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Longboard FIn

The fin. Thank goodness for this guy.


The Inertia

If the surf fin was never invented, we’d all be riding straight to the beach. The fin is designed for control, steering and stability. Pre-fin surfers used to have little control of direction and turn very gradually, if at all. Picture a classic surf shot with ten guys on a wave, all riding straight towards the shoreline. They couldn’t really turn anyway. Today we have a wide array of options and flexibility when it comes to surf fin set-ups, but it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took some convincing that the surf fin was a good invention at all.

1940's surf fin

Surf fin from the 1940’s on a Hawaiian wood paipo surfboard Photo: usvsa.com

The stabilizing surf fin was invented in 1935 in Hawaii by Tom Blake. He took the fin (keel) off an abandoned speedboat in Honolulu Harbor and screwed it into the bottom of a paddleboard. The fin was widely ignored for almost five years until the 1940s when the innovative design started to take hold. By the end of the decade, it was widely accepted. Speedy twin fins grew in popularity in the 1970s with surfers like Mark Richards who had success riding them on the pro circuit. The thruster, invented by Simon Anderson, didn’t hit the scene until the ’80s when Simon found that a center fin added more control and stability. Around this time, Martin Potter visited San Clemente and his above-the-lip assault inspired Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold to catch air. Then, in the 1990s, Brian Whitty invented the removable surf fin system in Australia.

Futures Fins TechFlex

Futures Fins TechFlex Photo: DriftingThru.com

Now, boards are made with glass-on fins, flexible fins, and the most common–a removable fin system. Companies continue to experiment, innovate, and improve fin design. Surfers not only want fins that will add control and direction in the water, but will also launch them above the lip. Futures Fins experiments and innovates surf fin design with a if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it mentality. The Huntington Beach-based company designs custom fin sets for surfers such as John John Florence, Jordy Smith, and Flynn Novak, among many others. Their fiberglass fins are designed to be virtually indestructible while fins from the Honeycomb collection offer different technology for a more glassed-on feel with medium flex. Plenty of other options like FCS and Captain Fin Co. serve the same function.

The surf fin changed the sport of surfing forever, and companies continue to experiment, innovate, and improve fin design for ultimate customization. In 78 years, we went from surfing straight to backflips. Combining the talent on the ASP World Tour and the companies pushing innovative fin design, who knows what will come 100 years later.

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