2019 Alliance Wake Gear Guide | Futures Fins Test
by: Steve Reiley
As little as they seem, the fins on your wake surfboard are just as important to the quality of your ride as the board itself. It’s obvious to say that different fins do different things, but why, and more so what do different shapes and different sizes do differently?
With different fins you can actually tune your board to feel and ride exactly how you want it to. Fins have so much influence on your ride, that you and your buddy could share one board and have completely different experiences. One set of little nub fins will make your board loose and feel like a skim style board for spinning and shoving. Put larger fins in and it rides like a surfboard for driving and slashing.
Basic Fin Concepts
- Size matters – The smaller the fins are, the looser the board will be and the less drive it will generate. Bigger fins create more drive but are obviously going to lock you in more.
- Shape up – The fin shape is also important. Upright fins tend to pivot more and are great for tighter turns while swept back fins that have more rake tend to draw longer arcs.
- Diversify – Try different setups and see for yourself. Is your board a bit too small? Try slightly bigger fins to create more drive. How about a board that’s a bit too big? Throw on some smaller fins to loosen it up a bit.
The moral of the story here is that with all of the amazing fins on the market today, the combinations are endless and you can tune your board to be the exact ride you are looking for.
For this fin education segment we used two specific boards as our platforms. The goal was to run three different fin styles on each board so that we could document and share the differences with you. The goal is to offer perspective and information for how you can best tune your ride to your liking or simply change it up on any given session. As our crew is mostly born out of the ocean and spends a regular amount of time in the saltwater, we have a solid understanding of how fins work, or don’t work. This understanding allowed us to hone-in on a set of performance targets and fin choices prior getting behind the boat.
One of the great things about wakesurfing from a surfboard shaper’s perspective is that the wave a boat generates is incredibly consistent. Clint Preisendorfer of Rusty Surfboards likes to consider it his “wave tunnel”. As aerodynamicists use wind tunnels to tweak and test shapes related to how they work or work better, surfboard and fins shapers can use the wake to conceptually do the same.
Futures Fins is known in the surf industry as being one of the leaders in fin performance and design, you’ll find that the top surfboard manufacturers offer Futures fin boxes as it helps them offer ideal fin shapes and fin options. The founders of Futures, the Longo brothers, are basically mad scientists that have an immeasurable passion for surfing. In 1996 they married those two passions and created Futures. Today Futures has the largest range of fin options for both the surf and wakesurf segments. his education is specific to recommending options in their range that might might work for you.
The boards used in the test are the Rusty’s 4’6 twin-fin Urchin and INT’s The Flow 4’6 quad hybrid. Rusty is one of the most constant and most ocean surfing like brands we ride and INT makes a super fun and easy to ride board for everyone. Both of these boards offer an amazing ride, details for each can be found in the Gear Guide board test and wake surfboard section in this issue.
Urchin Twin Fin Test
- John John Grom X-SMALL: Super playful and all-around fun off the top. This fin is on the looser side but has plenty of drive with decent response. Overall balanced feel and our general go-to in all wakesurfing applications. Most of us run John John’s on our thruster ocean surfing boards as well.
- HS3 Generation Series X-SMALL: This fin is a speed generating machine. You can literally feel the fin load as it flexes and can help keep you in the wave if you fall behind. It takes a few turns to control the unload/snap off the top but it will reward you once you’re dialed in.
- FT1 Twin Alpha Series: The FT1 Twin has amazing drive with tons of power. You can draw your bottom turns way outside the wave loading the fin all way into lip rips or airs. Don’t let the size fool you, these things do airs super easily with little overall effort. A true ocean surfing twin-fin feel. With the Urchin’s already surfy vibe, this is probably one of the closest combos to what classic ocean surfing feels like.
The Flow Quad Test
- F2 Alpha Front X-Small W/TMF-1 Rear: This set had overall responsive characteristics and balanced performance. Using the TMF-1 nubs in the back made INT’s The Flow pivot and turn almost inside itself. This in combination of The Flows already overall playful manner was simply smiles for miles.
- Rasta HC Quad W/TMF-1 Rear: This combo was a bit smoother than the Alpha/TMF-1 setup which is logical given the difference between the two fins. A bit more load and a bit more speed. When running the full Rasta quad setup you basically have a smooth operator that’s overall super fluid, springy and responsive.
- Controller Quad – Alpha Series: Before we got out on the water, we honestly didn’t think this setup was going to work in this application. Mostly because in wakesurfing you typically run a fin much smaller than you would in the ocean. In this case we’re working with 4 large fins. Surprisingly this setup ended up being a killer blend of twin and quad characteristics with both drive and control but with a skatey feel. It’s good to be wrong sometimes and this most likely will be our go-to fin setup for The Flow.
The big takeaway from this exercise, besides how different fins do different things, is that if you’re going to maximize pure surfing enjoyment behind the boat, take more than one set of fins with you. Why run the same program every time when you can change it up? You want to rip lips and throw buckets? Cool. You want to drive down the line and make soul turns? No problem. Want it super loose for spins? Easy. One board can offer a myriad of personalities simply by changing your fins. Go experiment and find as many different personalities as possible. We’re far from being done experimenting, we’re just getting started.