Surfboard Fin Fun: History

I wanted to devote a few posts this April to surfboard fins. Sometimes fins may be called skegs, but it is an older term, usually reserved for longboards.

It took me several years of surfing to truly appreciate the difference in fin types. I’m forever learning, of course, but I’d like to share some things I’ve discovered along the way. I also really need to thank Core Surf Shop– they always put up with my endless questions about surfing and fins.

A little surfboard fin history…

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Tom Blake is DA MAN

Fins for surfboards were first added by one of the most brilliant surfing pioneers EVER, Tom Blake. The fin as we know it today was updated by Bob Simmons in the 1940’s. Simmons studied naval architecture to incorporate the fin into his surfboard designs, making the surfboard MUCH faster than its’ predecessors- even frightening some of the first surfers who tried them! The Surfing Handbook has a great rundown about the history of the fin.

Essentially, having a fin on a surfboard created a “rudder” on which the craft could pivot and turn. This allowed riders new freedoms in the emerging sport of surfing. As boards became smaller and lighter, board designers were creative with fins, essentially splitting the original single fin into two (keel fins), three (thruster), or four (quad).

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Single Fins are most popular on longboards

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Twin Fins can sometimes be called Keels, depending on the placement and shape

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VERY popular in the 1980’s with the shortboard craze

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This setup has become very popular trend

Central Florida’s sandy beach breaks and small waves year round (barring Hurricane season) are ideal for longboarding. Therefore, most of my personal collection of surfboard fins are mainly longboard fins, usually around 7″ or bigger.

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Part of my longboard fin collection

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One of my fins- this one measures 7.5 inches. Don’t include the part that rests inside the board when measuring a fin’s height

Next time, I’ll post about basic fin structure- it took me a LOT of time to figure out what the hell other surfers meant by all those crazy terms to describe a fin’s shape. It’s a science onto itself, and there’s some amateur surfers out there who focus SOLELY on fins like it’s their freakin’ job. Intense, brah.

I’m more like the naïve Little Mermaid of surfboard fins….but there’s worse things I could collect.

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Even mermaids are materialistic, sheesh

Surf Kit on a Rope

I’m always into anything that can avoid a ruined surf session. And honestly, most surfy accessories and gear can be DIY’d. Always a good thing, right Martha?

So here’s an easy, cheap DIY in case those Carbon/Kevlar/Titanium/Plutonium fins get busted out by your shred style, brah.

So, you’ll need:

  • Sculpey III, or Premo! Modeling Clay (the clay needs to be a bit on the soft side, unlike a FIMO type clay)
  • A blade to cut the clay
  • Thin Paracord
  • Toothpicks or a heavy duty needle
  • Fin screws
  • Fin Key

Most of these items can be picked up at a craft store, with the exception of the Fin Screws and Key, of course.

I cut off a bit of clay from the block and rolled it into a thick tube. My polymer clay modeling skills are terrible these days, but I’m going for function, not style, like these guys:

I cut off the ends, then screwed one of the fin screws into each end of the approximately 1.5 inch long cylinder using the fin key. I did this when the clay was soft and left them in, even while baking. To screw these in soft clay, go slowly, and apply light pressure. Don’t screw past the top of the cylinder! This is why I hate hard, crumbly clay for this project.

Don’t worry. The screws won’t come out after baking unless you unscrew them using a Fin Key.

In the center, I used my needle to make 2 toggle holes for the Paracord to go through later:

I placed the clay on a silicone sheet and put it in my home oven at 230 degrees F for 80 minutes to ensure it baked throughout the clay.

After it was cooled completely, I didn’t need to do anything to the piece. Since it’s a type of plastic, there’s no need for sealants, and it’s waterproof. You can sand the piece, but I’m still going for function.

I threaded the Paracord through the holes, made a Lark’s Head Knot over the fin key, knotted the ends together, and now I’ve got three handy item types in one:

  • Fin Key
  • Fin Screws
  • Leash Loop (or multiple, depending on how much Paracord you use)

Yes, it screws another one right back in, so you can put replacements on since the threads on one company’s fin system generally stays the same, which in most of my boards is FCS.

You can take this with you anywhere, just be careful making it a necklace to wear while you surf. If it’s too long, it can come up and smack you in da face.

Could happen. To me.

The Latest Surfing Trends and Fads: Fall Edition

So I’ve dug up some more surfing trends and accessories you may or may not have heard about. Some are inventive, some are…..not ready for primetime. 

Did I get any of this stuff for free or at a discount? HELL nah. I wish. My opinions are definitely my own, and I tell it like it is, brah.

