Patent pending: the FCS design saga

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

“I've already seen FCS II-compatible fins made by two well known companies. They've got them ready to go and they're not the only ones. Once this patent stuff is confirmed we'll see lots of new fins enter the market.”

I'm talking to a fin manufacturer from Australia. His company makes middle-of-the-range fins that fit both original FCS and Futures fin boxes, and lately he's been watching FCS very closely. What he's deduced, and what other fin manufacturers have too, is that FCS appear to have failed in their attempt to patent the FCS II fin.

It’s hard to know if the patent failure is an oversight by FCS or just tough luck - a business gamble that didn’t pay off. Whatever the reason, if FCS fail to secure the patent there'll be significant ramifications to both FCS and its parent company, SurfStitch, but for punters like you and I it means there’ll also be a greater range of fins on the market.

Before we identify what’s gone wrong here a li'l bit of history is required.

In the early 90s the original FCS system was developed by Narrabeen surfer, Brian Whitty. FCS weren't the first removable fin systems on the market, the idea had been around since the mid-60s, however Whitty had two things going in his favour. Firstly, his system was simple and unobtrusive, and secondly, surf travel was just beginning to boom. Removable fins meant surfers “didn't get their fins smashed out when travelling around the world,” as Whitty explained in an early FCS promo.

Whitty took his invention to Surf Hardware International (SHI). As their name attests, SHI made surf hardware such as the long-forgotten Rocket Block and the immensely popular Gorilla Grip. By the time they hooked up with Whitty, SHI were flush with capital from Gorilla Grip. They licensed the removable fin idea from Whitty and developed it for production.

1_69.jpgThe first FCS system went on sale in 1994 with patent pending, and they received the patent in late 1995. Shortly thereafter they secured the signature of Kelly Slater, and though there were other players on the market FCS was as close as it comes to an industry standard. They became the go-to company for removable fins, and it's then that the big dollars kicked in.

FCS had patent exclusivity over their invention. This is the commercial privilege of the inventor. With patent protection no-one can impinge on their technology, at least without inviting a court case, so the inventor gets a set amount of time to recoup R&D expenses and turn a profit before the patent expires.

And turn a profit they did. From the mid-90s to the mid-00s FCS charged shapers between $25 and $30 to use their plugs and another $20 for fins, while sales of fins directly to customers were close to double that. The majority of boards made worldwide used FCS technology and third party companies were deterred from making copies. Fin Control Systems had the mortgage on the market.

Wherever there are huge profits there's bound to be investors sniffing around, and this was the case with FCS. In 2002 Macquarie Bank, the investment bank dubbed the Millionaire’s Factory, bought majority shares in FCS and cleaved off a slice of surf industry profits. Two of the original SHI partners cashed out while one, Bill McCausland, stuck around. Over the next few years FCS became embroiled in legal battles, some between McCausland and "the polished Harvard Business School graduates from Macquarie” as one presiding judge called them, but more important were legal challenges against the FCS patent.

First was a company from Hawaii, Surfco, who made fins with FCS tabs. SHI took them to court and lost. Further cases eroded FCS’s exclusivity before the patent itself ran out. Perhaps you noticed when it happened, perhaps not, but within months a slew of fin companies popped up selling FCS-compatible fins. FCS had the surf retail network locked down so most of the new companies had to sell through eBay, yet their very presence was significant: FCS had relinquished rights over their invention.

It’s worth comparing this situation to Big Pharma. Pharmaceutical companies manage to extract enormous profits from drugs by tweaking chemical formulas and renewing patents in a process called ‘evergreening’. It means their products remain patent protected indefinitely and so do their profits. We can only speculate why SHI hadn’t readied themselves for this moment and attempted to evergreen their own invention.

Around this period, FCS ad campaigns focussed, not on the superior performance of their fins, but on the perceived lesser quality of the imitators. “Buy genuine,” said Kelly and Julian and Mick in the ads but it was a doomed strategy; with equivalent products selling at a fraction of the price consumers voted with their wallets and FCS lost market share.

3304b814423805.56283948e7511_0.jpg

In 2013 FCS finally launched FCS II which appeared to be the answer to their patent woes. The system was different to the original in that it was screwless, however it was backwards compatible meaning original FCS fins would also fit the plug. In terms of business strategy it was a compromise: original FCS fins, some made by third party companies, could fit, yet FCS had patent over the plugs and the new FCS II fins. It wasn’t 1995 all over again but it was close.

