Three fins before the Thruster

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
The Rearview Mirror

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

That Simon Anderson invented the Thruster is a statement that should invite no argument. The Thruster has three fins of equal size placed in a triangle at the rear of a wide-tailed board. Simon conceived of the the idea, built it, and then chose the name. The Thruster discovery is his.

To Simon's credit he always deferred to those that assisted or inspired him. In his biography, Simon claimed there are five fathers of the Thruster: himself, Geoff McCoy, Mark Richards, Steve Zoeller, and Frank Williams who rode the first board Simon saw with three fins on it.

Yet the history of tri fins doesn't start with Simon Anderson or even Frank Williams. Simon may have hit upon the magical formula but many other shapers were swimming in the same waters. When singles or twins were the norm these shapers experimented with tri fins, some of them pre-empting the Thruster by over a decade.

The following is by no means a definitive list of shapers who experimented with three fins. It's also not strictly in order; a semblance of chronology is assumed but only for the sake of narrative.

Few photos exist of the earliest tri fins. Perhaps for this reason, the Campbell brothers with their widely documented Bonzer are often considered the pioneers. Bob McTavish, however, quietly contends that claim

"I added tri fins in 1965 at Hayden Surfboards in Alexandra Heads to increase acceleration and hold," confirmed Bob during a recent conversation with Swellnet. "I called them pectorals."

At the time, Bob was using a ten inch Greenough fin and he found the fin set up generated too much lift in the tail. He promptly abandoned the experiment.

"I smashed them off with a rock at First Point Noosa," recalls Bob.

No photos exist of McTavish's first foray with three fins - perhaps because it wasn't deemed a success. However, he returned to the idea on the other side of the Shortboard Revolution when fin size had reduced and tail width narrowed.

Accepted wisdom says that Malcolm and Duncan Campbell of Ventura, California, were the first surfers to put three fins on a board, though Dick Brewer and Reno Abellira may contest this - see next section. In 1970 the Campbell brothers created the first Bonzer, which was designed in response to the limitations of the newly popular shortboards. By adding two long-base keels just forward of the centre fin the Campbell's felt they could increase the projection of their existing boards. They dubbed their new invention the Bonzer.

In subsequent years the Campbell brothers reduced the tail width of their Bonzers, which also increased control, and they also introduced concaves for speed. Bonzers were the first double concave surfboards.

Malcolm and Duncan applied themselves to the Bonzer, developing and fine tuning the design. However, it could easily have remained a local curiousity, another quirky design from a surfing backwater, except for being noticed by Mike Eaton who helped give it first national and then international exposure.

In 1973 Eaton was head shaper at Bing Surfboards and he engineered a licensing deal with Malcolm and Duncan Campbell. That same year Bing Surfboards were bought out by Gordon & Smith, but rather than be pushed aside in the acquisition the G&S connection took the Bonzer to Australia.

But that was still a few years away...

The Campbell brothers, Malcolm and Duncan, with a first generation Bonzer in 1970 (at left) and a later version with reduced tail width.

The Campbell brothers weren't the only surfers to glass three fins onto a board at the turn of the 70s. In October 1970, Dick Brewer, having just launched Dick Brewer Surfboards, did the same. The boards were made for Reno Abellira, his test pilot at the time. Like the Campbell brothers, the two side fins on Reno's board bared little resemblance to traditional fins, rather they were half moon keels. Yet unlike the Campbell brothers they weren't placed forward of the centre fin but in line with it.

“The tri-fin,” said Reno in an April 1971 Surfer article penned by Drew Kampion, “has single-fin drive and twin-fin torque. It is a compromise of each with the elimination of hang-ups.”

Despite the praise, the pair halted their tri fin experiments. In 1999 Drew Kampion interviewed Dick Brewer for The Surfers Journal. Of his 1970 tri fins Brewer said: "I knew there was something there...but I suddenly realised I was already five or ten years ahead of the surfing world in development; so I put it aside till I had time and money to work on it."

However, the time and money never arrived. Dick Brewer went from in demand shaper of Hawaiian guns in the early-70s, to heroin addict, to surf industry drop out, and the tri fin design was subsequently left on the shelf.

Brewer may be counted as a tri fin pioneer but it was left for others to realise the design's potential.

One + Two = Free by Drew Kampion, Surfer, April 1971. At right is Reno in 1970.

