Fins are a pretty important part of a surfboard. They ensure that you go in the direction that you want to be going in rather than spinning around uncontrollably (as any of you who have tried to master an alaia will have found), providing drive and lift. Unless you never have to take your craft anywhere or are a fussy professional surfer, your surfboards will most likely have a changeable fin system. These allow you to take your fins in and out and try different shapes and sizes. On a recent trip to the right hand points of South East Sri Lanka, I went one step further.
Assymetrical surfboards have been around since the late 1950's when surfers at Malibu in California realised that, because they only ever surfed the same right hand point break, they only ever went the same direction and so could adjust their boards accordingly.
The trend for assymetrical boards came and went but has been bubbling away in any locale where there are long point break waves. Carl Ekstrom has been shaping assymetrical boards for years now for the surfers of Southern California and in particular the points of Baja Mexico.
The idea of assymetrical boards and fins is this: the side of the board "facing" the wave is designed for speed, flow, control and drawn out turns, tending to be gunnier with more holding power, whilst the "open" side of the board is designed with turning in mind, so is shorter and more pivotal. The telling trait of an assymetrical board is the unusual step tail, where the back end looks like a cut & shut marriage of a semi gun and a fish.
I don't get to surf point breaks quite so often anymore and so my boards, like 98% of all surfboards, are multi-directional. But I had my friend Nick Blair open up the options for an assymetrical fin set-up on my last board, with five fin plugs allowing me to ride my board as a thruster, twin, twinzer, quad, 5-fin or, as in this case, assymetrical.
The half a quad fin set-up you see on one side of the board is on the "wave" side, providing hold and drive by spreading out the area of the fins. The big twin fin on the other side (the side I'd turn towards when cutting back) provides the same amount of fin area, so equal drive and lift, but concentrated into a single fin which the board can pivot around allowing for sharper turns.
I took it out a few times and it went well, super drivey and fast down the line and then loose through turns and transitions. Having all of these options on a single board allows it to be more versatile, and allows you to get to know the board and how different fins affect performance, which in turn can only help to improve your surfing. So get out your allen key and go have some fun with your fins!
Bottom image (surf shot) by Dan & Neda at onelovesurffilms, cheers guys.