So here at Aqua, we've been doing good business selling Futures Fins. We love the simplicity and reliability of the system, making it our first choice in fin system. However, recently the variety of fin options out there has become so vast, that it has become overwhelming for most of us. Different colors, pro models, ride numbers and $100 price tags can start to make your head spin!
To combat this, we at the shop have been rigorously testing different fin setups; Sizes, materials, foils, bizarre combinations, in order to find the magic setup for the various conditions presented to us thanks to our beloved Ocean Beach. Through some reading, some generosity from Futures, and through many failures and some successes, we feel we are starting to unlock some of the mysteries of the skeg. We developed some basic guidelines and understandings to help us communicate what we have learned. The more we learned, the more fins we sold.
Here's Oliver @BEAST_SAVER utilizing his beloved Solus thruster set to generate some speed off the bottom at home. Picture by Bruce of norcalsurfshots.com
Still, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know why we all love the Solus thruster set so much. I wanted to know if the John John fins will make me surf like him- the answer is "yes, absolutely". I wanted to know what to tell people when they ask what fins to use!!! So I needed to go to the source...
In doing so I recently tracked down Vince, one of the founders of Futures, to pick his brain about fins. From design history, to how to choose the right fin for the day, to what the future for Futures and surfboards might be like, I dug in to shine some light on the bottom of your board.
Oliver: How'd you get started making fins, and being part of the industry, as far as that goes?
Da man Vince, on a trip testing fins!
Vince: Well, my background is engineering and tool making actually, like mold making. I started doing that when I was in high school and, I don't know, we were building all kinds of different things for inventors, all kinds of plastic parts. I mean, you name it, we would make it for someone. A guy came to myself and my brother with a fin box design, and that's what got us started.
Vince: Yeah! So we designed and developed it for him, and he happened to be connected with Terry McNab and Bill Stewart.
Vince: So with all their input, we made it, and that's what got us going.
Oliver: Cool! So it was the need for or the desire for a specific type of box, and facilitating that, that drove the creation of the company?
Vince: Yeah, I mean, McNab and Stewart, and there were all kinds of guys that had been building boards since the 70's, and they weren't happy with what was out there. Yeah, and so, they had a design for a better mousetrap, and myself and my brother designed it and made it for them.
Oliver: Cool, real cool. When did Futures start, I mean like the proper company?
Vince: Well, the box was developed between '96-'97. But Futures as it is today, with the owners, myself and my brother, We took it over in '99.
Oliver: Cool. So, it was brought to my attention that you're an avid big wave surfer, and paddleboarder and all these things. What do you look for in a fin when you're trying to set up a board for small waves versus big waves, or like, wide tails versus narrow tails? What are your, sorta, basic parameters for what a surfer should look for?
Vince: So, I was doing this before we developed Ride Number, but we created Ride Number based off of that exact reason.
Vince: So, if you're going to Indonesia, where you know you're gonna be surfing this hollow left-hander, or, you know, "I'm gonna go surf out front".
Vince: And, you'd pick the right fins for that. So, you know, for the mushy, everyday stuff out in front of Huntington when its not that good, and I wanna get a surf in, I go for a high Ride Number. I usually go for the Blackstix, um, or the new Gen series.
Vince: I like those too, in some different boards.
Vince: But, its really about that foil and flex. That is what I look for. The templates, you know, I don't really.. I have a few templates that I like, and I might switch around a little bit, but I'm more concerned about foil and flex.
Oliver: Interesting, interesting! So, that kinda leads kinda leads into my next questions here: What's up with the Vector Foils? You know, when you say foil, obviously, there's the outer foil of the fin and the inner foil and what not, but then, the Vector Foil being that concave on the inside of the fin... What does that really do for the fin, you know, and why would I choose that (shape) over a more, sort of, conventional inside of a fin?