Soon after Dick and Reno's three fin foray, a small number of shapers in Australia and Caifornia began experimenting with various versions of the tri fin. Six years after he smashed his 'pectorals' off at Noosa, Bob McTavish was back glassing them onto his boards. The side fins were placed either in line with the centre fin or immediately forward of it, and though they were small they had more of a classic fin shape than those used by the Campbell brothers or Brewer/Abellira.

"In 1971 I made about twenty at Barry Bennett's factory in Sydney," said Bob about his second wave of experimentation with tris. Although this design was conceived around the same time as the Bonzer, Bob views them seperately. "I only rode a Bonzer once, in 1973, shaped by John Blanch," says Bob. "It ripped, but I was into Lennox guns at the time so I admired it as a sideshow."

"Later, around 1976, I made hundreds of twin fins with a centre fin box for a small stabiliser. A lot of them were for Victor Ford at his Bondi Surf Shop. They were very good boards."

Vic remembers those 2 + 1 boards. "We had a lot of them come through, and they sold well, but they just stopped and I can't even remember why. Perhaps the times weren't right."

Bob's experiments with tri fins were indicative of what was to come: the boards were either single fins with stabilisers to the side, or twin fins with a central stabiliser. Rather than representing something new, they were hybrids that referenced existing designs.

Bob McTavish at Bennett Surfboards in 1971 (at left), and a Bob McTavish tri fin from the same year.

Though Dick Brewer and Reno Abellira didn't pursue their tri fin designs, another Hawaiian was paying close attention. Ben Aipa, invented of the Stinger and shaper to South Shore hot doggers Buttons, Bertleman, and Mark Liddell, joined the three fin mix.

Swellnet: What was the thinking behind those early-70 tri fins?
Ben Aipa: It’s kinda simple in a way ‘cos I got into the twin fin at a time when surfing was undergoing a lot of change. But the twin fin wasn't accepted in Hawaii. So what I did was drop the side fins down in size, then I put one in the middle to give the board direction - just like a keel on boats. I don't know anything about boats! (laughs)...but I just looked at it and that centre fin gave my twin fin some direction.

Also, having a centre fin meant it was better accepted by the Hawaiians.

Because it looked like a single fin?
Yes. From that point on guys were accepting it. Surfing was changing but not everything was accepted. Like I said, in Hawaii twins never really took off. People had very negative thoughts about them. With the third fin it was even more negative, until they went and tried it themselves. Then it took off. Those boards were more popular than twins in Hawaii at that point.

And roughly what year was this?
Oh man….early 70s?

An early-70s Surfboards Hawaii tri fin shaped by Ben Aipa (Photos and board Gavin Scott)

A mate of mine has one of your Hawaiian guns from the 70s. It has three fin boxes in a Thruster configuration yet it was never meant to be ridden with three fins, just a single fin or a twin. Can you recall this design?
Ben Aipa: I do. Like I say, surfing was changing. Guys were trying to surf their boards, not just ride them. These new young guys were coming out of nowhere in Hawaii and older guys were saying, “No, you don’t ride multi fins. You ride single fins.”

But these guys, they were so different. They’d try anything.

So you could have ridden it as a twin fin?
Yes. That was the idea cause it gives you an option. But you mention the word option and the Hawaiians go “what?” (laughs). They don't really understand the word, you know. I wasn’t pushing twins in big waves but I thought it was possible. Surfing was changing, we were trying out new things and we didnt know what was coming next. May as well try two fins, eh?

Well the board had three fin boxes in a Thruster arrangement. Would you have tried three fins in it?
It didn’t really cross my mind to set up that board with three fins. No.

1970s Hawaiian gun shaped by Ben Aipa, to be ridden as a single fin or twin fin, but not as a tri fin (Photos and board Gavin Scott)

In 1973 Peter Townend was getting some of his Hawaiian boards shaped by Californian Mike Eaton. As mentioned earlier, Eaton was working at Bing and had become enamoured with the Campbell brothers Bonzer. In June he wrote a letter to Peter Townend speaking highly of the design and provided rough schematics.

PT promptly shaped his own Bonzer under the Goodtime label, though he used the alternative spelling 'Bonza'. He then travelled to Newcastle where he won the Newcastle Open contest, arguably the first significant contest win on three fins, at least in Australia.

The early success turned PT into a convert, he shaped many Bonzers for both himself and stock boards for Goodtime and G&S. He also shared the design with Ian 'Kanga' Cairns who would mirror PT's success; in December 1973 Cairns won the Smirnoff Pro in Hawaii riding a Bonzer - arguably the first international contest win on three fins.

