A leash is the cord or tether that connects to a surfboard and then is fastened to the ankle. The purpose is to keep the board nearby after a surfer is no longer on his or her board. It is for the safety of swimmers, surfers, and assists in rescue efforts.
Not long ago, Judge John was playing in the ocean with his then 4-year-old son. Suddenly, a loose surfboard struck the little guy. Taking his frightened (but thankfully not seriously injured) child under one arm, Judge John seized the board and hurled it toward the shore, sternly advising the incompetent newbie surfer that he needed to use a leash. Instead of being apologetic, the man unleashed a string of expletives toward Judge John. Fuming on the inside, Judge John decided to research the issue so he could know what is right.
The Jacksonville Beach Municipal Code provides in Section 6-49 that it “shall be unlawful for any person to surf or use or ride a surfboard in the surf adjacent to the beach within the corporate limits of the city at any time and at any location unless such surfboard has securely fastened to it a tether not exceeding eight (8) feet in length, the free end of which must be securely bound to either the ankle or wrist of the surfer.” The other Beaches cities have similar laws. Simply stated, the law in effect requires surfers to use a leash when surfing on the Jax Beaches.
In addition to knowing the law, Judge John was interested to know the opinion of local surfers. The surf culture in the Jax Beaches dates back many decades and is as ingrained as sand in our local way of life. The results of this informal poll reflect the very nature of the soul surfers who inhabit our beaches. While acknowledging that the drag created by a leash does negatively affect the performance of a board, every surfer Judge John interviewed said that the informal surf code is that surfers agree that the safety of beach goers requires that a leash is worn at all times. The exception in the surf community seems to be that when surfing an empty beach, the experienced surfer may choose not to leash the stick.
Judge John recalls being a wee grommet long ago when a surfer swam toward shore having lost his board far on the outside break. The guy was totally out of breath, and was barely making it to the beach, literally in danger of drowning. That surfer was lucky that Judge John’s father was around to pull him out of the ocean. Was it luck that had the preacher on the beach that day? If that surfer had worn his leash, his board would not have gotten away. So, the leash is not only to protect swimmers, but benefits the surfer, too. Judge John is a “warm weather wannabe” surfer himself, and always uses a leash.
Conclusion: Surf only while using a leash. Why? 1. It’s the Law. 2. It’s for the safety of swimmers. 3. You could be that dude needing rescue by the preacher.
Do you have any questions of law or custom that are of particular interest to those living the Sand Life on our beautiful island? Please submit them to Judge John for consideration for a future article by emailing email@example.com
John Miller is the Special Magistrate for the City of Neptune Beach. His law firm, Rock Solid Law, focuses on Estate Planning, Real Estate Closings and Title, and representing entrepreneurial small Business Owners.