Parting the Water: Part 1 - Fin Placement

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Design Outline

Though surfboards consist of many design features, each which influence your surfboard in various ways, none have as much bearing as your fins. This shouldn't be a suprise as boards are generally described in terms of how many fins they have.

Yet despite their importance, those little things on the underside of your stick can be a mystery. And while it's true a good board needs every design feature working in harmony, it also helps to know what everything is doing, so what better place to start?

Today we’re looking at fin placement, starting from singles and moving up to the five-fin Claw. In Part 2 we’ll look at fin design.

Single Fins

Tom Blake is generally credited with putting the first fin on a surfboard. He did so in 1935, screwing a metal keel off an old speedboat onto his flat-bottomed surfboard.

Blake attached it near the tail of his board but for the sake of our conversation, let’s imagine a board with one fin attached at the board’s midpoint. With no forward bias, the board’s nose and tail are effectively the same and, when put in motion, it’ll want to spin around that midpoint.

Now, if we take the same board and begin to move the fin away from the centrepoint, when it’s again put in motion it’ll assume a direction away from the fin. The fin finds the point of least drag and tries to keep the board on that path.

Keep moving the fin and you’ll reach a point where it’ll offer a rider a modicum of control. The board will be loose, no doubt about it, much like trying to ride a skateboard with loose trucks, and like a loose skateboard it’ll have a propensity to spin out of control, but the advantage is it’ll be easy for the board to break the straight line.

In the late-70s, Hawaiian surfers such as Larry Bertleman (who incidentally was a very good skater), Buttons Kaluhiokalani, and Mark Liddel, set their fins far forward in the finbox to achieve max maneuverability, even pushing their boards into controlled 360s. Their V'Land sessions showed what was possible on a single fin when fin placement was taken to an extreme (they also provide inspiration for Derek Hynd to eschew fins altogether forty years later).

Bertleman at V'Land, a sharp arc on a single fin

However, all that maneuverability comes at a cost. When single fins are set forward, the board is more likely to spin out of control, and it will also lack forward drive. Drive wasn’t necessarily something the late-70s Hawaiians sought out for their small wave sessions, as even three foot V’Land has enough groundswell push to provide board speed without looking to design.

Elsewhere that wasn’t the case. Here in Australia, especially on the East Coast, where big waves are the exception not the norm, surfers had to look at board design for speed - including fin placement.

If we started by moving the fin from the midpoint, where there was no control and it spun like a top, and then reached a point around ¾ to the tail where there was some control though it was still loose, then we should expect the pattern to continue as we move the fin further toward the tail.

As the fin approaches the tail, the board will increasingly have more control, meaning it’ll be less likely to spin out, it’ll offer the rider more drive (and hence speed) when it’s pumped, however those benefits come at a cost: the board will be stiffer and less maneuverable. 

The Australian model of back foot power surfing was based upon single fins with the base pushed further towards the tail than their Hawaiian small wave counterparts. It’s difficult to have that conversation without also mentioning rails and rocker but for the sake of brevity that’s what we’ve gotta do.

Twin Fins

The first twin fin was likely also built by Tom Blake in 1943, however Bob Simmons also developed a twin fin design in 1948 independently of Blake. Despite these early forays, it wasn’t until the shortboard revolution reduced board length that the qualities of twins could be harnessed. Namely, increased speed and responsiveness.

Steve Lis, Nick and Bear Mirandon, Reno Abellira, and Mark Richards all played significant roles in modern twin fin design - and in the future that list may also include Garry McNeil and Simon Jones.

So how does the twin fin work?

If, for hypothetical reasons, we removed one fin out of a twin fin and pushed it through water, drag would veer the board towards that side. This means there’s already an inclination to turn towards the side a surfer is leaning.

Early fish (Steve Lis) and many of the early-70s twins, all had the fins running parallel to the stringer. While there are still many benefits over single fins, this parallel design can sometimes make a board feel like it’s running on railway gauge, locked into a single direction.

A 1967 version of the Mirandon brothers Twin Pin. Elements of the design would be used by Steve Lis, while other aspects, such as fin toe, wouldn't be accepted till nearly ten years later when MR popularised the twin fin design

By the time Reno resurrected the fish, with a young MR eagerly watching on, this feeling was all but gone as shapers had begun to angle each fin inwards towards the nose - a feature called fin toe. While it’s possible for twin fins with toe to run in a straight line, their natural inclination is to turn. Once a turn is slightly initiated, the inside fin - i.e the fin it’s turning off - has force applied to its outside face and it tries to balance this by turning the board further in that direction.

