surfing on the Edge

early morning, Sand Dollar beach, scene of the Swaylocks gathering. Waves about waist high, glassy with an unfortunate combination of closing out on the outer bar and backing off on the inside. Some waves still makeable though, and I’m on my Swaylock inspired xps twin fin. Cliffs shading the surf zone with the just risen sun lighting up a very scenic backdrop of hills and trees. With just a few Swaylockians starting to enter the water, I’m in a happy state. I’ve also recreated the twin fin equipment that saw me thru much of the 80s in the UK. Its in a slightly larger cruisier form, but nevertheless has some of the characteristics of my previous twins. Twin fins don’t suit every one but I used to thrive on them in the pedominantly junky waves of Wales UK. I developed an eye for scanning a line of crumbling mush for signs of speed giving steepness. Detecting a throwing lip was my weakpoint. My brother described my technique as one of continuously pushing forward from one lump of choppy section to the next and throwing in a cutback if I went too far ahead of the shoulder. I spent a lot of time working the upper part of the wave where the steepness was most often found and performing skating cutbacks on the flat spots. The twin fin excelled at this, in comparison the single fin didn’t like my style and the mid wave turns that were required. After trips abroad and a move to Australia I discovered that my rudimentary form of surfing could be applied to powerful waves using a tri fin. The huge bite allowed the mid wave manourvering and they could still do the required cutback on the flat spots rather well. You might wonder why didn’t I modify my technique? well we are to a large extent a prisoner of our genetics and anyway I remember a competition in Cornwall England about 17 years or so ago - choppy beachbreak the onshore lines of whitewater was a hard paddle. I was never of a seriously competitive standard, but used to give it a go now and then. As you know waves are judged by numerical scores however my surfing had caused one of the judges to scrawl a written comment on the scorecard. It said “Going fast, no real manouvres”. Half of that statement is positive and I was riding a twin when just about everyone else had converted to thrusters. More recently in the sometimes ugly but powerful waves of San Francisco’s beachbreak I found the twin fin had what I believe to be fall line speed. The fastest trim path across a wave was one which took it diagonally across and down. It would forever seek the base of the wave and could be speedily sent back up for another fall line by bottom turning with the board riding fairly flat. Holding the high line is not its nature. It can’t of course match my tri fins for massive drive off the bottom on more perfect point surf. The twin fin has some squirt off the bottom but nothing like the tri in big bottom turns. In lined up semi windswell the twin is however the fastest. So what are the virtues of the single? They are good in the tube - so I’m told. As you can imagine from the description of my surfing I’m hopeless in the tube. Not all surfers from Wales surfed like me, 2 of my friends ripped on singles. The point of this explanation is to illustrate that there are many ways to float a boat, but my boats need more than one fin. Enough of the distant past and back to the scene at Sand Dollar: after a short while the tide shifts allowing the waves to yield some high utility fast peeling shoulders. Another surfer with a white shortboard has recently arrived and is surfing very well (ripping). He turns the board over to examine it and I can see that it has just one fin. However I have a compulsion to ride it. I consider the shortboard single fin to be the neutral shape and all other variations are extreme shapes. Extreme shapes need compensators I believe. The twin fin is extremely loose and needs a forward wide point to compensate and give it some direction. The tri fin is extremely drivey and directional, it likes a lot of rocker curve in the rear end to compensate. Single fins being neutral can work well in many forms. This one had the channelled rails of the Edge board. I’m intrigued by this design and am allowed a go :slight_smile: The good thing about starting the session on my 6’ 6" twin is that it had prepared my reflexes nicely for the 6’ 4" Edge board. It was of comparable looseness and needed no dialling in. In fact it was a well behaved board and didn’t spin out despite it combination of single fin and wide tail. I guess I must have been using the small but well formed steepness correctly to extract that fall line speed. Another nice surprise was that it caught waves more easily than I expected. An examination of the way it paddled reveals the reason is that it has a fairly flat rocker, probably similar to my latest twin with perhaps 2" of tail rocker and 4" of nose - just guessing. The wide nose helped too. The Edge board could be thought of as a single fin fish. For me at least, the edge board didn’t have quite the fall line speed of my twin or the drive of a tri, but I wouldn’t describe it as slow. It managed the small waves well with its low rocker and wide outline. One of the memorable waves had me taking off too deep and a small section landed on me. To my surprise the edge board ploughed thru it and onto the face. A tri fin would have got stuck behind the whitewater, twin fins are even worse in that situation (probably getting pushed sideways). So maybe I was forgetting some of the virtues of a single. Another wave had me doing a series of backhand off the lips - rather horizontally, but thats probably my technique. It performed those quite readily. Could it be that I was getting the planing advantages of the wide planshape combined witht the rail to rail advantages of a narrower board? Without a control test board - built identical but no edge I’m never going to know. On my last wave I attempted an ambitious off the lip on an inside dumping section. Despite severe weight transfer to the tail, the board pearled. My twin fin would have done exactly the same. On a good day, with my bio-rhythms in sync with the phase of the moon I might have made it on a tri. Single fin longboards are a completely different matter, the huge glide takes over. Another board I tried was a Paul Gross longboard displacement hull. The waves had deteriorated by the time I got to use it and I’m not a longboard expert so I’ll restrict myself to saying that the advice from the owner was good - angle the takeoff and don’t try and force it into a turn. I did get to overhear a description of how a Yater spoon accelerates when the rider steps forward. I also got an explanation (which I didn’t fully understand) of how a classic longboard will turn nicely if given a hip in the rear outline, v in the hull and dome on the deck. John who was explaining this is a good surfer and owner of a number of longboards. Mr Scott was in agreement with him, so there exists a level of longboard nirvana of which I have yet to attain. Maybe one day. thanks to Lee V and Kirk/Matt for providing the opportunity to ride the different shapes.