Clockwise from top: Mike Eaton's letter to Peter Townend with design information on the Bonzer; Towend warming up on the Bonzer in Newcastle, a competition he won; the Goodtime Bonzer (Photos Peter Townend)

In 1974 PT took a trip to California where he visited Gordon & Smith in San Diego. While there Mike Eaton introduced him to Skip Frye. At the time Frye was aborbing the designs of Steve Lis, a kneeboarder from San Diego who'd invented the Fish in 1967. With small changes, stand up surfers had begun riding Fish designs and Skip Frye was among the earliest proponents.

Townend himself had seen first hand what the Fish was capable of. In 1972 he placed third at the ISA World Contest behind Jimmy Blears and David Nuuhiwa, both of whom rode twin fin Fish. Yet PT never liked the twin fins. "I loved the feel of single fin drive, especially off your bottom turn. That's probably why I never got into twin fins." Controlling their speed on the wave face was also a problem.

Yet he had to concede that the Fish design contained something special. So for his next board he took the best elements of the Fish: the low rocker, straight rails, and wide tail. However, to stabilise the tail he set it up with a single fin and two smaller side fins.

PT dubbed the resulting experiment 'The Purple Flyer'.

"The Bonzer was the inspiration to put the outside half-moon fins on the Purple Flyer," says PT. Like Brewer and McTavish's earlier boards, the three-finned Purple Flyer was a hybrid. However, rather than referencing a single fin or twin fin, it took it's design cues from both the Campbell brothers and from Steve Lis.

PT rode the Purple Flyer the next two years. In fact, he still has it now.

The design, however, didn't catch on and during the late-70s Bonzers played a diminishing part in PT's quiver.

PT's 'Purple Flyer'. Photo above right taken at Black Rock, below it is a still from Steve Core's 'Ocean Rhythms'

While PT and Cairns were testing their early tri fins in the cut and thrust of the fledgling pro tour, Mitchell Rae was moving in the other direction. Originally from Dee Why in Sydney, Mitchell escaped to Nana Glen in the Coffs Harbour hinterland in the mid-70s. Under the Outer Island label he began exploring obscure corners of the design world: deep concaves, flex tails, and also tri fin setups.

Though the board below left appears to reference Bonzers, Mitchell is adamant that wasn't the case. "I hadn't really been exposed to them at that point."

The board was shaped in 1978. That Mitchell was oblivious to the Bonzer is testament to the fragmentary media of the day and also his retreat from city life. As much as any idea can appear out of a vacuum, Mitchell's '78 tri fin did. "I had no reference points when I shaped it," explains Mitchell. "I wasn't building upon someone elses ideas. It really was a lightbulb moment."

Built for doing "tighter arcs in smaller surf" Mitchell said the side fins provided a "forward pivot point similar to a flyer". And much like earlier tris, they were placed just forward of the centre fin. Mitchell made the fins by laying up fibreglass over a pipe to create the curve. They were then positioned with extreme splay so the curve of the fins merged with the deep concave.

"It was almost seamless," says Mitchell of the design.

Though the memory illicits a keen response, Mitchell didn't continue with the design.

Mitchell Rae's cosmic creations from 1978, including a tri fin at far left (Photo and boards Mitchell Rae)

Peter Townend and Ian Cairns stuck with tri fins longer than most. Each of them had early competitive success on tris - PT won the Newcastle Open in March '73 and Cairns the Smirnoff Pro in Hawaii in December of the same year - yet PT's interest waned later in the decade.

Cairns, however, persisted with the design. "I have a ton of power in my bottom turn so I'm always seeking the leverage that a high area fin-set provides," Cairns recently told Swellnet.

In the late-70s Ian Cairns tried larger side fins on his tris which allowed for a smaller centre fin - again the different sized fins - however he didn't persist with that arrangement because he needed the larger centre fin. "Spinning out was not fun at waves like Margaret River," explains Cairns.

Around the beginning of the new decade Cairns hooked up with Nev Hyman, another West Australian who'd recently shifted operations to the Gold Coast.

"There was a point in time when people were considering three fins on a board in a creative way," says Nev Hyman recalling those 1970s tri fins. "We were playing around with all these boards. Just trying to stabilise a wide tailed board." In the late-70s twin fins were again popular, this time on the back of Mark Richard's success.

