History of fins: From the sixties to the present

Finns made entirely of fiberglass began to gain ground in the early sixties.

By then, surfers were already experimenting with different fin shapes. The main goal of these experiments was to improve the board’s no-riding characteristics.

The Finns that performed best at this task tended to be longer and had a larger total area.

Each surfer solved this problem in their way.

So, Dew Weber had a “hatchet fin” (hatchet – from the English. Ax), Greg Noll invented a rectangular fin, and Karl Exkrom – “bat fin” (bat – from the English. Bat). There were also many other options.

Another group of surfers wanted to improve the turning performance of their boards. The first fins with a strong slat and a cutout in the back appeared. These Finns took surfboards to the next level in 1964.

One of the more popular boards was Mike Hinson’s Red Fin.

In 1965, Hinson made a redfin from a dolphin’s dorsal fin. In 1966, he slightly revised the design, increasing the rake.

Other popular boards were Harbor’s Trestles Special, Hanson’s 50/50, Hobie’s Phil Edwards, and others. In 1966, Greg Knoll made a pro-model of the famous rider Mika Dora with a detachable fin.

In those years, everyone rode longboards, but soon things began to change.

Could it be shorter?

George Greenough was born and raised in the Santa Barbara area of ​​California.

He began to ride traditional longboards, but he didn’t get much pleasure from riding them; he wanted something different.

So in 1962, George made himself a shortboard about 7 feet long. George Greenough liked the shortboard more than the longboards.

However, he soon realized he would like to be closer to the water. Later that year, he made himself a new balsa board with a cutout on the deck and rode it on his knees.

He didn’t skate anymore while standing on the boards.

George’s most significant contribution to surfing was the invention of the flexible “high-aspect ratio” fiberglass fin.

High-aspect is an aerospace term that describes reducing drag and increasing lift by reducing fin area. He sketched the shape of his fin from the tail fin of a tuna.

The improvement in speed and maneuverability was so significant that this development became the main focus of all future projects of George Greenough.
He experimented with flexible finals over the next several years.

He was so pleased with the results that George began to think about making a loose board that would bend when riding a wave, just like a fish bends when moving in the water.

In 1965 he made the Velo, a kneeboard shaped like a spoon, on which a high aspect ratio of 11 “fin was placed.

In the same year, Greenough traveled to Australia and met the famous shaper Bob McTavish and surfer Nat Young there.

The couple was surprised by how George surfed his Velo and how much the board accelerated out of corners.

When Greenough explained how his fin works during turns and where the acceleration comes from when cornering, Bob McTavish decided to put such a fin on his surfboards.

He started by shrinking the board, making the rails thinner, V-shaped the bottom, and fitted one of George’s fins.

His work was a board called “Magic Sam,” which McTavish made especially for Nat Young.

Nat went to the World Championships in San Diego, where he made circles around the traditional no-riders.

He won those competitions, and the surfing world saw incredible possibilities in the invention of George Greenough and Bob McTavish.

It is how the shortboard revolution began. Since 1967, the boards have become shorter and shorter every year.


Although removable fins were invented back in the fifties, they were not available and used only a handful of surfers.

One of the first people to manufacture and sell a removable fin and embedded polypropylene system was Tom Morey.

He named this system TRAF (vice versa FART. Fart – from English “farting”). Tom upgraded his plan in the sixty-sixth year and called it Wonder Bolt.

As a result, polypropylene became a popular material for the mass production of fins. However, these fins were not as solid and reliable as fiberglass fins.

In 1968, Tom Morey took it a step further. His new partner Karl Pope introduced the world to the Wave Set. This removable fins system included polypropylene injection fins of various shapes and sizes, designed by George Greenough, Skip Fry, and others.

In 1964, Bill Bahne founded Fins Unlimited to create another removable fin system.

In 1968, Bill applied for a patent for the “Adjustable Surfboard Fin Holder,” now known as the inbox.

The patent was received in 1971. By then, his inbox had become the industry standard. The main reason for the success of his system over the Mori system was that many different fiberglass fins could be inserted into the Fins Unlimited system.

And in those years, most surfers believed that such fins were superior in their characteristics to molded polypropylene fins.


In the sixties of the last century, everyone skated on boards with one fin.

And although the first boards with two fins appeared in the distant ’43, popularity came to them much later.

Steve Lees and his fish

Steve Lees was aboard from California. He is credited with inventing the Twin Fin Fish surfboard in 1967. The design is so enduring that it continues to be popular today.

Steve Fox’s twin Finns gained a lot of attention in the late sixties.

At the same time, two fin boards were being developed in Australia, and after the World Championships in Victoria, many American board manufacturers also began making similar surfboards. One of the first was Bing, with shaper Mike Eaton at its head.

Surfer David Nuuihwa, Corky Carroll, and others also experimented with twin Minami. Finally, in 1971, most surfboard manufacturers offered two-fin boards in their line-ups.

Some of these boards worked well; some didn’t. In those years, the main problem of twin Finns was finding the correct place for installing fins and the right angle of inclination and rotation relative to the center.

Boards with two fins did not perform well at large and powerful waves, so most of them lost interest in them after a few years.