However, the latest developments hint at a false dawn. In November 2015 SHI were bought by SurfStitch for $23.7 million, at the time the online retailer was worth over half a billion dollars. Since then the company’s stocks have slid to the point they were called “the worst performing stock on the ASX”. Current estimates have SurfStitch worth just $47 million. To stem the blood loss SurfStitch announced they would sell SHI, and here is where it gets a bit pointy.

2flushedgea.jpgFCS II hit the market with patent pending, however it also hit a snag in the patent office. First their 'invention' failed to meet the criteria, as, according to IP Australia, it lacked an “inventive step over prior art”. They were then granted time to re-submit their application, however that grace period lapsed on the 16th of November. Coincidentally that was the same day SurfStitch had their AGM and fronted irate shareholders who questioned their “inflated business acquisitions” - acquisitions such as Surf Hardware International.

Patent law being the tricky beast it is, FCS may yet be successful in patenting FCS II however it’s looking less and less likely, what with one failed attempt, a lapsed submission, a parent company fighting to stay solvent, and the sale of their own company in motion. A sale that presents its own problems as the patent of its marquee product isn’t locked down.

All of which explains why my fin manufacturer friend is watching FCS so keenly. “I’d say by early next year one of the bigger companies will put their own FCS II-compatible fins on the market,” he says, and I’m surprised when he predicts who will go first. I didn’t even know that particular company made fins, though they’d undoubtedly have the resources to fight any legal battle should FCS take them to task.

“I’ll let them test the waters, so to speak. And if all goes well then I’ll dive in too.”

Comments

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 5:11pm

Stunet great write up

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 5:42pm

Yeah that was a good read.

Ada gula, ada semut!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 6:08pm

x3

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Java's picture
Java's picture
Java commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 6:23pm

If IP Australia thinks FCS2 lacks inventive step, that could be very hard to over come and the end of their monopoly. Doesn't sound like they are flush enough to fight "infringers" anyway. Could be great for punters (no pun etc.).

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 7:57pm

Great read although I think Futures are better anyway. I also still think after riding a new board with glass ons they are a world better than any removable system.

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 9:50pm

I still use glassed in fins on my boards om th the recommendation of my shaper Rodney"Weasel "Bedford. He is arguably th the best shaper im South Oz and has been making boards for at least 45 years
I haven't had a dud from him ever. The first one i bought off the rack on 1989. Talking foil, the latest small wave board (6ft5 for the waves here) is thicker lin the tail, picks up th the small suckie onea atret

black-duck's picture
black-duck's picture
black-duck commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 10:29pm

I think the FCS I system is generally better than FCS II. The damage to a board generated from a side fin bump from the FSC II system far outweighs the damage from an FCS I system. Fixing the damage is also easier and cheaper with FCS I. A simple router to remove the broken component with FCS I. FCS II cannot be easily routed out and the size of the module creates a much larger damage area, especially when side force damage is applied to a fin. FCS II damage rips the whole area apart. Front to back damage is also worse as the larger module acts as a whole and puts more pressure on the nth/sth axis .
After short usage, not a fan of FCS II.

TLand's picture
TLand's picture
TLand commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2016 at 10:37pm

Good article Stu.
I had a surf shop for over 5 years and we did a lot of board repairs. Made heaps outta those little black plugs failing/rupturing the glass etc. Pretty much thanks to FCS they kept a local ding repairer in business haha!
Yet can't ever recall seeing the same fault with Futures. But if it happens it would probably be more exy to repair.
So, apart from "never buy a surf shop", the lesson learnt was always use the Futures fin plug system. Maybe I've been lucky but I've never had a problem with them popping or warping (and I use the Shapers compatible fins to save a few bucks without sacrificing performance/quality).
BTW Stu, any news on the state of play with Futures and their patent - assuming they have one?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 9:13am

Haven't looked into Futures, however they've had knock offs on eBay for a few years. From that we could assume the patent has lapsed, though it also could be that the imitators have got more cavalier with their products. I'll look into it when I can.

Cetus's picture
Cetus's picture
Cetus commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 9:50am

Maybe you could do a write up on owning a surf store Stu. I've often dreamt of owning one in a small coastal town but one that actually sells boards and hardware and not just a glorified fashion outlet. It would be interesting to see what works and what doesn't!

3dfins's picture
3dfins's picture
3dfins commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 4:59pm

Futures knocked off their fin box from the original G&S start system fin box so thats why they can't patent the box as it was around for a long time before they copied it but in reversed the design so screw is at the front.