"In late 1979, early 1980, I made a lot of twinnies with a stabiliser – a stabilising back fin," says Nev. "They had two large side fins and one small back fin."

"I wasn’t the only one doing it, but we were playing with that theory," says Nev.

Twin fin with large stabiliser by Nev Hyman circa 1979. The outline is more reminiscent of MR's twin than Simon's Thruster (Photo and board Nev Hyman)

Then towards the end of 1980 Nev reversed the theory, he increased the size of the centre fin while reducing the side fins. He made one of these boards for John Nielsen and another for Ian Cairns who by happenstance took it to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 1981. And of course Cairns wasn't the only person there with a three-finned board.

"As soon as I saw what Simon had done it was a no brainer," says Nev. "What Simon excelled at was to approach the whole thing from the ground up."

"Simon wasn't simply tweaking what we already knew," says Nev, still marvelling at the apparent simplicity of Simon's discovery. "He used three fins, all the same size, with these wider tail boards."

(Click to read the full interview with Nev Hyman on three fins before the Thruster)

Simon wasn't the only burly natural footer with a tri fin at Bells in '81. Ian Cairns and the almost board, a progressive tri fin shaped by Nev Hyman that was made redundant by Simon Anderson's wide tail Energy Thruster (Photo and board Mike Martin)

Ironically considering how the event is now viewed, Simon's Thruster breakthrough wasn't contingent on the number of fins on the board. It works because the fins are of equal size and placed on a wide tail board. As Nev Hyman says, "Simon didn't play around with the fins, he played around with the planshape."

The result is that even though he was using the same basic parts as other shapers, Simon managed to create something wholly new. His was an achievement in proportionality.

Clearly Simon wasn't the first person to put three fins on a board, yet it took the Thruster to realise the potential of three fins. In an interview that appeared in a 1981 issue of Surfing World, Simon put his accomplishment in context with earlier experiments: "I think if something comes into your head and you create it, although someone else has done it before, if you perfect it then it can be considered your achievement."

Special thanks to Gavin Scott, Nev Hyman, and Peter Townend.

Comments

Rise of the waves 2017's picture
Rise of the waves 2017's picture
Rise of the wav... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 3:34am

Shhhhhhzzzzzzzzzz......... I don't know? I don't want to take anything away from some of our best shapers and evolution and 1981. But that board of Nevs looks like a thruster to me and it also looks like the most popular fin template of all time! (The Merrick AM2).
Hmmm looks like we could have another all-time disquisition like the wave pool design with Peter Drouyn accusing Kelly slater and co of patent stealing on one of the other major Australian surfmag sites some interesting comments! With Peter replying to questions in the comments section!
But no one is accusing Simon of patent stealing yet (right?) or is there a little undercover animosity secretly going on in the shaper/fin world that we don't know about.

Rise of the waves 2017's picture
Rise of the waves 2017's picture
Rise of the wav... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 6:13am

The other cool thing when I look closely at that board of Nev's are the similaritys to the Thommo Sci Fi and the way the channels on the side kinda look like they would mimic that waterski effect that Thommo was talking about... Gee NEV I used to ride your boards when I was in my early teens and loved them.
But looking at that RED BOARD you were so far ahead of any shaper and designer it's not even funny.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 3:57am

Great bit of history there and nicely explained.....well done.

eat-your-vegies's picture
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eat-your-vegies Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 6:38am

Hows that backside bottom turn of renos. Reminds me of Bertlman nearly a decade later at ala moana bowl

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:29am

The first tri-fin I ever rode was in 1973, it was a mates board and I was always bludging a go of it.
The board was made in Tasmania and the surfboard brand was Turn.
I seem to remember there was a bird on the logo probably a tern.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:51am

Don't mean to be picky but I'm pretty sure that early Tassie label was"Tern surfboards" not Turn, had a little bird on the logo, not that i was even born in in 73 but in the late 80's early 90,s in Tassie my mate had an old single fin Tern board we use to surf sometimes for the novelty factor.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 8:31am
udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 8:40am

Return of the Tern - The Collective
Tasmanian Soul surfing since 1964

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 5:06pm

Ok, Cool yeah the old board had exactly the same logo as the first link.