Mike… Great story…!!!.. It was my pleasure to meet you and share design ideas…I really respect your path in board design and materials…Live outside the box… Paul

thanks Paul, I’ve got another project in the early stages and I read about how you do your stuff to help get my mind off the beaten track.

Mike: Thanks for the input…I have found also that the edge board lacks drive in smaller surf. It doesn’t respond well to pumping or wiggling to generate speed. Put it in bigger waves and it really comes on as there is enough momentum to allow you to use the rails. I think that a different fin in smaller surf might be the answer. The one manouever that really shines regardless of wave size is a cutback. It will wrap around with no loss of speed: a very fish-like feeling. Keep up the good work and if you are ever in SD, look me up.

Lee, No doubt – in smaller surf generating speed off the fin/fins and holding power delivered by it/them is the difference between carryin & adjusting trim effectively and whether or not you make the section. That pepper board mine with the 17.5" tail of was built the idea of challenging fins to drive the board. I’m still searching for answers on that one and have some ideas that are a little out of the box to try next. I got into a discussion not too long ago with someone who thought of fins are just rudders and little more than that. Frankly there is no doubt in my mind that some fins create more of a wing like affect, some are very stable, some are neutral, some release better than others and some are more sensitive than others. Configuring them for a given stick and every changing conditions is a constant challenge. I’m guessing a Greenough stage for or a liddle flex will give you all the speed you could ask for but not much in the way of drive because of its vertical & narrow profile. Mahalo, Rich

Hello Lee, as you can see from my description I was enjoying myself on the edge board and it was going very well in the small surf. So I think the fin must be fairly close to optimal - I seem to remember it was all glass, flexy with a pointed tip? In fact for me the typical modern hi rockered 6’ x 18 1/4" tri fin would have been a poor choice of board that day due to the fact that the waves were tending to peel very fast with not a great deal of size. So all the drive in the world won’t help if the board isn’t wide and glidey enough to get going before the lip comes down. So thats where boards with fish dimensions help and I consider yours to be in that category. I think no other fin configuration matches the thruster for drive off the bottom, but drive off the bottom is not the only way of going fast and going fast is not the only objective of surfing. examples of this is the fall line speed of my twin and the ability of my Takayama egg to maintain momentum thru manourvres. I’ve got some questions on the edge rail, I’ll post that under Kirk’s thread cheers, Mike