In 1976 Australian Mark Richards, inspired by Hawaiian twin Finn Rino Abeira, teamed up with shapers Dick Brewer and Ben Ipa to develop his version of a surfboard with two fins and a forked tail.

After some time and many alterations, such a board shape was found that worked on both large waves and good ones.

Mark Richards has won numerous competitions on his new board called the MR Twin, including his first World Championship title in 1979, followed by three more titles in 1980, 1981, and 1982.

In the states, replica boards of Mark Richards were licensed by Gordon and Smith. Various variations on the theme were made by other manufacturers as well.

From 1979 to 1981, twin fin boards were the most popular options.


While various types of fish were at their peak, two teenage brothers, Duncan and Malcolm Campbell, decided to try something new.

Back then, they rode short (5’6-5’8) singles with broad tails. However, the brothers were not satisfied with how the short boards behaved on large and powerful waves; they lacked the speed and ability to accelerate.

The idea of ​​putting three finna on the board came from their father. The Campbells began to study the principles of hydrodynamics and various boat designs and came up with a new form of side fin: they were short, elongated triangles about 10 inches long.

These fins were placed on the board in front of the large central fin.

Over the next few years, they improved the shape of the bottom of their boards: in the area of ​​the nose and center, the base was flat, then it turned into a concave (concave profile), which bifurcated at the fin (see the curved tail in the photo).

These surfboards worked very well, but no one knew about them outside of the Campbell brothers’ hometown.

Therefore, the brothers began sending letters with photographs of the boards to magazines and several surfboard manufacturers.

Bing responded a week later and made an appointment. After discussing the shape and watching the video, Bing and Head Shaper Mike Eaton realized that bronzers did work.

In 1973, Bing launched the Campbell Brothers Planks and funded an extensive advertising campaign.

It helped sell several boards, but in 1974 Bing was sold to Gordon and Smith, and the company stopped its bonzer business.

It is possible that these boards never became mainstream because it was tough to make the correct concave, and the side fins had to be made by hand.

Despite this, several pro-surfers have successfully competed in bronzers, including Terry Fitzgerald, Peter Townend, and Ian Cairns.


In 1980, Australian pro-surfer and shaper Simon Anderson was not completely satisfied with how the boards performed in various conditions.

He had to use single fins; on small waves – twin fins. Simon was trying to find a board that would work well on waves ranging from 2 to 4 feet.

One day, Anderson saw his friend ride a twin fin with a small center fin, making the board more stable.

And at that moment, he got the idea to make a board with three fins of the same size. He called this setup “Thruster.”

Traster proved to be excellent, and in 1981 Simon Andersen won the Bell’s Beach Classic, Coke Surf about, and Pipeline Masters on the board with this setup.

The thrusters went mainstream over the next couple of years, and the tri-fin boards took over the market.

Today, almost 40 years later, the traster remains the industry standard for both pro and amateur surfers.

But, most interestingly, in the 40 years after the invention, Simon only changed the position of the central fin by ⅛ inch. So the original Thruster almost hit the bull’s eye.


History is silent as to who was the first shaper to put four fins on a surfboard.

One such surfer/shaper was Greg Mangal, according to his letter:

“I am only writing to say that I first put four fins on the board in 1979/1980 when I rode with Nectar Surfboards. It was like this: my teammate Simon invented the Thruster, and therefore my shaper, Garry McNab, would not let me put three fins on my boards. He told me: “Well put four.” Which I did. “

Another pro surfer and shaper, Glenn Winton, experimented with quads in the early eighties.

Winton quickly realized that the center fin, while stabilizing, slows down the board a lot, especially on small waves. So he put together the central rear fins, two small ones.

Glen has successfully performed on his quad on the pro tour, and therefore his boards have received the right amount of attention from the surf community.

Another name associated with the first quads: Rusty Preisendorfer.

Rusty believed that squares were faster, more maneuverable, allowed you to ride higher and deeper in the tube, accelerated better when exiting the cutback, and allowed you to draw different lines on the wave compared to the thrusters.


In 1983, the Campbell brothers were still making boards and came up with a 5-fin bonzer (a single fin with two fins on each side).

The performance improvement was promising, especially at large and powerful waves. The five-fin bonzer won its adherents and remains relevant today.


Concluding the conversation, I would like to say about one of the latest high-profile innovations in surfing: the invention of lightweight fin inserts for high-performance shortboards.

The first who created and patented such a system were Australian Brian Whitty and FCS (fin control system).

He did it in 1995. At that time, the overwhelming majority of shortboards had pasted-in fin, which left almost no room for experimentation.

The changeable fin system made it possible to quickly and easily change fins and opened the door to innovations and “tuning” of the boards.

Over time, other systems began to appear, among which the most famous are Futures, Lockbox, O’Fish’L, and others.

As you can see, surfing history is closely related to the evolution of boards and fins.

Therefore, if you are looking for something new in your surfing experience, we advise you to try boards with different numbers of fins or try several sets of fins of different shapes.

It will open up new facets of surfing for you and help you have a lot of fun of a slightly different kind!



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