3DFINS

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 1:04pm

Deleted

mk1's picture
mk1's picture
mk1 commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 7:01am

I went to buy a new board off the rack in a big board store on the weekend but all they had were FCs 11. Apparently all the guys in the shop ride futures but they stock fcs cause it sells easier. Lots of hyptos.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 7:33am

I have futures, fc1, fc2 and agree futures are the strongest box, but i love them all best development in surfboards for traveling ever.

Ada gula, ada semut!

andrew-pitt's picture
andrew-pitt's picture
andrew-pitt commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 8:01am

Great article x4
While you are on a roll Stu i am curious of the story about Brian Whitty and Bill Mc and the Macquarie Bank dudes. I heard a presentation last year by one of the Macq Bank dudes at my sons school and I had the impression he was a name dropping card carrying clubbie

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 9:29am

Cheers Andrew. I've always been intrigued by the FCS story. Started by Brian Whitty, one of Simon Anderson's sanders, whose initial motivation was to make his own job easier. He invited Simon to become involved but was turned down 'cos Simon believed glass in fins were better and the idea would never amount to much. It was the big double for SA: didn't patent the Thruster, didn't join the FCS train.

You were surfing at the time so you would've been aware just how much market share they had. Though unsubstantiated, it was reportedly 90% at one stage and they were the sole manufacturing rights to the fins. They played their hand perfectly and exploited every advantage. Testament to their money making ability was interest from the Millionaire's Factory when they too were at the peak of their game.

The court case against Surfco was fascinating if you're into that sort of thing. Surfco won by citing the legality of third party inkjet cartridges being made to fit proprietary printers. The analogy being they (Surfco) made fins to fit proprietary plugs.

That was the beginning of the end for FCS' original patent exclusivity, and all the while SHI was embroiled in a bitter legal feud with Bill McCausland. According to Justice Slattery "a degree of cultural conflict between the polished Harvard Business School graduates from Macquarie and a creative self-made man who had built and managed a surfing hardware business on Sydney's Northern Beaches could probably have been predicted even before these parties met in 2002". 

There are many more weaves and turns in the story. Might write about it all one day.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 9:37am

Where do C- drives fit in with all this
Originally Dean Cole and Troy Clutton with there fcs tab fins ?

EdIt : brief explanation on C-Drives site

aku not me's picture
aku not me's picture
aku not me commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 9:51am

Its still possible for FCS to get the patent, I think they have till late next year to reapply. Not that that guarantees they'll be succesful. The rumour going around is a US company has objected to their "screwless" fins so I dont know how they'll get around that. Change the design?? Maybe they'll just abandon patent on fins and concentrate on plugs.
Whatever happens, even if KS buys it, the glory days are over. They no longer have the upper hand to screw shapers, no pun intended, and they dont have the money to fight every lawsuit like in the past.

tl's picture
tl's picture
tl commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 10:43am

Nice work Stunet Frother. A great story. I think all fin systems work well in terms of performance and when the waves are good it's difficult to tell which is best (damage aside). However in saying that, FCS1 is definitely lighter, and you can feel more tail flex in your board with the old plugs (adds performance when waves are not as good). I still have a bunch of boards (mainly small wave models) with original plugs for that reason. But with all the swell we get down south, i don't need to ride them that often. I reckon if i lived up north, i would use the original plugs all the time.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 12:12pm

questions on whether they have a patent for FCSII , looks like they don't , so what is the value of the Co , without any patent protection?
Surfers are sick of losing FCSII fins , and the swing back to Futures , especially in the USA , is continuing to erode FCS sales , or as the Seppos call FCS , Fucking Chinese Systems VS Made in the USA Futures.
With Kelly making his Firewire/Slater design boards in Asia , and FCS made in Asia ,its a perfect match , but will he do consignment on FCSII , like Firewire , so he can try and crush the competition ?

x

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 12:22pm

The simon Anderson story in thrust book is interesting

the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 2:25pm

Bravo Stu. This is where Swellnet excels. Good writing following good research. The difference between 60mins and 4 Corners. Appreciate it.

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 4:25pm

A bit from Financial Review -
Sources close to SHI have welcomed the imminent sale, saying SurfStitch was never the natural owner of SHI. However, SurfStitch shareholders fear SHI could fetch as little as $12 million, leading to further losses.
The SHI acquisition was emblematic of SurfStitch's expansion under former management led by co-founders Justin Cameron and Lex Pedersen.
Between December 2014, when the company floated, and December 2015, SurfStitch outlaid more than $120 million in cash and shares on five acquisitions, including $21 million for Stab, $21 million for Magicseaweed and Rollingyouth, and $15 million for Garage Entertainment, which makes action-sports films and videos.
These assets were written down by more than $28 million after Mr Cameron's departure in March, contributing to the company's $155 million bottom-line loss in the 2016 financial year.