In essence, the fin is trying to find the path of least resistance.

MR's 1980 world title-winning twin fin

A common complaint of twin fins from the late-70s and early-80s was that they spun out a lot. In part this was due to old style rocker and also to fin placement, which put the fins further up the board than a single fin - recall that fins up the board are loose but prone to a lack of control. To combat the lack of control, shapers such as MR tried to achieve hold through larger fins and by reducing the tail area.

Lack of control caused by rocker isn’t as much of a worry as it once was - modern rocker curve has seen to that - though you’ll notice many modern twins incorporate channels for hold and fins inched rearward from their late-70s versions.

The Duo

“Twin fins perform better the closer the fins are till you’re left with just one fin," said George Greenough echoing a sentiment about twin fins, that their speed and maneuverability are an unworthy payoff for their lack of control.

The first Duos? The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and two twins showing similar configuration to NPJ's boards

It’s unknown when the first ‘Duo’ was built though it likely evolved from the early-70s twin fin design. More recently, Neal Purchase jnr struck on the design and named it, also proving the merits of said design through his own surfing.

Though it clearly has two fins, the Duo rides more like a single than your standard twinny; it’s more stable, doesn’t have that “wiggly, fishy feeling in the tail”, as NPJ himself puts it, but has more speed than a single fin. A good compromise in other words.

The Thruster

Though it was famously unveiled in huge waves at the ‘81 Bells comp, Simon Anderson’s Thruster wasn’t the only three-finned board at the contest. Lesser known is that Ian Cairns also rode a tri fin shaped by Nev Hyman.

In fact, people had been putting three fins on a board for up to fifteen years before 1981. There were Bonzer’s, Brewer tri-fins, twins with stabilisers, and singles with side-biters - which is what Ian Cairns rode at Bells ‘81. What there weren’t, and what Simon Anderson introduced, were boards with three fins of equal size set in a triangle.

'It only appears simple in hindsight'. Simon Anderson and his deceptively simple idea.

The Thruster was an immediate hit. By the end of the year, all bar one surfer in the then Top 16 was riding them. Even MR, who rode twin fins to four world titles, swapped to three fins, and eventually the lone holdout - Cheyne Horan - did too.

Yet nor was the Thruster a specialised design, as its qualities also lent itself to beginners and intermediate surfers as much as it did to pros.

To understand how the Thruster works, first visualise how a twin fin arcs off its inside fin when turning, ostensibly trying to find the path of least resistance. The side fin on a Thruster does the same, however the trailing rear fin is also cutting through the water, and always at an angle to the turn, and this creates drag.

This drag is key to the Thruster’s versatility. To understand why, think about the rear spoiler on race cars. Tested in a wind tunnel, the spoiler creates resistance and should theoretically slow the car down, however the spoiler also pushes the rear end of a car down so it can corner faster. Though it’s slower in a straight line, the car becomes faster overall.

The same is true of the Thruster where the quickest way to get from point A to point B isn’t in a straight line. Through body locomotion, surfers generate speed by driving off the Thruster’s increased fin area. And if theoretically the board isn’t as fast through a turn as a twin fin, it’s more stable and more forgiving, hence can be pushed harder.

Also, the combination of two fins to turn off allows a broader range of arcs, which can be placed in various parts of the wave. Where twins were limited, spinning out if pushed too hard in steep waves, the Thruster provided a stable platform across a wide range of scenarios.

As for negatives, the necessity for constant turning is the Thruster’s main drawback. Constant motion lends itself to a sameness of style, where individual flair is gazumped by repeat gyrations. It’s a criticism noted by the likes of Andrew Kidman and Dave Parmenter.

Quad Fins

The success of the Thruster slowed further innovation on fin configuration for a few years afterwards, yet it didn’t stop progress completely. It’s unclear who, where, or when the first quad fin was made, but Bruce McKee, Glen Winton, and Brazilian Ricardo Bocao all have legitimate claims to Patient Zero, most likely made shortly after the Thruster’s unveiling.

