Made popular in the early 80’s by Simon Anderson, the thruster setup comprises of three equal sized fins, two outer fins set forward of a central fin at the back of the surfboard. The tri-fin system had been experimented with in the 70’s by Hawian master shaper Dick Brewer, and creators of the ‘Bonzer’ Malcolm and Duncan Campell. Their tri-fin setups did not catch on at the time, but did influence what became the thruster set up, and have since become iconic designs in their own right.
The favoured fin system for high performance surfing towards the end of the 70’s was a twin fin, more specifically a version designed by Mark Richards, with a matching pair of six inch tall fins on a wide-tailed surfboard. Four consecutive world championships won by Richards from 79-82 asserted the twin fins dominance, however some top surfers, including Simon Anderson, were struggling to control the boards as well as they would have liked.
His solution for this was to add a central third fin, the same size as the two outer fins, (although foiled on both sides like a single fin), to provide a better hold and manoeuvring on the wave, and to prevent spinning out. Soon after Anderson started to win multiple world tour events with this setup in the early 80’s, the thruster fin system became the most popular setup for shortboards and high performance surfing in general, and it could be argued (with continuous modification) it has remained this way ever since.
Here at Otter our wooden surfboards tend to be more suited to single and twin fin setups, however our more performance oriented surfboards like the Coaster and Swift go really well as thrusters. Ultimately it’s down to the individual surfer’s preference when it comes to fin setups, which can have a big influence on how you surf and what you want to get out of each wave you catch.
During our surfboard workshops it is fair to say that a lot of thought and conversation goes into fin setups. Find out more about our workshops here.