3dfins's picture
3dfins's picture
3dfins commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 4:51pm

Future fins box is a knock off of the original G&S star systems fin box all they did was reversed it, it's not patentable much like the FCS 2 there is a lot of prior art.

3DFINS

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 1:08pm

Interesting bit of history 3DFins , I wasn't aware of that . The freestyle adjustables were good too & there was no screws it was self loading futuristic Actually a really good system just too far ahead of its time . Where did O'Fishl fit in ? They were ok .

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 5:41pm

Good article Stu. Re the comparison with big pharma and their practice of evergreening, it's unlikely to be applicable to surf fins. Evergreening is successful for big pharma because;

- big pharma is just hugely voracious and outrageously litigious, and very rich,
- big pharma is a huge contributor to US elections
- if the patent courts in America worked according to a reasonable interpretation of the law it is likely the practice of evergreening would not be supported in the courts in future.

US patent law, due to their trade agreements with so many countries, tends to become global patent law in practice. There are signs that if the right case is brought, the ever-greening process would see its last days, it seems an inordinate abuse of the original purpose of patent protection.

As a contributor above points out, it's hard to argue that having made the plug, you then are protected from anyone else making the fin to go in that plug.

A friend who works in the industry says that Futures plugs are a huge pain to put in, or at least put in correctly. If it's a pain to put in, likely that a lot of them aren't quite right in terms of toe and cant. You don't necessarily notice that in the shop as it's just the plug, but then you put the fins in and think WTF!

On the other hand, most people wouldn't notice then either. The FCS system, especially the refined FCS 1 (1 piece rather than 2) is apparently very easy to put in and also better in engineering terms. FCS II, seems mostly a good rort to make sure you have a whole new batch of fins to sell. Seems very hard to say it is based on increased performance, and black duck's comments above apply.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 12:35am

Pathetic excuse for setting the fins all skewed batfink . Blame the fin box ? Over the last 20 years evolution of fin systems haven't changed and installation success was immediate . There are manufacturers that have no problems installing them quite well

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:47pm

If the fin box is tricky to put in, then the outcome is likely to be less than perfect caml. My contact in the industry is a perfectionist, so he wasn't making excuses for himself. I will bet my left nut that if he finds them problematic then everyone does, or if they don't it's because they care about outcomes that little bit less. He is somewhat scathing about the quality standards in the industry for brand boards. If you get customs all the time then the shaper will have more of his heart and soul in it, but mass produced boards, as the vast majority ride, are hugely variable in quality and it's hard to tell looking at the finished product. I trust his judgement on it.

ojackojacko's picture
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ojackojacko commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2016 at 7:02pm

I've got a Hadyn Lewis board (paddle pop minimal) with fin boxes that look like the FCSII (figure 8 shape) and no screws, but a different system. Got it second hand years before FCSII were around, but don't know what the system is (internet searches threw up nothing). Sweet board too btw.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 7:36am

I remember in the 90.s before fin systems hit the scene a shaper that shaped my first custom and use to take me surfing told me he was going to get rich because he was working on this fin system.

He did develop it, and it didn't need a alan key, it had some sort of clip you could easily push in or pull out.

But sadly like most fin systems that emerged at that era, it didn't take off, and he is still a struggling shaper.

Ada gula, ada semut!

Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy commented Monday, 12 Dec 2016 at 11:21am

Hey ID, I had a board in the mid eigthties that had a fin box, but instead of a flat head screw at the front, it used a "fin cam" system that you could screw in and clip down without a tool. I think I might still have that board around. I also have a D Mac with red x fins, no problems as yet.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 12 Dec 2016 at 12:22pm

Those fin cam locks are still available
$8.95

Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy commented Monday, 12 Dec 2016 at 12:38pm

Cheers Udo, I have not heard of them in a long time, Indo's comments reminded me.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 7:40am

BTW. Kind of related, i do have a negative fin key experience story.

In the early days of FCS systems i had left a board in Indo, i had left it in my board bag with the fin key in the pocket.

I traveled to a fairly remote area of Indo, that back then had no surf camps/resorts and was rarely visited by charter boats.

I arrived and went to go for a surf, pulled my board and fins out, grabbed my fin key and the damn alan key tip (about half of the length of the metal bit) had rusted from being in a moist salty board bag, it wasnt just threaded it was completely rusted, hence it wouldn't work at all anymore.