All three pioneers, and other shapers who pursued quad design such as MR, Glenn Minami, Pat Rawson, and later Jeff Clarke, were looking to achieve the Thruster’s acceleration and stability, but mixed with the twin fins’ pure speed.

Ricardo Bocao with his self-shaped 'Quatro' in 1981

Though it has one more fin than the Thruster, drag is reduced in quads as the rear fin, which always slices at an angle through turns, is removed. As long as the board is leaning over, then the outside fin cluster is nullified, and the two inside fins control the turn. As they’re set closer and also running at similar angles to each other, they create less drag than a Thruster.

Yet as we’ve observed, less drag means more speed but less control. A surfer's individual preference on the sliding scale from speed to control indicates their preference, or otherwise, for quads.

Many of Winton’s mid-80s quads had the rear fins smaller than the front fins, and also placed them towards the rails, both of which created a looser back end. The ‘rail centric’ rear fin set up is in contrast to the layout Bruce McKee developed which placed the rear fins further back, closer to the stringer, and with a reduced fin toe. McKee also took a leaf out of Simon’s design, making all four fins the same size (or very close to it).

Bruce McKee with one of his M5 quads, the fin tabs showing the rear fin placement compared to a Thruster - slightly forward and toed in

By putting the rear fins closer together, McKee reduced the ‘information gap’ - referring to the lack of board feedback from twins and early quads, especially coming out of big turns after the rail is released but before fins make the board feel centred again.

Another aspect of quads, particularly those with all four fins of similar size, is that they have a preference for running laterally across a wave. Like a boat that, when unpowered, drifts ‘beam on’ to the swell, so too will a board with an excess of fin area - it wants to sit across the wave. Quads can be surfed vertically but they have to be urged away from the X-axis.

Around the turn of the century, quad fins began appearing on big wave guns, pioneered by the likes of Jeff Clarke. His theory was that big wave boards didn’t have to be pumped like small wave boards - in fact they couldn’t be pumped like small wave boards - so innate speed is a prerequisite for big wave design. Two decades later most big wave boards are still quad fins.

The Twinzer

Another design with a very clear originator. In the late-80s, Wil Jobson was shaping in Southern California when Martin Potter rode one of his four fin boards. Pottz liked it, had his shaper Glenn Minami knock one up, and Pottz included a Twinzer in his quiver on his ‘89 world title-winning campaign.

Rather than place additional fins behind the main fin set, the Twinzer reduces the size and puts them in front. The theory is similar to canards on planes, except here the small fins “punch a hole in the water” - as Rusty Priesendorfer puts it - and not air. 

The canards disturb the water so the following fin, which is larger in size, creates less drag and the foil acts more efficiently.

Pottz Twinzer shaped by Stuart D'Arcy

Though the main fins aren’t set quite as far forward as a standard twin fin, Twinzers were still very loose in the tail. A quality Jobson tried to correct by using narrow tails and channels - not unlike what shapers are using on modern long-railed twins.

Da Claw

American emigre Tom Hoye wasn’t the first surfer to put five fins on a board, shaper Mike Croteau had done it and footage from the ‘82 Bells shows Midget Farrelly with a five fin surfboard, however, much like Simon Anderson and three fins, Hoye made the configuration work and he named it, forever connecting him to the design.

In the wake of the Thruster’s big reveal, Hoye found himself shaping a lot of quads, a design he didn’t know much about. So he shaped one for himself, however he didn’t want “a glorified twin fin” so Hoye placed a fin in the back.

From the beginning, Da Claw showed promise, with five fins digging in it had extraordinary hold, however it also had a lot of drag, and this is where Hoye’s refining began. To begin with, all of the fins are sanded down to about ½ inch shorter than Thruster fins, while the leading fins are set further forward than standard Thruster fins to loosen the board.

Yet even when sanded down, the overall fin area on a Claw is more than a quad, so, perhaps more than any design mentioned in this list, the Claw has remained a specialised configuration, reserved for big, hollow waves that easily overcome the drag factor.

Next week: Part 2 - Fin Design

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 2:45pm

how's the toe-in on those Mirandon twin pins.

Fan of the McKee set-up on quads.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 3:35pm

erudite summary - many thanks stu - i look foward to part 2

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 3:48pm

Jake Spooner won a comp on a 6 fin too.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 12:03pm

Sure did. The '97 Konica Skins at Sandon on a Wayne Cleggett six fin.

spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 3:49pm

What about the twingle? You didn't mention the twingle!

Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 3:55pm

Awesome read Stu. Thank you.
Can anyone explain this? I ride, on smaller days, a two one set up. Big twin fin with little stabilizer back fin. I get that I gain some control of the looseness of a twinnie with that little back fin.
I still do not really understand the concept of the two small side fins with the big single fin that guys ride on mid lengths and bigger. I've seen some really good surfers on them so I figure they must work. Any thoughts on how/why?

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 5:53pm

I find cutbacks go longer on the 2+1, ie traverse more distance. A thruster is more responsive. 2+1 is a half way house between the single fin rail drive that covers a lot of ground and the thruster ability to make speed by tick-tacking the rails which gives directional freedom.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 2:17pm

I'll get my terminology in line with everyone below - I am describing a '1+2' above. Probably my favourite setup, it was working a treat this morning.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 7:31pm

I'm the same, love the 2+1 on my small wave grovellers and usual shorty.

I'm guessing 1+2 makes the transition from rail to rail smoother in bigger surf, or feel that way for the surfer? Not sure though. On my mid-length single-fin sometimes in bigger surf there's some bite at times if it's a late drop (sliding before the fin fully engages and bites) or sudden change in movement, and this might smooth it? Guessing Stu will know better.

Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 9:43am

Thanks guys
The subtleties of board design will remain a mystery.
I did not consider your explanation of the bite aspect on a drop Craig. The smoothing makes sense.
Has anyone seen the set up (big middle fin small side fins) on a shortboard? I am guessing the longer board is creating much of the forward momentum and therefore no real need for constant turns off big side fins.
I also realise that greatly reduced working hours are leading me to pursue unimportant but nonetheless intriguing questions.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 10:51am

A 2+1 set up....or 1+2 for Surf Starved (see below)...allows a greater range of arcs then a single fin, and also aids reaction time.

Any time you take a fin off the centreline, there'll be a kick in responsiveness, and though sidebiters are small they help initiate any turn off that edge.

Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 11:09am

Thanks Stu
Nice clear explanation.
I am assuming a similar reasoning behind bonzer set up also.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 11:29am

You know, the only Bonzer I've ridden had the runners a long way forward and the distance between them was fairly narrow too.

If the fins of a Thruster are set in an equilateral triangle (or close to it), these fins were more like an extremely stretched isosceles triangle. They offered no extra response, and it left me ambivalent about the whole design.

Without knowing for sure, I'd suspect the best Bonzer layout would have the fins as close to equilateral as possible, and three fins not five.

Then again, Bonzer aficionados may be chasing a different feeling altogether.

Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 1:21pm

Bonzers are bunk.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 2:20pm

Hall of Lame, "Has anyone seen the set up (big middle fin small side fins) on a shortboard?"

Try Dave Parmenter's Widow Maker.

Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 2:47pm

Interesting stuff thanks velocityjohnno - have you ridden one?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:07pm

2 plus 1 setup
1 large centre fin with 2 smaller side fins
Large centre fin provides stability and 2 smaller side fins give extra control and manoeuverbility

From The Surfboard warehouse.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 10:40am

Not that it matters either way, but I've always thought it was better expressed as 1+2, because it's the big single centre fin in the starring role, while the side-bites are just playing bit parts.

In my reasonably humble opinion, 2+1 better describes a twin set-up with a smaller stabiliser in the middle.

dlk92's picture
dlk92's picture
dlk92 Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 5:05pm

Wholeheartedly agree with you surfstarved! Might be pissing into the wind on this one but glad to know someone thinks the same!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 7 Sep 2021 at 2:24pm

Yep, agree as well.

n!ck's picture
n!ck's picture
n!ck Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 11:47am

Agreed @surfstarved… Labelling 2+1 for a bigger centre fin (the hero) with smaller side bites (the support team) seems totally counter intuitive. 1+2 makes way more sense imho when describing this fin setup.

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:07pm

Great writeup, any possibility of an update which includes 1+2 Widowmaker setup and 5 fin Bonzer setups as well?

BÓTON's picture
BÓTON's picture
BÓTON Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:28pm

Well

Beat me to it

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 5:22pm

X2

BÓTON's picture
BÓTON's picture
BÓTON Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:14pm

Love these articles mate, but no bonzers?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:40pm

Wingnuts going dig this article..
loves playing with Toe and Cant and Placement
And lets not forget Roy.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 8:38am

Yes, I've been down that rabbit hole, once or twice.

