Surfboards and their History – The Fin and the Leash

Last week we took a sneak peek at some of the histories behind surfboards, there is just so much information that it was not possible to shove it all into one little article. So, I thought after a week of wrapping your head around all the info piled on you last week; I could impress you with a little more.

The Invention of the Fin

In 1935 Tom Blake impressed the surfing community all over again when he added the first fin to a surfboard! I am sure many must have thought him nuts when in fact he was a genius. He experienced a much more comfortable, straighter paddle and a lot more control and stability on the wave when he first tested his finned surfboard. The physics behind the fin is that it stops the board shifting sideways when on away, before this invention, surfers hung their toes over the edge of the board. Upon conception and role out of the fin, surfers could now concentrate on their control and manoeuvrability of the board.

Fins, Fins, Fins

  • Single Fins – George Greenough adapted Toms keel fin design somewhere in the 1960s. They were again redesigned in the late ’70s.
    Twin Fins – Mark Richards had the bright idea of adding a second fin to the tail of the board. This allowed more flowing, curving moves, slicing through the water. He showed off his new carving ability and won 4 world titles from 1979 to 1983.
  • Three Fins – seems the Australians ruled the surfboard upgrades because in 1980 Simon Anderson tried something new. He attached a third fin to his board between the other two but further back closer to the tail. This adaptation won him a world cup event. This three-fin set up is seen on most surfboards of today.
  • Four Fins – believe it or not, the four-fin set up was discovered at the same time as the three-fin setup. However, it was overshadowed by the success of Simon Anderson. Only recently have people started taking note of the quad system. Surfers using this setup believe the boards are faster as there is no centre fin to cause drag.
  • Removable Fins – In the 1990s, removable fins were designed and brought into use, this made it easier for transportation. It also gave the surfers piece of mind, because if one spine broke, it did not mean having to repair your board with fibreglass or the inevitable chance of water damage.

Let us talk about the leash

Pat O’Neill developed and introduced the leash in 1971, before this, surfers had to be amazing swimmers as when they fell off their boards they went rogue and had to be retrieved from shore. Pat used a surgical cord attached with a suction cup to the board; he introduced his invention in an international surfing competition. Unfortunately, this led to him being disqualified.