MP's picture
MP's picture
MP Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:44am

Great article, speaking of five fins; are they the next big thing? maybe combined with a Tomo type parallel plan shape with wide tail. I know of a lot of surfer/shapers who experimented with them through the 80's/90's, Glen Winton being one of the most prominent. I personally didn't like them as I was more used to the stiffer feel and power surfing style of a single fin/thruster or the MR style twins that featured big fins. The five fins I saw certainly looked fast and loose. under the feet of talented surfers and most interestingly they drew very different lines. Hmm.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 8:22am

US expat and now SW WA stalwart shaper Tom Hoye first shaped a five fin in 1981. He calls them 'the Claw' and still reckons 75% of his orders are for five fin Claws.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 8:47am

Greg Griffin Tri fins in the 70s and his own set ups for 5 finners at present

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:47am

Slightly off topic but I found this article about early beach culture in Tasmania.
Check out the Tasi version of the Alaia with the 3 cross pieces.
http://www.maritimetas.org/collection/displays/home-made-surfing-tasmania

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:52am

Great article.

I think Nev is an underrated shaper, that Nev board looks pretty nice, pretty close to a true thruster.

atticus's picture
atticus's picture
atticus Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 10:20am

Another great article Stu though I would've thought Terry Fitz with his HB Drifta or Bill Thailkill in the States would have warranted a mention.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 11:45am

I would've liked to have included TF, had a few of his boards lined up to ask questions, but he declined the request to be involved - that would be the diplomatic description.

I'd only heard of Bill Thrailkill after Neal Purchase Jr began making his Duos, a concept Thrailkill explored decades earlier. Quick research shows that, yep, he was quick off the mark with tri fins too.

This tri was made in 1971:

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 5:28pm

So out with it Stu, what did you do to piss TF off?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 5:34pm

Best not go into it here.

'Twas illuminating though.

grazza's picture
grazza's picture
grazza Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 1:04pm

That brings back some memories. I got my first real board in 71. My uncle was a mate of Barry Bennett's and he helped me with a deal. Talked me into a second hand 6'0 McTavish Tri. Essentially, it was the board I learned on. Lime green bottom, pastel green deck, pin lines - a beautiful thing. I never realised how good a board it was until I dug it out ten years later. I remember doing a big foam climb on my first turn and thinking whoahhhh. Now I hear that it was one of only 20 made. Wish I knew where it was now....

I also remember seeing the photo of the red tri tail in a Bennetts ad in SW. Thought it was the sexiest thing alive. Still looks sharp.

surfstarved's picture
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surfstarved Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 1:10pm

Someone posted on Swaylock's about a week ago that they'd eyeballed a photo from the 30s of someone sporting a board with three half-moon keels on it. At this point it's only hearsay, but everything new has a precedent somewhere.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 2:09pm

Do you mean this board.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 2:21pm

"...but everything new has a precedent ..."

Oxymoronic and yet in the surf world so often true.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 7:07pm

Yeah, should probably have put "new" in inverted commas...

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 1:42pm

Great article thanks

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 1:59pm

I seem to remember Midget producing tri fins around 69-70 with a large central fin and small rail stabilisers. I had a few bonzers around 73 but didn't stick with them for long.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 4:14pm

Spot on bb, they were called Side Slippers, I had one in my collection for a while. Thought Reno shared the technology with Midget.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 4:18pm

My bad, the board I had was indeed a tri-fin and not a side slipper (just double checked).

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 5:26pm

Yeh the side slipper had that weird reverse curve in the nose plan shape. It was the start of everyone doing those spin manoeuvres. I had a 5'8" with a single fin about the size of a thruster fin but set up a bit further. It was great fun for summer but lost its attraction once we hit some solid winter swell.

surffoils's picture
surffoils's picture
surffoils Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 4:58pm

These 'inventions' or 'discoveries' are also a blend of timing and good luck. If Simon hadn't won at Bells it would've been someone else to be the 3 fin hero with a totally different name instead of Thruster. Or maybe never. Maybe quads would've come back or the Twin/ single war would've continued. Maybe FCS would've created something using hoop fins, 5 fins or something else. It certainly was a remarkable moment for Simon to forever have the title of inventor.

bgreen's picture
bgreen's picture
bgreen Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 at 7:43am
philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 at 11:31am

Enjoyed reading that.
http://mypaipoboards.org/interviews/BarryHutchins/bellyboards1_LL.jpg

In this photo it looks like he was playing around with offsetting the fins, a precursor to asymmetrical fin setups.

MullumMadness's picture
MullumMadness's picture
MullumMadness Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 at 2:13pm

All wrong sorry.
Here's a link to the very first 3 fin board.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201149725757696&set=pb.1006339...