Which meant i was screwed and very unlikely to find an alan key in the area, i went searching anyway and took the fin key with me, luckily some local fisherman/mechanic guy was a bit smarter than me and took the key and cut the tip off it with a hacksaw and tidied it up with a file.

And it worked, i put my fins in and and went surfing and only saw a few other surfers a couple times for the next few weeks a few guys from a charter boat.

But for a few hours i was freaking out thinking am i going to be able to go surfing, or thinking id need to glue my fins in somehow.

Ada gula, ada semut!

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:40pm

Indo

Could you please link up with stunet, and do an interview/ or article about some of your wild stories.
you're out of control mate , in a good way ........imagine if you had lost the fin key out on the boat.

The last one about the broken ribs /lung was off the charts......

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:43pm

Do those fin keys float ? if not they should.

The Shaper's picture
The Shaper's picture
The Shaper commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 6:13pm

Stu describes the FCS story as a saga. Indeed it is with twists and turns in the most unexpected places. Perhaps someday the full story will be revealed.. ...who knows. You must all remember though that there was life and history before the internet.

However In keeping with the theme of the article ........will they get a patent....I submit the following as the reasons why they have not and most probably wont. The problem for FCS is that the key element was disclosed in the original patent and the FCS 2 as it is called would also rely on that as its key element.

See the following extract -: " the fin having a plurality of fixing formations extending from its end surface, each such formation being engaged with in the cavity of a respective fixing element by releasable means LATERALLY ENGAGING SAID FORMATION".
OK so zoom forward to FCS 2 and ask yourself how is the fin held in place? It has a funky piece of semi rigid plastic that "LATERALLY ENGAGES SAID FORMATION".

So you can see the problem straight away..............and that would have been very very evident right at the first meeting with Hallfords or who ever their patent attorneys are now.

So they would have known all along, but as long they have an application in progress they can "kick the can down the road" as long as due process will allow, which of course keeps the market at bay and adds a perception of value to the company. Buyer beware !!!!!!! Mr Slater.........

So what has happened is they have claimed the farm but only own a small paddock. This card is always played in the market. You would do it too if it was you.

I have not looked in to the matter in any detail for years now so I am not sure if they are dealing with the US or Australia as their primary application this time. If its an Australian primary application they will never get it through because there is someone opposing it. You never used to be able to oppose an application in the US until it was granted. It then became a court matter.

They MIGHT end up with a VERY narrow patent covering the spongy bit of plastic in combination with the hook on the front if they are lucky. All be it though, I think the blood hounds will probably tear the remnants of the application apart this time around.

sorry I could not resist...............

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 10:04pm

Thank you the shaper .

The Shaper's picture
The Shaper's picture
The Shaper commented Saturday, 3 Dec 2016 at 2:16pm

thanks Caml. This is touching on stuff that I have kept pretty close for a lot of years now. Having had a day or two to digest that post I am feeling better about it. Its a matter of public record that's been totally off the radar and it seems still is. I am happy with that as long as if there is an attempt to tell the whole story that the whole story is actually told. Not just the glossy one. There are a good number of bits missing from Stu's article. 1) Surfco were not the first to challenge. 2) Surfco did not win the case against FCS because they merely sighted previous judicial ruling. They won the case because the patent did not cover the fins. Think about the implications of this for an hour or two.....it will blow your mind.......Infringement is infringement, you cant get of the hook if you are infringing, regardless of the excuse. They were not infringing. I bet that was a big surprise and relief to Surfco when they found out because IP Law is scary stuff if you are on the wrong side of it. But It didn't all just work out that way by accident................

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:41pm

Who are you ?

penmister's picture
penmister's picture
penmister commented Friday, 2 Dec 2016 at 11:19pm

I can never get a fin to sit flush . screw the front one no stop screw the back..
Just an animal l...

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 2:02pm

Sand the outer edge of the base between the lugs.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 1:12pm

Just remembered a fin company called A.f.s. that was around about when fcs started . They were worse than fcs . From east Australia qld maybe ?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 2:25pm

The great MR loves those plastic Fcs fins.
Dan Oppolito an Eng did some testing between layered fibreglass fins and moulded composite.