Vince: Yeah, So, the Vector Foil, it actually hangs on to the water for a little bit longer through the turn- So you can get a little bit more push out of it, so to speak- A little more thrust out of it, because of its stickiness to the water, and so, I tend to use those when I need to generate speed. Then the flat foil is better for that quick On/Off. Like, when you're surfing a hollow beachbreak, and you come to the bottom and you just wanna do a real quick turn back up to the top, the flat foil I like better for that.
Oliver: Ok. So, for instance, you know, at Ocean Beach here, obviously, we get a ton of different conditions; It varies from small and gutless in the summer, to, you know, big and freaky in the winter. And, it often has a lot of power, even if its relatively small. So, would you think, you know, going with that, that maybe, like, the flatter foiled fins would be better here, you know, in general.
Vince: Yeah, like, you know, if its breaking properly on the inside bar up there..
Vince: The flat foiled would be good, you'd just come off that bottom, you know, and set up for the tube.
Vince: And its real stable in that manner, with regards between the two different foils. The flat foil's a lot more predictable and a lot more stable.
Oliver: Uh huh
Vince: Whereas the inside foil tends be a little bit more wild, but better for, you know, when you really need to pump, and create speed, and connect sections.
Vince: So, when I go traveling I always like to have either a Blackstix or a Gen series and a Techflex or a glass fin.
Vince: Out of those four fins, I want maybe a Techflex and then I want a Blackstix.
Oliver: Right, one sorta high ride number and one sorta low ride number, essentially.
Vince: Yeah, yeah. I mean, one of 'ems a 9 and then I'll want like 4 or 3. That's like what I don't leave home without.
Oliver: So that would be, I mean for most surfers, a kinda good head space to be in with fins; Is that you'd have two sets, a high and a low (ride number)? And then even on different boards, you could, theoretically, use those same sets?
Vince: Absolutely. You know, I have a couple grovel boards that are so wide, I think one of them might even be 22", like a 5'3", really wide tail, and it rides really high on top of the water; I like Techflex in that board.
Oliver: Just to add a little more teeth through the turns and stuff?
Vince: Yeah, add a little more teeth, exactly. So it grips and grabs the water a little bit better, and I don't need all that drive creation, foil, and all stuff that I would normally need.
Oliver: Would you maybe even use a larger fin than normal on a wider tailed, thicker tailed board?
Vince: Yeah, that's a general rule of thumb. If your tails like out past 14", yeah, you wanna go up in size, a little bit bigger fin.
Oliver: Cool. So then even maybe on a big wave board here, where you think, generally, bigger waves bigger fins, you know, because its a pulled in tail, maybe like a tight cluster quad, you might want to ride, like, a smaller quad rear?
Vince: Yeah, so it goes the same way. On the bigger waves, when you're riding guns, you can get away with smaller fins, because you have so much rail. And, you want smaller fins anyway cuz it'll give you a little bit less drag
Aleks @GNOMIEKIDS on his favorite Future Fin set, the Danny Fuller quad set- Aleks rides the same fins in all sizes of boards with pulled in tails. Board is a 8.0 G-Money II by Doc Lausch. Photo by Mike Kenyon.
Oliver: Certainly, but perhaps stiffer, right?
Vince: Yeah, and stiffer, for sure. That way, when you really come off the bottom with all that force, its not bending or flexing away from you. If it's real straight up, then it tends to be more responsive at high speeds.
Oliver: Cool! We've had good luck with the (Danny) Fuller fins for mini guns and guns here because of that; Real sturdy fin with with the smaller rears, you know.
Vince: Yeah, thats a real stiff fin. Really built for Pipe actually...
Oliver: Yeah, you know, I guess when it turns on here and you're riding your 8'0" or something, you're basically doing your best Pipe impersonation, so...
Vince: Eheheha!!! That's right! Haha, it's not too far..
Oliver: So here's a random question: I've been lucky enough to try out a lot of fins over the past, both borrowing what my friends have and what sets you guys have helped me out with... Anyhow, myself and a lot of my friends have gotten really into the Solus fin set, and, I guess my question is: What makes 'em so sick?!?! Like I put 'em on my board and was immediately stoked!!!
