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A lifetime spent perfecting the legrope

Via: Stabmag:

Ocean and Earth Has Spent a Lifetime Perfecting the Leg Rope

You’re going to scream “advertorial!”, but the arrival of a new batch of Ocean and Earth Slimline leg ropes turned my day around. 

I was attempting to write and screening messages from my housemates about whose turn it was to buy toilet paper. Previously I'd endured the early, which was wonky and filled with tourists. Cosmically, my two best waves were ruined by my trusty Big Wave Dave leggie (purchased out of desperation OS and previously the only one I owned) lodging itself neatly between my toes. Work wasn’t happening, and a glance out the window revealed that it was light offshore and significantly bigger than the wobbly wedges I suffered earlier. My graciously received O&E care package came off the back of a tour of the brand's Sussex Inlet HQ a few weeks prior, and I figured I could probably blag a follow up "review" story on the new Slimline leash, and thus felt vindicated in slinking out for surf number two before noon on a school day.

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Pure clean, simple and damn effective.

The surf was three foot, NE and grunty. Lots of closeouts, but a few huggy grinders. Big Wave Dave got the flick, and the Slimline was applied to my beloved Josh Keogh twinnie in record time thanks to the nifty built-in string and prodder (which Ocean and Earth CEO Phil Macdonald’s brother Ant invented, just FYI). The compact and aesthetically pleasing ankle strap (all matte black with the iconic, minimal O&E logo) felt far less intrusive and sturdier than what I’d become accustomed to, and didn’t swivel around my ankle in the surf. I got one good one, a bunch of floggings trying to squeeze into pinchy tubes, and not once did the cord hinder my mediocre performance. It felt sturdy when I was bouncing around underwater, and when my craft disappeared in the chaotic wash for longer than usual, it didn’t ping back and smack me in my face. They’re not the sexiest piece of surfing equipment, but a good leg rope sure makes it easier to get on with the painstaking business of trying to surf to the best of your ability.

Started at the top and now we here.

Ocean and Earth are leash originals. O&E founder Brian Cregan won an early version of what was then known as a “kook cord” in a surf contest, figured he could easily make something better and set to work. 43 years later, a handful of sleek, minimal leggies arrived on my doorstep. When I visited O&E HQ a few weeks prior the walls were littered with vintage shots of the leash in its infancy, and Brian described its evolution from rudimentary beginnings, which was little more than a rope with a bit of rubber to attach it to your constantly-chafed ankle. “They worked," Brian told me. “But not that well. The yank on your ankle used to bruise the hell out of it, and often the abrupt pull caused your cord to cut into your rail.”

Can't fake heritage like that.

One of the little known surf hardware tidbits that I discovered on my excursion to O&E in Sussex Inlet is that they were actually the first company to come up with the rail saver, which might’ve lessened the trade of the humble ding repair man (or woman), but has saved the delicate tail shapes of countless master shapers since.

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The string that's saved many a disorganised surfer (author very much included), that happened to be invented by O&E CEO Phil Macdonald's twin brother Ant.

The other gargantuan leap for leashes was Urethane, the same substance that catapulted skateboarding into the global cultural phenomenon that it is today. “I was with Shaun Tomson in South Africa in 1978 when he showed me a Urethane leash, and I knew instantly that was the future of leg ropes,” Brian said. The next part of the equation was relieving bruised ankles, so Brian and co came up with the padded ankle strap, then the swivel and subsequently the double swivel. “By the end of the 90s the O&E 'Torpedo' leash had a neoprene padded strap, two swivels, two moulded ends and a detachable rail saver.” Brian told me. “These leashes were a good design, but not bulletproof. They were built to last, apart from the odd fin cut or a massive wipe out.”

We take these intricacies for granted, but they’re vastly under-celebrated technological leaps in our world. And, certainly make surfing a safer and more pleasurable experience for you and I.

The surf really jumped the day after my leashes arrived, still with a heap of north in it, turning a local back beach into a bowly left point-type set up. The biggest left curves I’ve seen since a Chilean stint at the beginning of 2019. I ripped open another fresh 6ft One XT Slimline (spoilt), attached it to my trusty 6’4 T&C Glen Pang and jumped into the rip to go hassle some nervous-looking tourists. I’m not throwing numbers around, but it was solid, and for a moment I’d considered reaching for Big Wave Dave, but figured I had four fresh leggies and if one went it wasn’t the end of the world. In the name of research and development I managed to spend a fair amount of time rolling around underwater and the Slimline (which literally looks and feels like the most featherlight comp leash you’ve ever worn) didn’t even consider giving. It felt so solid that I could keep my legs together whilst submerged and cartwheel like a pencil, rather than the scenario that usually plagues the disorganised surfer using a small wave leash in solid surf, of doing the splits and feeling like you’re going to dislocate your hip in order to prevent the dreaded 'ping' and long swim in. The ankle strap is barely an inch wide, and it's lined with tacky rubber grip, meaning it’s light, comfy, and doesn’t twist. Even when yanked by a whomping beachie.

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Future dreamer Dakoda Walters letting fly with his leash far from the webs of his toes. (Photo by Respondek)

The science behind the feeling described above is beautifully simple. O&E leashes are made from a single piece of Urethane, which their testing says makes them 40% stronger and the lightest in the world. Any chippies (like Brian Cregan in his former life) know that joining two things together creates a weak point, so going straight from swivel to swivel greatly minimises the risk of breakage. One thing that comes through chatting with Brian, and then sampling his wares, is that O&E hardware is the product of core surfers trial and erroring ideas in quality waves over decades.

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O&E team rider and social justice Queen Tyler Wright putting Brian Cregan's wares to task.

As a fitting epitaph to a thorough and rather fun testing of the pinnacle of O&E’s hardware, my DMs were graced with the presence of none other than 4X World Champion and greatest living Novocastrian, Mark Richards. He dropped in to say that he’d enjoyed the behind the brand story (chuffed), and had this to say of the quiet achiever of the surf hardware world:

“I’ve actually never had an accessories sponsor, I've just always used O&E due to the quality of the product and Brian and the crew being really genuine people," MR's message read. "Over the years they've gifted me product, and I've also paid for some too, which I have been more than happy to do.” 

If the Wounded Gull’s shelling out for your leggies, then you know you’re doing something right.

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It's not usually the sexiest accessory in surf, but you've got to admit that Slimline leggies are, well, kinda pretty.

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