The Shaper's picture
The Shaper's picture
The Shaper commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 7:32pm

Udo, that data would be interesting.
Indulge me for a moment here..............
At 50% glass loading there is not a lot of difference between Nylon
and Polyester resin, until 3 weeks of course when the Polyester has cured sufficiently. On face value though a fin that is 7mm thick and has an evenly distributed foil with 50% glass loading has acceptable rigidity for performance surfing. So its a functional product. There are a couple of problems though.....1) at 50% glass loading you get surface quality problems because the glass comes in contact with the surface and distorts your nice glossy finish. 2) when using white, the glass shows as darker swirls. To overcome those problems FCS reduced the glass content to 25% so they had a nice glossy white retail finish. That meant that you were dealing with the raw properties of the Nylon. Now Nylon is not a rigid product it does not flex it stretches. (their fins were 6mm thick)

Now we .....myself and a number of other colleagues and many elite surfers I might add, had worked through the whole flex issue and had proven that rigid fins were a key to improved performance. Here is how it works.

You slide down a solid wave face especially a fast wave, and there is a point, possibly a second, where you plant your weight on the rail. That energy then transfers through to the fin, what you need at that point is an immediate return where the tension that you have created is intensified "in the water" pushing back against the fin. Its that reactive energy that thrusts the fin forward. At speed water stores energy. So if when that energy is released back against the fin, its stretches or flexes, two things happen, 1) some of the returning energy is lost, 2) the energy loss results in a delay.

In practical terms, this means that now not only is there less power (energy) coming out of the turn, but the timing is off by a fraction as well. In some situations the combination of those two issues will leave you just behind the 8 ball. You know that feeling.

The elite surfers of the day knew the difference and some, not many, still do. When the industry started pushing 25% Nylon fins hard, the elite surfers would not use them, so they were using glass fins to fit the system for some time. (happy to be corrected on this point of timing) Then once Slater came on board it didn't matter, the general market did not know what it didn't know. The industry was happy because the production lid had been blown off, the retailers were happy because they had a whole new product range to sell, the general market was happy because they had what Kelly had (or did they) and FCS were very happy. Absolutely brilliant marketing.............I must say though the product has improved from those early days, but there is still a big difference between Nylon and Polyester resin. Of course MR is the happy exception to all of the above LOL.............

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 7:44pm

Thats very interesting
Dan Opps study PDF thingy is avail via google

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:00pm

Great article and great comments.

Has anyone else used the late FCS1 'peanut' mountings? Much broader, robust, shallower compared to the 2 plug FCS1, and only FCS1 fitting compared to the deeper FCS2s. My favourite of them all, and sadly I can't get them anymore.

Futures time I suppose

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:06pm

Fcs Fusion ones- figure 8 shape ?

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:11pm

Yes Udo that's them. Good strength and weight mix, variable cant angles, slight adjustment back and forth in the tabs. I can still get them apparently, joy!

Edit: this is the area where FCS should develop their tech, in customising the variability of how you can cant and move the fins up and down within the 2 tab fin type, my 2c

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:09pm

Available everywhere ...Ebay....etc ...and cheap and as good as futures

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:45pm

Sanded you dont sell Fcs fusion plugs ?

sanded's picture
sanded's picture
sanded commented Wednesday, 28 Mar 2018 at 11:17am

Hey Udo
yes we do Fusions, FCS2 and all the install jigs as well as Futures and Gearbox, it took a long time to win over FCS to allow us to sell to backyardies in Australia, they wanted us to have the Shaping sheds for hire up and running so we could teach (if needed) people to use their jigs and install. We try to support the brands in the industry instead of copying them as thats what most people want in their boards anyway. Though we are always looking for other systems that are worth stocking.

sanded's picture
sanded's picture
sanded commented Wednesday, 28 Mar 2018 at 11:18am

Hey Udo
yes we do Fusions, FCS2 and all the install jigs as well as Futures and Gearbox, it took a long time to win over FCS to allow us to sell to backyardies in Australia, they wanted us to have the Shaping sheds for hire up and running so we could teach (if needed) people to use their jigs and install. We try to support the brands in the industry instead of copying them as thats what most people want in their boards anyway. Though we are always looking for other systems that are worth stocking.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:12pm

Good to hear

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:16pm

& while I'm at it there was a fin system type used in the early 90's that allowed you to vary the toe-in of the fins, I still have a set of the installation routing bits for it in the shed. A sticker was put on the plug where you could set how many degrees toe-in, using an allen key from the deck to attach and adjust. I think MC tried them in his time over in WA? Quite a clever system, strong too.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:20pm

Red X

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 10:38am

They were the worst fin system I ever used...snapped out at the base maybe 8 fins over 3 boards...the stability at the base was overpowering their construction strength...