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 4:51pm

Great article Stu

3vickers's picture
3vickers's picture
3vickers Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 5:14pm

I laugh at myself in memory of the first time I rode a quad - (sadly 20 + years ago!!)...that thing was so fast & loose it felt like I was always a couple of seconds behind it....I never really mastered it to be truthful and haven't had the skill/budget/knowledge/desire to experiment further - a thruster serves you pretty well I reckon

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 5:19pm

Looking forward to this so much, what a topic, much gratitude,

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 5:50pm

Yes it's a great topic

Shoutout also to late 1980s Perth boardmaker Barracuda with the 7 fin board.

Hazrus's picture
Hazrus's picture
Hazrus Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 6:20pm

I've always liked quad rear boxes placed closer to the stringer. Makes more sense now.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 7:35pm

I love quads in fast, down the line, hollow waves that have tons of wall and power to work with. Not so much in shorter, sucky, bowly waves owing to them wanting to not go more vertical as Stu's pointed out. Also as others have said, the quad puts you out way more in front of the face so you have to read a bit ahead of the wave.

I only surf thrusters in bigger, more powerful surf like 5-6ft upwards on the East Coast and SA/Vicco/Indo surf. Otherwise I'll be on a 2+1 or twinny in East Coast waves. And get the single out if it's tiny peelers or a bit fuller and fatter but long-lined.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 11:44am

Craig I have given up on thrusters as after over 30 years of surfing them it was time for a change and went back to my original love/hate of twinnies (as opposed to pure hate for singles). After returning to riding fast motorcycles dirt and road, I got hooked on the instant speed and acceleration and pumping all the time gets tiresome. Also age is catching up and couldn't care what I looked like as long as I can do some big flat out sweeping turns on larger waves. The modern twinnies are great at this, don't spin out and go left and so are quads. They go vertical too. Give the rear fin the flick - go nude with just the two!

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 7:44pm

Great article Stu. It's funny how one day you just click with a fin set up. For years I rode nothing but a twinnie. And for another year or so after that it was a widowmaker set up. It's been quads for the last 5 or 6 years now and I cant imagine shifting that up now. I ride singles on fun boards and logs, but I only really ride those when I'm dicking around. Reading this helps me understand why my surfing is gravitated towards the quad set up.

alan.mcmillan's picture
alan.mcmillan's picture
alan.mcmillan Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 8:16pm

Great read I ride a lot of different fin configurations and this explains a lot of the questions I have the Single plus stabilises is still a favourite for everyday. Not what the hipsters what to hear but great control and drive.

jimbrown's picture
jimbrown's picture
jimbrown Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 8:54pm

Fantastic Stu, very clearly explained. Many thanks, looking forward to the rest of the series

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 10:44pm

Da Claw... drag factor.... only for big hollow waves....??? I... ah... errr... hhhhhhh.... nah, I'm just gonna leave this one alone. Tom, thanks for teaching some of us how to make em' so we never have to ride anything else again.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 6:53am

Ha ha...I had a bet with myself that AA would appear in the comments disparaging my Claw comments.

And whaddya know...I won!

As much as possible I tried to steer away from personal, subjective experience, and as as far as I can see, the Claw, while undoubtedly being a design of merit, performs best in bigger, hollower waves.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:39am

Had the feeling it was a trap! Well played, Stu.
P.S. I thought the article was really well written, professional.

Max Wax's picture
Max Wax's picture
Max Wax Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 9:57pm

Hey Ape, do you or anyone on swellnet know where I could find a Tom Hoye claw for sale? 8'0-10'6 preferably, also interested in 6'0s upwards and thrusters/quad setups too.

desoutc's picture
desoutc's picture
desoutc Wednesday, 8 Sep 2021 at 11:46am

AA, was hoping to catch you on here.

Had a couple boards on order with Tom before he passed: a 6'0 Da Claw and an updated version of a '78 singley (possibly the best board I've ever owned) my mate scored on the secondhand rack at Paul Gravelle's shop.

Have an 8'3 Da Claw that goes unreal, would love to try and find something around the 6ish foot mark if you have anything you want to let go, or know of someone who might.

