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Single Fin Surfing | Get Back in the Flow

Posted on June 02, 2015

Single fins : a classic design that for a period of time was considered obsolete by the mainstream surf industry, has been finding its way back into our quivers. Nothing tunes up your style quicker than a solid week of single fin surfing. The end game revolves around finding, and not straying too far from, the power source: the pocket of the wave. The power is in the pocket and pocket surfing is the alpha and the omega of clean stylish surfing. The single fin is dead. Long live the single fin.

For many pre-80s generation surfers, it is a design that never left our hearts-- an old flame. All it takes is a flash back to the pocket surfing of Mike Ho, Larry Bertlemann, Shaun Tomson, Rabbit Bartholomew and the greatest single fin rider of them all, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, for our imaginations to rekindle the magic of the single fin. Recent 70s era documentary films such Bustin' Down The Door and the Hot Buttered Surfboard documentary titled Hot Buttered Soul, and endless YOUTUBE searches have reignited the single fin torch. 

The modern single fin employs all the latest bottom contours, refined rail structure, precision rockers, and new constructions techniques. Our trusty 6' 6" wing pin looks as if it was featured in some sort of FOX reality TV show: 21st Century Surfboard Makeover. We left the clunky overweight beast in 1980, dinged, yellowed, and boxey. We've come back to them in the 21st century and they are refined, sleek and polished.

Despite the upgrades, paddle out on a single fin for the first time in a long time and reality sets in. They simply don't perform in the same manner as the multitude of multi-finned boards that took her place. That's not a bad thing, in fact, I'm here to tell you that that is exactly why a good single fin is so special.

A modern multi-finned board, with its wider tail area and precise rocker, likes to go down to the bottom and up to the top. They are designed to stay away from the middle of the wave: bottom turn, then straight up and do it again. Nothing wrong with that! Except, however, when we start to miss-time things (as I sometimes do). Heck, with all that speed, it’s not hard to be “a touch off” on occasion.

The power of a good single fin is in its ability to temper an overzealous style, to reacquaint you with pocket of the wave thereby polishing up your timing. So much of our contemporary surfing on multi-finned boards takes place away from the power of the wave. We race out to the flats for our bottom turn or we run out on the shoulder for our cutback or we constantly look to take our board up high into the lip. Rarely do we stall mid-face and feel the trim of the rail line.

The single fin demands that you get to know the wave before having your way with her. You must sit in the pocket, in the juice, in the power and wait for her to give you the speed. And this mid-face, power pocket surfing allows your surfing to become more thought out, dare I say, more stylized. You are forced to work with the wave rather than against it. You must slow down, find the juice, find the speed. The speed isn’t handed to you (as with a wide-tailed multi-finned board). This is why a single fin is good for your style. Ridden properly, single fins make the wave give you the speed, not the board. And this, in small doses, does wonders for your surfing. When you do get back onto your multi-finned board, you should have a new found sense of timing, a sense that the wave dictates the dance- not vice versa. – SB

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