Edit: were actually really positive to ride but flawed in their attachment design.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:28pm

Just looking at them now, doesn't seem to be the same mounting - the old mountings were broad & circular. Maybe an earlier version of it?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 5:33pm

U sure there was adjustment thru the deck?
Wasnt 4 Way fin system was it they had toe and cant adjustment

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:53pm

I think so Udo,

Very complicated stuff there, i think it was just too much for a lot of people.
That's a pretty complexed set up . lots of variables.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 9 Dec 2016 at 7:56pm

Hi Udo, I found a couple of the side fins and they are called 'Swivel' L-085, very different to REDX. TM, Patent pending and all that.

nogo's picture
nogo's picture
nogo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:23pm

It wasn't redx.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:27pm

RedX did have a system with thru deck adjustment

nogo's picture
nogo's picture
nogo commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 6:28pm

yep forward and backwards but no toe in or cant.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016 at 11:50pm

Thats right nogo . It was a different version that had toe in . Len dibben .
Udo can you back up MR loves plastic fcs ? Batfink no offense intended its just that futures are piss easy if you take pride in perfection and dont rush the job

nogo's picture
nogo's picture
nogo commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 4:36pm

ONE80 is the system you are thinking of.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 7:17am

Caml i was chatting to MR and feeling up a board he had been riding which he had the plastic fins in...i said to him wtf are you doing using them things.......his reply - the plastic fins ...i really like them..i love them in this board, board is the one in the 6th pic on his insta
How good is pic num 5 from 1968

Lefthander's picture
Lefthander's picture
Lefthander commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 9:50am

Great read Stu, You should get in contact with Dave Wood . Like Whitty another NN sharper (inventor). Ask him about his dealings with FCS . Another piece of the puzzle for the FCS 2 patent.

Faunt Leroy's picture
Faunt Leroy's picture
Faunt Leroy commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 3:07pm

I hear Kelly Slater is rumoured to be buying FCS. If he is, has he got something planned - new tech that can be patented? Personally I think the box systems all of these fins use is going to be superseded very soon.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 4:28pm

Superseded I hope Fauntleroy mcgillicutty . Udo thanks for clarifying mr likes the fins for that board for the waves I believe that the plastic are good in small waves but they do snap off often

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 6:29pm

caml, they were designed to snap at the base before the plug was ripped out! I get the impression that fcs2s are fixed more solidly into the board so it is less of an issue.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 10:46pm

True blindy , designed to snap . Both the plug and tabs were weak . Fcs2 is much better I agree . But I dont use them but I do prefer solid glass panel , machine cut foils for accuracy

tootr's picture
tootr's picture
tootr commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 7:45pm

Remember speeedfins? Had a few travel boards with them and not a blip, but they got a lot of flak and went down the spout?
Boards went great with them.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Wednesday, 7 Dec 2016 at 10:58pm

Anyone remember riding glassed in fins that you could hit rocks daily , and they didnt break out . And don't forget what greenough did with fin foils

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 9 Dec 2016 at 8:01pm

Yep for sure. Still have quite a few boards like that.

We have this mad longboard in the family back in WA, Cordingleys Mk 7 I think, 1966ish, 9'5" with such a narrow bladey raked Greenough style fin, still glassed in perfectly 50 years later and it flexes like it's in the wind

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 9 Dec 2016 at 8:03pm

While we're at it here's a tip of the hat to 10oz Volan glass, indestructible

calmbutnot's picture
calmbutnot's picture
calmbutnot commented Saturday, 10 Dec 2016 at 7:21am

patent or not, i'm pretty certain no one can use their name or 'FCS'

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Sunday, 11 Dec 2016 at 12:37pm

The first company to be taken to court by FCS for patent infringement {and won] was Fintech Fin Systems.Fintech was created in the late 90s on the Goldie.FCS focused of Fintech,after Fintech started to import their fin system into the USA through On A Mission,a large surfwear company simular to Surfstitch.Fcs although loosing the case had actually won,by bleeding all the remaining $ out of Fintech for the court case.They being a young company,could not recover financially after that.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 11 Dec 2016 at 12:55pm

Bert Burger reckons Barry Jolly took on FCS and won...and because fins are considered an accessory anyone can make a fin to fit anyones fin box without legal dramas -along those lines anyway
from Swaylocks

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Sunday, 11 Dec 2016 at 1:40pm

hey Dd On A Mission (OAM) was a small accessory company from SoCal. Cant recall any clothing and not even remotely like SS

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Sunday, 11 Dec 2016 at 10:33pm

Barry Jolly,was a partner in Fintech Fin Systems,and invented the system.OAM had boardbags,traction pads,leashes,and pros such as Taylor Knox,and Rob Machardo,ect,and a good distrabution network in the US.The case was won,as the fintech grub screw came in from the front,and not the side,so did not infringe.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml commented Monday, 12 Dec 2016 at 12:43pm

Thanks for the history udo & dd cool info to put out there

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Monday, 12 Dec 2016 at 1:22pm

Didn't whitty sue Bill and get $1m , then Bill sued and got $2m , and now the end is near , looks like another investment group is set to buy as Kelly only offered shares in OK!!

x

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016 at 5:55pm

Bert Burger any think to add re fintech ?