PS. Was that your green and gold eight footer Tom finished a few months ago? He mentioned something about sending it over this side of the country. Looked unreal.

sbsb's picture
sbsb's picture
sbsb Wednesday, 1 Sep 2021 at 10:44pm

Great metaphors and a really instructive article, thank you!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 5:47am

I'm a big fan of quads. About 75% of the time I'm on one. I've tried four fins the same size and also two smaller trailing fins. Four fins the same size seem to work for me. That's the beauty of surfboard design these days: pretty much anything goes. It's just a matter of trying a number of different designs and figuring out what works for you.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 7:12am

Alright, it's been up less than 24 hrs and the first correction is in.

Along with Winton and McKee, Brazilian shaper Ricardo Bocao has a legit claim as creating the first quad.

Check shot 3 for his first ever quads, photo taken in Hawaii, 1981.

Correction supplied by Julio Adler who, along with Joao Valente, is currently writing a bilingual book on Bocao.

sideshow's picture
sideshow's picture
sideshow Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 8:42am

Yeah I dunno about that. A Brazilian providing a "correction" to claim that another Brazilian was first! I think you might have got sucked in by overzealous nationalism.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 9:14am

Sounds like your nationalism is under threat?

Anyway, there are photos to back up the claim.

I was always semi-aware of Bocao's pioneering work on quads but never quite sure of the timeline. Irrespective of nationality, he deserves to be included in the mix.

sideshow's picture
sideshow's picture
sideshow Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 1:10pm

Fair enough.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 7:22am

I ride quads 99% of the time, but i kind of have a love hate thing with them, as i dont think they go as good top to bottom, but they are just so fast and loose, when i jump back on a thruster it just feels like im dragging a clump of seaweed as now they feel so slow and stiff to me.

In a weird way i almost regret trying quads, ive tried to ween myself off them and go back to to thrusters as feel like im maybe ruining or holding back my surfing, not surfing in the pocket as much etc, but they are just so hard to give up.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 7:21am

I'm the same, ride them all the time, can't give up the feeling, however I really try to force them away from their natural horizontal line. For me, that begins with taking off straight down the face, rather than across it, and setting up the flow from the start of the wave.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 7:30am

Yeah 100% you really have to think about the way you are surfing and lines you are drawing.

Other negative is you can tend to do more flicky type turns rather than drawn out turns, also at times i find myself just loosing control even on cutback as have to much speed or slide, but the thing is when you do make those types of turns they do feel amazing.

I think you have summed it up with, its about the "feeling" you get addicted to that fast loose feeling.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:40am

Indo, and Stu ... what quad layout are you using? McKee or more rail centric?

Have you tried both?

And.

What fins set-ups are you using?

Design impact of no centre fin is impossible to overcome, however, IMHE, changing fin placement and fins can bring both the 'free flow' and 'go cart' cornering with more traditional vertical 'squirt'. Rear fins more centred aka McKee with a balanced set of fins ... the old k2.1 quad (aka FCSII 'reactor') and the Shapers 'spectrum' AM being my go too after hours of R&D (aka trial and error).

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 5:26pm

Just standard close to rail type set up, but id really like to try the McKee set up, seems in theory best of both worlds of quad and thruster.

Fins vary, but always slightly bigger at front generally 50/50 foil for rears.

I do find with quads, fins make a huge difference and sometimes i really need to try a few different sets, especially with wide tail grovel type quad boards.

And the nubster thing, given it a go in a few boards, the whole theory of providing that little bit of central thruster thing in the mix sounds great especially coming from Kelly, but i really dont know if it adds anything positive, to me it just feels like some drag is added and damn they are hard to sometimes get back out.

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:42pm

Totally agree ID, with quads the right fins make all the difference between a dog or ripper

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 5:43am

It's super interesting reading about different people's takes on quads. I think where they really differ from thrusters is that there is no real settled configuration for a quad; as opposed to thrusters which have been almost unchanged since 1981.
I don't know what I'm doing differently but I've always found that quads go better off the top than thrusters. Where a thruster can get bogged in the lip the quad brings the tail round and sends me on my merry way back down the face. I've also found they come off the bottom well on my backhand.
I am riding four fins the same size and profile. Could be something to try out.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 7:37am

Not sure about off the top.