Gnarly wipeout, brah


*****
Grater Grip for Surfboard Wax

I bought one of these at their booth at a local surfboard factory sale. They were thirteen bucks back then- now they’re $9.99- which is still a little pricey. It’s essentially a flat plastic cheese grater to help put on your surfboard wax, and remove it. This could be a good idea if you like that type of traction on your board. I tried it, and hated the feel AND look of it, personally. Oh well.

Pros: Great for using up the tiniest bits of wax left in your surfmobile

Cons: Random people may walk up to you with plates of freshly cooked pasta




Stained Glass Fins by Rainbow Fin Company

I had to snag this fin!!!

 
I have bought two of these fins so far as gifts, and I have been pleased with them, as well as the recipients. I like giving something that’s beautiful AND useful. Since they are one-of-a-kind handmade surfboard fins, they can run 100 bucks and up, so it’s more of a collectible for the “more seasoned” (aka older) surfer crowd. 

Pros: Makes simple, functional artwork on your surfboard or on the wall.

Cons: At the price, it’s definitely an investment.




Wax Knuckles

This pic is from their website

I don’t own this, but it seems like an awfully good idea. It’s a wax scraper and wax comb that is ergonomically designed. If you like to change out your wax a lot, or resell a lot of surfboards, this scraper is kinda neato. It costs twice as much as a regular wax comb (these are $5.99), but if you do a lot of scraping, it might be worth it.

Pros: May save on some carpal tunnel surgery down the road

Cons: The HUGE handspan required to make the scraper comfortable to use may exclude other smaller surfer chicks like me. I’ll wait for the smaller Oompa Loompa Model to be launched 



Ventura Vientola Finger Surfboard

I thought this fad had passed, but it’s back for Boomers

When I first started surfing, I bought I tiny toy 3” plastic “….Lost” surfboard I sat on my nightstand for my own encouragement. I guess this is the upgraded model at seventy bucks, but it is handcrafted in California out of mahogany, comes with a tiny leash, carrying pouch, and a miniature bar of surf wax. This would look good next to your wine rack and humidor. Did I guess right???

Pros: That’s art to any surfer, and looks better on the wall than the Family Cat in a frame. Also good if you live in a tiny house and drive a Mini

Cons: You may start buying these to look at when your knees start hurting too much to use an actual surfboard




Hope I showed ya something new today!

Do ya EVER graduate in surfing?????






My Surfboards: First Surf Love

This was my first real surfboard that I purchased about 15 years ago. A 7’6″ Town and Country funshape by Stu Sharpe (excellent local shaper). I had been learning to surf on a softtop for about 6 months or so at that point, so I decided to take the leap into the real deal.

My first surfy love

I bought this down in Melbourne, Florida at Longboard House. Like a total surfer girly girl, I will totally admit I saw it in the window, and it was going to be mine. Granted, I probably wasn’t quite ready for a funshape, but it had a lot of rocker (curve) in the nose and tail, which avoided a lot of nosedives on waves. The downside was, I needed to paddle a lot harder for waves because of the short size and the rocker, and I had to learn to “pop-up” much more quickly.

Lots O’ nose rocker

Kept me from pearling a lot

 
This board is fairly wide, which helps stability, but the narrower tail does help it to turn well. The true turning ability of this board is only something I found out MUCH later, after I learned to turn. Somewhat.

21 3/4″ wide!

 
Of course, the paint job is gorgeous. The pictures don’t show the purple iridescence, and the hibiscus motif is just eye catching.

A beautiful surfboard is a joy forever

It still comes out for a surf now and then, but it is mostly my babied wall hanger these days since it already has more fixed dings than I would like.

I’m truly not a materialistic person, but I know how Wayne felt seeing his Fender Stratocaster in the shop….

It DID become MINE


My Surfboards: Funjun Funshape

Recently, I had a board shaped at Core Surf as kind of an experiment. A really fun type of experiment.

I wanted a shortboard (truly, it is called a funshape or mini-mal by definition) that could surf the tiny- sometimes choppy- waves of our Florida East Coast summers. Bonus if it could surf the decent stuff too. I also wanted something shorter than 7’2″, since that’s my cutoff for a shortboard if I ever want to do fun charity competitions. Most local competitions- IF they have the rule- require the board to be no taller than 2 feet than the rider to qualify as a shortboard to compete. Makes sense.
Since I’m not getting any younger, I opted for a 7’0″ “Funjun”. This shape has a wide backend to get into waves early, and looks a lot like a

Quad setup or single fin setup

 

miniature longboard with the thick rails and the wide nose. The other models of “Funjuns” typically have a 5 fin setup, but I wanted a single fin box instead on this one, with FCS boxes on the side to be able to switch to a quad setup if I wanted.