Vince: Aheheh, Solus... Well, that fin is a culmination of years of experimenting. So, I don't know if you remember the 3.2 and the 3.2.1.(fins), do you remember those?
Oliver: I'm not sure if I do.
Vince: Yeah, Ok, so that's around 2004,5, and 6. We produced all these fins, they were 3.2's, they were really when we were messing around with the vector foil. And, the Solus is... I took everything that we learned.. So the 3.2. is, halfway up the fin, we canted the fin out, and we changed the tow in the foil. Right in the fin, so the fin actually had two cants and two tows, and there was a little break and it had, like, a little s-turn if you looked at the fin..
Oliver: Yeah, it looks almost corkscrewed!
Vince: Yeah, and so that was the 3.2., and that was the first version of what the Solus is now. And, we were blown away at what it felt like! And anyone who rode 'em, they'd notice a difference, and they were just tripping on the type of acceleration and the hold that you'd get through turns
Vince: Now the Solus is exactly that. Its just, its little more radical, and its a little bit more refined. There's no single step. Its actually, the cant and the twist, its done on an elliptical curve. So, as you move up the fin it gradually cants out more, and then, for every degree of cant, its got another degree of tow-in.
Oliver: Wow, so it really does twist or cork!
Vince: Yeah, it cants out and twists in.
Oliver: That's pretty cool!
Vince: So, what we realized is that the farther you get away from the bottom of the board, the more cant and tow you can have and it will work.
Jon @gravywaveryder from da shop, "I like my small Jordys because they hold well, drive hard, and still release easily above the lip." Picture by Jamin Barnes.
Vince: So, its like, if you've ever tried to surf a board, and you put a fin on there without any cant and any tow, and its just stiff! It doesn't even initiate turns. And that's all your doing is just, you just increase the amount that you can initiate that turn, and the amount that its gonna hold on.
You know, foil will only work at a certain angle; Its somewhere around, between 2 and 12 degrees, its about a 12 degree window. If you put foils on the fin at different angles, what it does is, as it opens up that degree that the water flows, the water's gonna stick to the fin. And, thats kinda the theory behind it.
Oliver: Interesting! Yeah, I believe that there's so much technicality, you know, and then, at the same time, until you feel it in the water, its probably, you know, hard to put numbers to feeling, right?
Vince: Yeah, and thats the whole ride number thing; Its actually ride feel. And thats what we're trying to do. Just a little help, that these fins are different for these reasons. Because, its all about feel. The Solus is like, that's a really.. I love that fin too! Just when its really big, they tend to get caught and flutter a little bit..
Oliver: Haha, yeah! They feel a little squirrelly when it gets big.
Vince: Yeah. So, I tend to take that off when it gets big. I do love it when... I do love it because it just makes you turn that much quicker.
Oliver: Yeah, I've been loving it on sorta wider tailed squash, you know, just day to day shortboards. Its been really fun. Who's.. where'd you get the name?
Vince: The Solus came from, "if you're only gonna get one fin, one upgrade fin, thats the one to get."
Oliver: Hot snot man, I love it!
Oliver: So you were saying you're into thea Blackstix and then a Techflex. Which models would you choose specifically if you had to grab one of those each?
Vince: I actually just got on to the John John's, I've been liking that for the Techflex. And then as far as Blackstix go, I'm into the EA. And actually, I just traded out the EA for the new Ando thats about to come out.
Oliver: Oh, cool. I haven't seen those, I look forward to it.
Vince: Yeah, I've been riding that one for about 6 months, and I'm kinda into that one.
Oliver: So those are gonna have a real high ride number, almost more like a Machado fin feel, or something?
Vince: Yeah, exactly, exactly. A real high ride number.
Oliver: Those Machado fins felt like a runaway train! I couldn't use my back foot at all when I turned, you know, it was, like, terrifying!
Vince: Yeah, you have to surf like Machado with those!
