I needed a leash this winter. I have historically had loads of leashes, most have been at least okay and some have been utter shit. The main problems I have had with leashes are; the cord decides that under my foot is the place to be when I catch a decent wave, the leash is bought with kinks in it and no matter how much stretching pulling, hanging and other forms of torture it is subjected to it remains defiant in its kinkiness, the leg strap is too short because they are not designed to go round a leg with a wetsuit on, the leg strap mysteriously decides that it no longer wants to be round your leg and, sometimes a bit worryingly, they snap.
I decided to go for the top end because I kooked a few nice waves last year because my leash was under my foot. I don’t get that many really good waves which makes them precious moments so I decided to splash out. I went for the FCS Freedom and the FCS Freedom Helix. Both came in at £39.99, which seemed a bit steep but I had sold a couple of c-monstas that day so bit the bullet.
After designing and manufacturing the c-monsta wetsuit hanger I have realised how much work must go into designing a product like this. A massive congratulations to everyone involved. They have taken a product and made it, from what I can see, as well as they possibly could. Even the stitching is beautifully done.
Just for ease of terminology I will refer to the Freedom Helix as the Helix and the original Freedom leash as the Freedom leash.
Here are the main points of difference:
Aesthetically the main difference is that the Helix has a more traditional looking cord and the original Freedom has a braided cord. Neither seemed to hold onto the form from their packaging and relaxed quite nicely. I would say that the original Freedom Leash looked straighter when hung from a line but both looked pretty good and that tangling would not be too much of an issue.
The connector at the leash plug end looks a little more beefy on the Helix and that is reflected in the wave size that they recommend it for 0-8 ft for the Helix and 0-6ft for the Freedom. I have read a few reviews on the original Freedom leash and it does sound like there were occasional issues with leashes snapping gaining it a reputation for being the "freedom from your board leash" so, between that and the recommended wave size, the Freedom leash is destined for my groveller.
The horn, the rubber connector between the cuff and the cord is quite stiff and extended on the Freedom leash but is shorter and more flexible on the Helix. I think this is in alignment with the Freedom being better for smaller waves. I imagine if the board was being pulled hard backwards and the horn was coming out at a right angle to my leg then it might be quite uncomfortable. That sounds like I’m talking about something else.
Now for the points that they both have in common:
Really nice looking cuff. They both have a grippy print on the inside with an appropriate amount of neoprene padding, the Velcro looks good and like it will last, the pull tab feels strong and is nicely moulded with a bit of detailing on it.
I was disappointed that they had not made the leash string with a wee plastic tab to push it through the leash plug. When I have cold hands getting the string through the hole is like trying to push an uncooked sausage through a letterbox.
They both did their jobs well. No tangling, no boa constrictor activity, very light and little drag. In fact when I was using them they just felt normal and natural. I think good design is like that. It makes your life a bit better but it just becomes a part of your life without you really noticing it.
Once again the original Freedom leash was allocated for the groveller because the cord was a bit rough when pulling the board back toward me. It didn’t cut or anything but I was aware of it and I didn’t get the same feeling from the Helix. I wouldn’t fancy getting that cord between my toes either.
I think they are very nicely designed and a lot of thought has gone into them. The original Freedom is ideal for smaller days. The Helix is the revised version of the Freedom leash and they seem to have made some good improvements and seems like a great choice for a standard shortboard. A little steep but both products, from their marketing, to their packaging and attention to detail, are very much premium and if you want a solid design, they are worth it.