the ground running on the new leash development. He was fed up with losing his boards on the rocks and also putting himself in more danger then he needed to be in. He was very clear and adamant that we needed to start doing something right away. (see video above at 1:04)
What went into the redesign?
MN: We did a full re-design from one end of the leash to the other. We started by sourcing the strongest hook and curl velcro. In the past we had leashes blowing off of ankles, especially at Peahi. We realized that the hook and curl cannot be compromised.
We did a complete redesign of the molding pieces that connect the urethane cord to either the cuff or the rail saver. Occasionally, there was a point of weakness right at the end of the molding piece. We realized that it's all about the flexibility when transitioning from the molding to just the urethane cord.
We really feel like we knocked this design out of the park with our new moldings. We created the perfect amount of flexibility. We redesigned the leash cuff with a light weight molded neoprene. The cuff is designed to not slide around your ankle while in shred mode. It is also very comfy when wrapped tightly.We are using the best quality urethane on the market.
The stretch to strength ratio is very important and we feel we have the right balance.
Who have been some of the key members of the project?
MN: Albee Layer, Ian Walsh, John John Florence, Shane Dorian, Billy Kemper, and many more. They all continue to contribute to the science of strengthening our leashes. I also seem to act as a human complaint box. I get the pleasure of hearing everyone’s broken leash story. We had no choice but to do our part and invest in this project. It was simply the right thing for us to do.
How many redesigns or iterations have you gone through during this project?
MN: The Peahi Leash is on the 5th generation of redesign. Every season, we correct what we found to be the next weakest spot. By physics, we eventually find out what's the next issue. As for the rest of the leashes, we've been building and bettering our leashes in Hawaii since 1979.
I truly feel that this 2017 redesign is by far our best one yet. Todd Janda, our Dakine product line manager for all surf accessories, is a die-hard surfer and is always looking to take us to the next level. This project has become a personal commitment for our whole team. We really do love our brand and want the best product possible.
How crucial was it to do product development and testing at one of the most powerful waves on this planet?
MN:One hundred percent crucial If we can build a leash to withstand Peahi, then we're looking at a solid platform on which to base the rest of our leashes.
AL: I think it’s fairly obvious that if a leash works as good as this one did at Jaws, that it will hold up anywhere else in the world.
What has been the general response from the team?
MN: The response has been epic. I passed out a hand full of the redesigned leashes last year during the El Niño season. I wanted to see how effective the new versions were, especially before we went to market. Not a single one broke. It was so epic to get all the positive feedback. Such a breath of fresh air.
What was your favorite thing about working on this project?
AL: One of the first days I surfed Jaws with one of the new leashes I was out alone in the late evening. I had to bail and swim through a set because all the jet skis had left and just my friend Dege was on the inside.
I made it under the wave and felt my leash pulling and started imagining swimming from the peak to the rocks at almost dark and was not excited but the leash held up, I got my board after the wave, and caught one final wave in that night. It was at this time I knew we’d successfully made the leash that we set out to create.
What is next for Dakine Surf? Any new, exciting projects in the works?
MN: Right now we are really focused on building the best product on the market. Our sun protection is a big focus. Skin cancer is real, and very dangerous. Just like the Peahi leash, we need to do our part on building product that keeps the ones we love safe while doing what they love.