But 100% agree about backhand, they go great off the bottom on your backhand, but i find you have to really nurse them through turns otherwise you can slide out.

I dont think ive ever used the exact same size fins front and rear might have to give it a go.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 7:44am

McKee position quads I've surfed felt like a fast thruster, great off top and bottom, never slid out.
I used normal thruster fronts and gx rears.

atticus's picture
atticus's picture
atticus Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 7:46am

Great article. Most of know how various boards (twins, singles, thrusters) ride, but not why, and you've attempted to explain that.

I'm reminded of my first board, a 5'8" San Juan single fin that was described as "versatile" because it had a long finbox in it.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:10am
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:28am

What about the 6 fin set up?

https://ibb.co/JzP1NHN

fuhrious's picture
fuhrious's picture
fuhrious Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:24am

Great writing again Stu. Indo I’ve been riding Two Fins only for the last twenty years. What really keeps me on this path is I don’t think about how I’m surfing I just love the feeling that this set up provides. At my age I think it’s important to want to go surfing and the Two Fins gets me out there every time.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 8:31am
Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 1:09pm

One man's...er, person's...drag is another person's lift (with drag penalties)

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 8:00am
Rod Cleland's picture
Rod Cleland's picture
Rod Cleland Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 1:44pm

1981 Stubbies contest at Burleigh was the first time Simon unveiled the Thruster in a heat against Maurice Cole in 1ft Burleigh and the Thruster was first ridden at The Alley rights at Narrabeen. The back centre fin was meant to be bigger than the others but a mistake was made and the fin hung off the back end of the board so had to be sanded back making it the same size as the others all of equal size. Hence The Thruster! - This from an Interview we did with Simon in 2017.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Thursday, 2 Sep 2021 at 2:15pm

Good point about the original larger rear fin. We have a 1981 Energy thruster in the Caviar Collection at home, and one further important point is the thickness of the fins. Our board has 3/8 thick fins on the side and a whole 1/2 thick rear fin! (Compare to todays fins, what, 8mm to 9mm for a finbox, fins themselves thinner)

These fins hold like you won't believe. You can take off under lips and they just hold and make it, where a more modern board will be thrown around.

So yeah, I like my thruster fins thicc

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 8:33am
I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 11:52am

Just finished making my 1st board, when I got to the fin placement I always assumed minor differences to location, cant, toe in etc.

So measured up the boards I liked most and went fu(k!

The difference between them was relativity huge particularly location, did my head in.

Ended up going pretty much stock but will never look at fins the same again.

And then there was the rails...

JBean53's picture
JBean53's picture
JBean53 Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 8:45am

Back in about '63 boards were made for "the pipeline" with two fins. They were the old "D" fin style. The idea was that if you popped one fin on a steep turn you still had one left.

Peters Ice cream company even brought out a "Pipeline" ice block. It had two sticks.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 8:51am

Not mistaking that for the Twin Pole, are you?

https://www.change.org/p/peters-ice-cream-bring-back-the-twin-pole

Also, not to be confused with the Toucan, the Smurfee or the Two-in-one.



JBean53's picture
JBean53's picture
JBean53 Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 9:12am

Thanks for the pics thermalben.
The "Pipeline" ice block was pre decimal currency, circa 1963 and pre-dated these. It was "Peters" marketing at the height of the early '60s surfing craze.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 11:47am

How about this one? Though it's more like a ZooperDooper (no sticks).

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 7:12pm

God those bring back some memories, i swear there was a double rocket one but I cant find it?

I found some of my fav singles though that i hadn't seen since the 80's :D

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 10:31am

No pics in existence of them D - twins
Do you have anymore info on them ?

JBean53's picture
JBean53's picture
JBean53 Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 12:10pm

Couldn't find the ad although the "Pipeline Pete" above rings a bell. The one I recall was a "twin pole" ice block and it was based on the twin D fin board, maybe Peters as they were Streets main competitor. The ad seems similar. Maybe something in Trove.

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 10:23am

I am wondering in regards to thruster layout, when the term spread is used in conjunction to sweet spot of a board. The distances between tail fin or fins and thrusters is often explained and the effect. But what are the noticeable differences of moving thruster fins in the configuration in from standard positioning from outside rail narrowing the spread rather than lengthening it. Side fins move inwards from rail. More drive with out moving rear fin back? Or reduced responsiveness that it becomes harder to initiate turn. 1inch to inch and a 1/4 is what i have mainly found from rail. Have had noticeable differences with toe and lengthen or shortening fins, moving cluster up or back until sweet spot is found. i guess my question is lengthening or shortening thruster spread vs moving thruster placement inward from rail.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 10:34am

Wingnut had a real good page re toe cant etc... Wingy ?