Oliver: Yeah! I actually had a question written up that I was gonna pass on about that, like; Will the signature fins help me surf like that given pro?
Vince: Yeah, I don't know if they'll help you surf like 'em. Its more like you should be mimicking their style to really get the full potential out of the fin.
Oliver: Yeah, but I think it goes both ways. You want to imitate their style, but you know, if you really lay it on rail, you know, hard like Jordy, then maybe you should try his fins out, because it'll help [your surfing] out, right?
Vince: Yeah, yeah, for sure. If you're pushing the board around like that, then yeah.
Oliver: I've definitely felt, you know with the signature fins, its kinda funny, that I'll try and imitate [that pro} and the fin seems to work better at that point, you know?!?
Oliver: Alright, I'm super stoked so far, this is all just gold, as far as I'm concerned. What can we expect in the future, both from you guys, as far as, like, Ando fins and new design and materials and stuff, and also, what do you see in the future for surfboards in general, as far as fins, or finless, or all this wacky stuff thats happening now?
Vince: Yeah, you know, I don't think we're ever gonna go finless. But, I think as far as surfboards, the next step in surfboards is really understanding and controlling the flex.
Vince: Thats where the industry is going. You know, its kinda been headed that way for like the last 10 years. I think just in the last year though, some of the brands started to wrap their heads around a manufacturing process on some of these ideas.
Vince: So, I think the flex is gonna be key; Because, just like in fins, what we've seen, dialing the flex in is super, super critical.
Vince: We're gonna see that in surfboards. And, I think, as far as the fins are concerned, we're gonna see lighter, for sure. And, also, more flex control; Where we're gonna be able to tune the flex a lot better. And then.. more experimenting! You know, kinda go back and refine we've done 10 years ago with foils and I think we'll see another rebirth of that, but in a much more refined way.
Oliver: Cool! So no, like, crazy Cheyne Horan fins on the horizon yet?
Vince: Ha! Cheyne Horan?!? Actually, I..we just tested a foil today.
Oliver: Hahaha!!! Oh man, that's amazing! I love it!
Vince: Yeah! We were pulling behind a ski. I've been trying to make a foil for the downwind paddleboards.
Oliver: Uh huh, Uh huh.
Vince: You know!?! You ever done that? Downwind paddlboarding?
Oliver: No, no. I mean, I'm aware of it, but it hasn't really been in my wheelhouse.
Vince: That's where you go out in the ocean and and you ride these open ocean waves.
Oliver: Sure, yeah, Jamie Mitchell status stuff..
Vince: Yeah, so the last few years, we've been trying to do that, and.. Unsuccessful though. But, today, I got hit up by someone who.. is well known, that wants to try it out on a regular board, so we were trying to tune it in for him.
Oliver: Wow, cool!
Vince: But, I mean, you got all that stuff, you know, and I'm sure we'll see it in the future, but its pretty fringe stuff, you know?
Oliver: Yeah, certainly.
Vince: Nothing really works better than the thruster or the quad; Yeah, your conventional setups.
Oliver: Yeah, no doubt. Awesome, well.. Ay Vince, man, I really appreciate your time, and all your knowledge and and thoughts and insight. Its really fun to chat, and, yeah, if you ever make it up to the city, hit us up and we should have a little surf.
Vince: Yeah, yeah, I'd love that. I like your guys shop, man. Last time I was up there I was in there, cool shop, cool vibe.
Oliver: Awesome! Wow, yeah, thank you! We appreciate that.
Vince: Yeah, and if you ever get down here, you're more than welcome to take a tour. You know, we make a lot of the stuff all in house, So you can see us, you know, making the prototypes. You can see what goes into their engineering. You can see how the boxes are made. Its all done here.
Vince: Yeah. So if you come down here in the summer, definitely hit us up.
Oliver: Awesome! Thanks man! Great talking to you!
Vince: Ok, take care.
Oliver: Yeah, have a good day.
Fin photos courtesy of Futures Fins.