How Things Really Work

Today I’m dropping off some extra foam I have at the Hollister Ranch. I told my friend I’d stick the foam in the little storage shed above the gate house. He owns Futures Fins and asked if he could get some scrap foam to do some projects. He’ll come down from his house (he lives next to James Cameron & a few other luminaries) and will see I left him plenty of material to play with!  

My love of fins dates back to my early days of surfing. In the 70’s at Surf 'n Wear, I began designing fins using the Alphabet to name each prospective design. Rick Hoffman would manufacture the fins for me, and I had a lot of customers coming in to buy the different designs. Eventually Chuck Ames succeeded Hoffman and “True Ames Fins” was born. Chuck still mentions my 'N" fin from way back then!

By the early 1980’s, I had returned from managing O’neill and started “The Surfing Underground” housed in the old Radon Boatyard a block from the beach on Santa Barbara Street. By then, I had gotten heavily into early day windsurfing, and we were laying up fin panels & producing our own distinctive surfboard & sailboard fins.

The higher speeds attained while windsurfing demanded more study from me, as team rider Brett Lickle broke new ground pioneering Peahi and speed racers Nils Stolzlechner & Richard Johnson sought to push the envelope enabling them to ride the fastest wind powered vessels on Earth.

The designs were now being clocked by radar, which allowed us to compare & quantify design. “Quantifying design” was something Al Merrick was aspiring to achieve with surfboards, and as he saw the late “BK” (Bob Krause) & I progress into advanced surf sailing, then slalom, then speed sailing, he referred to us as the “sailboard gurus”.

Ultimately, we realized the important role fins played in conjunction with hull, sail, and mast designs. All were hand in hand partners with a successful end result. To be successful as a sailboard designer, it was necessary to have a deep understanding in the draft of sails, the flex patterns of masts, complex evolving fin designs along with a myriad of other complex factors that required complete harmony with the boards we designed to achieve success.

At the end of the day, fond memories still remain for all the dollars invested, tireless R&D, and the many happy days spent on the beach in wind that would drive even the most devoted beachgoer away looking for cover. 

Here’s a great interview lending insight as to what those little slabs of fiberglass do along the bottom of your board. I couldn’t have said it better!


Cool stuff. I toyed with fin making for windsurfers back in the late '80’s. Nowhere near where you were at design-wise. Eye opening for sure, though.

Thank you Bruce for bring this to my attention.  Good read.

God read and interesting videos, thanks!