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 at 5:14pm

Ben Aipa, Brewer, Abellira, MCTavish, Townend Nev Hyman, that's one hell of a roll call.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 24 Mar 2017 at 10:34am

Muddy waters...

Bob Cooper, 1970s, pic Jim Swinton.

Brad Mayes for Emerald, reportedly 1970s, pic Dominic St John Yue.

 

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Saturday, 25 Mar 2017 at 2:33pm

@stunet.
This article was so good , i read it twice. Keep up the go work.

On another note one of my favorite thrusters I ever rode was shaped by Sam Egan , which is ironic considering their history. Have actually been contemplating getting a replacement replica shaped.........the board went that well.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Sunday, 26 Mar 2017 at 12:49am

Late 70's D'Bah & Tugun Crews...Henry/Jaco ripped on Pipedream 'bonzas'(bonzers)
Custom jobs mostly flutes & flyers but still some channels & stingers.
A bit fluky for novice riders because more fins meant more stable right ?
Bonzers were by far the loosest board of the day!

Needed more weight on your back foot to kick'em into gear.
With practice you'd pocket tight shoulder moves on your backhand real nice like Jaco.
Bottom turns were weak point but great for frontside verts. That's how they got Fluky tag!

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Sunday, 23 Apr 2017 at 5:48am
wesley's picture
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wesley Sunday, 23 Apr 2017 at 1:38pm

Good read Stu

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 19 Aug 2017 at 9:05am

Last night I watched Steve Core's 1971 film 'In Natural Flow' and noticed Narrabeen's Col Smith riding a tri fin, which not only adds him to the list of guys who experimented with three fins but puts him right there near the beginning.

the-camel's picture
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the-camel Monday, 21 Aug 2017 at 1:16pm

Great article. I read both the article and the related comments and was amazed to discover that one obvious point has been missed by everybody, namely; Bonzers are surfboard designs that have been ridden consistently by experienced surfers since the 70's.
The Thruster on the other hand is a modern gadget, a mass-produced, mass-ridden, mass-endorsed, hypermarketed, 3-finned surfboard/toy, consumer-hypnosis phenomenon that make a lot of money for a few pranksters while hoodwinking the rest of us.
Just wanting to clear that up for anyone who may have thought that there was a connection between the two. There is'nt. One is chalk, the other is cheese.

stunet's picture
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stunet Monday, 21 Aug 2017 at 1:44pm

Not sure the first Thrusters were mass produced.

And if they were mass ridden and mass endorsed that was only because they worked.

Unless you think everyone who rode them was deluded?

the-camel's picture
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the-camel Monday, 21 Aug 2017 at 2:17pm

deluded? ....nah, I still prefer "hypermarketed" & "consumer hypnosis"

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook Monday, 21 Aug 2017 at 4:16pm

well, whatever works for you camel for wherever it is you surf.
the thruster was made for sydney beachies. it works a charm around here. it's our local design and we're proud of it.

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml Monday, 21 Aug 2017 at 10:11pm

Yeah no worries chook ,
No argument there .

the-camel's picture
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the-camel Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 10:41am

Yeah, I get that thrusters really suit some folks wave -riding skills and approach to surfing. It's probably a generational thing and probably say's more about my age than anything else. I grew up learning to ride on all manner of boards but they all had the single-fin in common. I was'nt aware of it at the time but they shaped how I learned how to approach a wave and either it really suited my style or it shaped my style to suit but within what seemed like the blink of an eye, they'd vanished!
Simon won a Bells comp on a thruster and then BOOM!! Suddenly thrusters were everywhere and everything to everybody. You could'nt buy any other kind of board for years! It was like they just dropped tools on every other design option and went into thruster overdrive. Talk about saturation.
Guys with a busy momentum and constant athletic style really benefitted from riding thrusters, that was obvious to anyone. What was'nt obvious or maybe it was, but never acknowledged was how totally unsuitable they were to fellas like me. I was'nt the only one.

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ljkarma's picture
ljkarma Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 2:04pm

No No No caml you were not alone. Give Derek Hynd a call to fight off the loneliness

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 2:48pm

Wtf ? Ive said this before .
Imposter .

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 2:28pm

Thanks for the tip ljk but I've already tried. He won't answer my calls.
It's me, I just know it.
Not being able to ride a thruster was just an early indicator of more bewildering problems which were just later indicators of even more bewildering problems.
Darwin was onto it.
Adapt or find yourself in an evolutionary cul-de-sac. A single thing with a single-fin.