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 8:48am

???

I'll have to go looking...

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 10:58am

thruster placement on that glen winton looks about 2inches inward from rail. Width between front fins is often given in regards to board length in some charts. I like the thruster feeling so have been altering this layout in regards to lengthening or shortening fin spread in referencing charts. Mainly mc fee. I understand that as fins move closer to stringer the less toe they have but what is the effect of increased rail on outside of thruster fins in regards to performance.

Garden Gnome's picture
Garden Gnome's picture
Garden Gnome Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 11:37am

Love the article, a good read. Love the comments too. Everyone has a favourite fin set up and I reckon it is great to revisit old favourites. At risk of stirring the pot, I wonder if there are others like me who call the 'sidebites' on a 1 plus 2 'training wheels'? Apologies in advance for any offence caused! Just for the record I do have a favourite mal that does work nicely with the training wheels attached.

Fliplid's picture
Fliplid's picture
Fliplid Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 12:15pm

A few years ago I read an article by Bob McTavish about his idea of setting the front fins to suit foot size, regardless of tail width and doing away with the standard 1' to 1 1/4" off the rail. Quads were a bit narrower.

Don't know if he stuck with the idea but at the time he said all the feedback was positive.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 7:10pm

These Groms are onto it

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 11:01pm

Ha ha yeah they are classic

Max Wax's picture
Max Wax's picture
Max Wax Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 11:18pm

Hey ID hope all is good with you, surely they are the same grommets that tried to flog me coconuts everyday a few years back ;)

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 11:23am

Hi Max, yeah probably its from a few years back and i do remember the one on the right always selling conconuts.

BTW. They generally have better boards now, but they only turn up for a surf now and then, as most end up going to school in Tello or Nias as get older.

Max Wax's picture
Max Wax's picture
Max Wax Wednesday, 8 Sep 2021 at 7:04pm

Reckon Domi would be ripping by now!

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Saturday, 4 Sep 2021 at 11:02pm

That's wild, any feedback or reviews?

Patrick's picture
Patrick's picture
Patrick Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 12:17am

All I know about it is what's on that fb post.

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 9:31am

2000 space Odyssey concept?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 9:32am
udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 9:39am
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 11:36am

Fins in MHO are the last frontier of surfboard design so many surfers I talk to
put little or no reference to their fins. Just about every length, width, rocker, rail
design, concave, convex and every other thing imaginable has been created and tested. Ive had boards that have been very ordinary but persist in changing fins sometimes up to 5 or 6 times until im happy with its feel and performance resulting in really great boards. I compare them to running ordinary or worn race tyres then putting on new tyres the enhanced performance is phenomenal.
Fins are the future.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 11:53am

Agree 100% Evo
Like driving on a Bob Jane all rounder then changing to a set Michelins or similiar

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 8 Sep 2021 at 6:06pm
Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Sunday, 5 Sep 2021 at 1:50pm

Shocking news. Surfer killed at shelly's Emerald Beach this morning.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-05/shark-attack-near-coffs-harbour/1...

morg's picture
morg's picture
morg Tuesday, 7 Sep 2021 at 1:33pm

Sad news about the surfer. Condolences to his family.

This is a great article. It would be interesting if a few shapers could talk a bit more about how the fin placement of the various multi-fin configurations affects performance and the feel when you surf. I always assume that there must be a compromise in optimal fin placement or tail rocker etc on surfboards that have plugs to allow thruster and quad setups. Similarly I’ve had a couple of quads where the front fins are about a cm further forward than on thrusters.

Back in the late 90’s I bought a six fin 6’6” swallow tail and a five fin 6’8” (?) area pin tail surfboards in Maui. Both boards had same size smallish fins on each board. They seemed to work when I was over there but not at home on east coast oz. The five finner didn’t like turning and I ended up using the the six finner kiteboarding.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021 at 4:38pm
Patrick's picture
Patrick's picture
Patrick Thursday, 16 Sep 2021 at 3:41am

Thanks Udo, great listen.