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016 at 7:15pm

surfco hawaii,went to court,and actually lost their case against fcs.Soon after Fintech went to court,and won their case.Surfco hawaii,then appealed their case and won on points from the fintech case.
Barry Jolly is a close friend of mine.There is another company also all set to pounce with fcs 2 fins.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Wednesday, 14 Dec 2016 at 1:25pm

An ad for shapers I found in tracks ride guide.
Go on to their website and it is only old fcs dual tab and futures single tabs available.

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Wednesday, 14 Dec 2016 at 3:06pm

They also list a whole range of fins on their site that they dont have.Lennie has learnt from the chineese,they do that too.

stoner's picture
stoner's picture
stoner commented Thursday, 15 Dec 2016 at 1:43pm

Any guesses on who the big company moving into the fin market is? I reakon Rip Curl O'Neill or maybe even Creatures??

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Thursday, 15 Dec 2016 at 3:28pm

I wish them luck,there are lots around,but the top ones for quality are Futures,Fcs,Shapers,Raptor.Ive seen lots of the other no name brands,and a lot buy the chineese seconds.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 11 Mar 2018 at 8:46pm

cgrover...here you go .

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018 at 8:21pm

A touch later than expected but here they come: fin companies testing the FCS II patent.

First up, Shapers with FCS II compatible fins approx. 30% cheaper than FCS.

https://shapers.surf/

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018 at 8:59pm

Gorilla are doing them too.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018 at 9:03pm

Same company. Gorilla = the old Gorilla Grip, owned by SHI who own FCS.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018 at 9:09pm

I see. I like the look of the shapers range better than the fcs. A pity the all glass ones are only ML and L sizes though.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018 at 9:15pm

Watermark also doing FCS2
Starting at $43 US thruster set

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 4:03pm

The other SHAPERS / FCS story has gone...Legal probs ?

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 4:17pm

Gone to Gowings!!!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 4:59pm

There are more court cases than types of fin plug set. Sheesh!

John Eyre's picture
John Eyre's picture
John Eyre commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 6:16pm

Try 3d fins instead.......dimples

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 6:56pm

3D fin seconds $50
They even offer to trade in your old fins.

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 at 7:09pm

Have heard on the grapevine shapers are being sued by fcs.

The Shaper's picture
The Shaper's picture
The Shaper commented Sunday, 25 Mar 2018 at 4:15pm

so has the FCS Patent actually been granted? Because if it has not been granted that is just as you say , gossip, there is no suing anybody. I believe,( I may be wrong on this) they can send a letter informing the competitor of their application and that they may infringing but that's it. Its illegal to threaten. On the flip side; if it has been granted why would anybody bother to spend the money on an infringing product? A defence will cost well into 7 figures. Tha'ts a lot of fins to sell in a market with no exclusivity. A Queens counsel will want min of 25k per day paid in advance just to front up to Fedral court and that does not include the extensive case prep. Then if you lose the plaintiff can ask for all profits, then punitive damages on top.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 25 Mar 2018 at 5:05pm

Roy Stuart...where are you mate ?

Dd's picture
Dd's picture
Dd commented Sunday, 25 Mar 2018 at 6:55pm

Fcs has their patent,this info came from a very reliable source.

The Shaper's picture
The Shaper's picture
The Shaper commented Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 6:18pm

It seems they do indeed. Filed in May last year (2017) granted June.
Innovation patent not an inventive patent.
Curious strategy.
Suggests they may had real problems getting
the full version through. Here at least anyway.
Interesting read. I am sure the committed parties have sought their advice.
I suspect this story is not over by a long shot.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 3 Jul 2018 at 2:58pm

Shapers S2 fins seem to be no longer available through their website.

Any new developments here?

Can still buy the stock through eBay stores such as wetfins.

eel's picture
eel's picture
eel commented Tuesday, 3 Jul 2018 at 3:14pm

I bought some FCS2 copies off Ali Express. Carbon base with hex top half. Awesome quality for only $45 Australian.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 3 Jul 2018 at 3:33pm

Will interesting to see how they are quality wise in 6 months

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