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 8:03pm

Imposter eh? I resemble that!

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 8:28pm

Why did u say , "No No No caml you were not alone. Give Derek Hynd a call to fight off the loneliness" ?

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Tuesday, 22 Aug 2017 at 10:33pm

Caml , the Thruster has been tried and tested by the worlds best surfers in ALL conditions from 2' shore breaks to 60' plus big waves.
I am not sure why they haven't worked for you , or how many custom boards you have had as thrusters , is the Desert Storm a thruster?
Do you ride quads or just singles ?

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 10:30am

hey sharkman, what's a Desert Storm? I've not heard of that one before. Not in a surfing context anyway. To answer your question, I have never ridden a quad, I just ride singles or bonzers nowadays.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 3:51pm

I thought you did a step up surfboard model with Webster called the Desert ??

caml's picture
caml's picture
caml Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 4:54am

Quote sharkman :; "Caml , the Thruster has been tried and tested by the worlds best surfers in ALL conditions from 2' shore breaks to 60' plus big waves.
I am not sure why they haven't worked for you , or how many custom boards you have had as thrusters , is the Desert Storm a thruster?
Do you ride quads or just singles ?"

Why are you asking ?

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 6:39pm

just wondering , as guys who like quads normally don't like singles!

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 6:40pm

just wondering , as guys who like quads normally don't like singles!

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 10:21am

I had a good crack at thrusters. I watched surfers at the athletic/high performance end of the surfing spectrum riding thrusters and I thought, "that's what I wanna do". Well I tried it and I could'nt. I tried it for about 15 years! I did the research.

I live at the other end of the surfing spectrum, the kook end. All thrusters did for me was give me the wriggles, they just kind of swivel around beneath my feet. I tried long ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, flat rocker, banana rocker, reverse v to double concave and all the other shapers to the stars goobledegock. Weird thing is, I watched other guys whose surfing was also going backwards as they wriggled about trying to "go off" but nobody said anything. Maybe they were happy with things as they were. But I was'nt.

The thruster had become so ubiquitous by that stage, that it never occurred to me to try something else entirely. I frigged around with some old single-fins, but they were way too narrow. If you got a reputable shaper to make you a single, you basically got a thruster with a big fin. By that time, nobody had ridden them for years and many shapers had never ridden them at all. The cultural wallpaper of the thruster had covered every room in the house.
Anyway, I finally got a lucky break with a Cash Converters somewhere in the mid 1990s. I walked past one day and there was a Dick Van Straalen 6'8" single-fin. It was pink, but it was wide, 21inches (which was a rare dimension for it's era) with a wide forward point and it had modern, low profile rails. It was a revelation. I was on my way after that and eventually I stumbled upon the Campbell Brothers.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 4:00pm

the-camel whats with caml?

Interesting how you were never able to ride a Thruster , and now ride singles or Bonzers I presume , as that what Duncan and Malcom make.
But there are plenty of power surfers out there that would over power a single or a Bonzer.......so its about what suits your style , yeah there are lots of mediocre surfers who , as you say wriggle around on Thrusters , but its more about their level of surfing , happy you found designs you like!

Fliplid's picture
Fliplid's picture
Fliplid Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 5:39pm

there's only one caml, beware of cheap imitations

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 at 7:27pm

Yes sharkman i do not like changing from the quad to single ! Correct.
Only rarely ride a singler, its mostly the quaddy , unless of course its a finless type of craft

troppo dichotomy's picture
troppo dichotomy's picture
troppo dichotomy Thursday, 24 Aug 2017 at 7:50am

yeah there is only one caml!the-camel is confusing many with his name choice,mite not be aware that the surfing world already has a well known caml thats feral n wouldnt live on the gold coast.copyright infringement!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 13 May 2020 at 8:33pm

More grist for the mill, all of these tri fins are from 1971:

Owl Chapman with tri, Surfer, October 1971.

Stick on tri fins, just $3!

Note also the ad for a 'surf strap', a precursor to the legrope, attach by suction cup and hold with your hand.

Surfer, May 1971.

"Three fins and you win!"

The Presslock Fin System, with no screws necessary. Nine years before the Thruster, twenty-one years before FCS, forty years before FCS II no screws.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Wednesday, 13 May 2020 at 9:04pm

1971!
I only come here for the education....must of missed this one from a few years ago.