This shape finally seems to be the Holy Grail Board for me, at least

On my initial surf sessions in 2-3 foot okay surf conditions, I used a 7 inch fin from Captain Fin Co. It worked pretty well, but I’m a still a little timid to try crosstepping on it yet. It did slide out a little when bottom turning on a bigger wave, but I think that’s more my problem than the fin’s problem….

This is the 7″ single fin I use in it

Next, I picked up a larger quad setup by Captain Fin Co. as well. I removed the single fin and just used these for some decent 1-2 foot waves. These were definitely longboard waves, but this board allowed me to catch the same type of waves, but I could get “skatey” on them. That’s good, since I refuse to skateboard on the asphalt anymore. I don’t have much of my right meniscus left. Yikes.

Funjun Update:
This board has been incredibly fun the last few sessions. I’ve gotten some of the best waves I’ve had in a long while.

This is the “large” set of quads- I figured I needed a little more fin for the longer board

After surfing on and off for over a decade, I’ve tried a lot of surfboards out, and have been so disappointed in a lot of boards I’ve had. I’ve wondered how many people get to find their “Magic” board? The board that fits like the Glass Slipper.
It feels really nice to think I may have found MY perfectly matched board. Sounds weird, but now I think I understand what I’ve overheard older surfers talk about from time to time. They tell stories where a surfer may- a one point in his (or her) life- find their perfect surfboard. That perfect surfboard for that perfect time, for that perfect place. I hope this combination sticks around for a while for me.

Wow, is it already 4:20?!?

Deep.

Cheap DIY Fin Covers

Project Rewind again! Bringing more of the “best of” Blogger posts over to this new WordPress site. Thanks for your patience with me, and thanks to those checking out the posts. WordPress has been much easier to work with, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my silly surf projects. 👍

I originally published this post on July 22, 2011 (sorry about the pic quality):

I have a bad habit of bumping my delicate, expensive, fiberglass or carbon fins into the wall, car, or some other standing or moving objects (sorry about the cat….) when putting my boards away, resulting in some repair work down the road. Some of my fins came with fin covers, some didn’t. Even the ones that came with the fin are ill-fitting and not really my style. To motivate me to use fin covers more, I decided to make some fun, bright, well fitting covers that will stay on the fin while driving, and will tell me which fin is which easily. This project takes less than 10 minutes on a machine- easy!!
I used foam sheets like they sell in the craft stores, usually in the kid’s crafts section. This project requires sewing, but you can sew them by hand if you don’t have a machine.
imageBasically, I found it was easiest to trace the outline of your fin directly onto a piece of foam with a pencil. Sorry about the quality of the pictures- the light wasn’t working with me today. Trace a line across the base of the fin, but don’t draw it longer than the fin that sticks above your board. That way, you can have the fin cover on while the fin’s in the board. This bottom straight line WILL NOT BE SEWN!!

imageI put another piece of foam underneath, and instead of using pins, I stapled the pieces together a good distance from the edge of the trace line. I stapled upside down so I wouldn’t scratch the heck out of my sewing machine plate as I sewed.

To sew this on a machine, I used regular polyester thread and a stitch length of 4.5. If you make the stitch length too small, the stitching line will create a perforation tear in the foam and you’ll have to start over. I also used a 70/0 universal needle. If you are hand sewing, use a standard embroidery needle with polyester thread and do backstitching (you can find a tutorial here), but have a light hand and space your stitches to avoid foam tearing.

For the machine, you’ll see I used a roller foot, which is a specialty foot, but a teflon foot works just as well on this foam.
I placed my trace line on the left inner edge of the foot and used this as a guide. This ensured that my stitch line was 1/4″ OUTSIDE the trace line- this ensures that the fin cover will come on and off easily. If your fin is supa-thick, use a wider margin.

 

Finished sewing!
After stitching the curved part of the fin cover together, I’m ready to start cutting out my cover. Foam doesn’t ravel, so I don’t need to overlock the edge, but you can if want, just know that the less perforation in the foam, the better.
Start cutting the shape out about 1/4″ outside the stitching line. Cut slowly, and try to keep a continuous cut going (don’t stop and start cutting) to make the edge smooth.
Once the curved edge is cut, I cut the bottom RIGHT ALONG the trace line I originally made. You should now have an opening for your fin!


Erase your trace lines, and that’s it! Put the cover on the fin to ensure a good fit, and that the bottom is not too long. This one came out great.

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The fun thing is you can decorate the cover with Sharpies (SUPER art project for kids!), use contrasting colors for each side, paste foam shapes to the covers, label what imageboards they go with, or label the type and size. I labeled mine at the top for easy organization and color coded them.
The anal retentive surfer…… 🙂
Enjoy!!!