Words: Mark Sankey Images: Alexa Poppe

Design For a Fin Free Journey

“Your don’t make it easy for him do you!”, said Daz, the legendary sander/finisher at Nigel Semmens factory, as he eye balled the bumpy old lump of foam on the shaping racks in front us. Then walked off leaving Steve Croft to ponder that pearl of wisdom. Steve then explained to me the idea for the board and asked me what size I wanted, I told him I had no idea what size because I’ve never had a step-deck finless board with concaves before.

Here’s Steve’s rundown on the board’s concept.

The basic plan with the longboard reshape is to produce a finless board that you can paddle easy, but one that retains the feel of an alaia. Most of all I wanted to design a board that would allow a surfer to do more than try to stay upright whilst sliding sideways; the fact that the board has no fins should not be a wave riding disadvantage. The key to finless surfing is directional control, to convert the sideways slide into forward motion, and this is achieved through good rail and bottom design. The finless boards that I’ve seen do this well are the fine railed wooden boards. Thin rails allow you to get more board in the water to give you more control and projection, which follows what I have been doing with my own fine railed boards.

The idea is to keep the outline as straight and parallel as possible but bring the tail in a little to reduce the area behind your feet. These straighter lines equal more rail in the water and create longer arcs with greater projection, speed and hold. Finless boards are ridden off the rail with your weight forward, so I’ve put the wide point forward keeping the surface area under the feet for planning and control, and this also helps to keep the curves in the tail nice and straight. The form, outline and profile of the template is reminiscent of a displacement hull or Greenough spoon in the front third and from there back it’s similar to a classic fish outline.

Foil and bottom shape:
The entry has a rolled hull bottom, a very slight s-deck and a little bit of rocker. I have found hull entries to be highly effective because they plane well and the soft rolled up edges don’t catch so easily. In the middle a step-deck is used to keep thickness in the centre for paddling, but then drops the volume of the rail line for a very thin, fine, and bladey rail. The hull entry transfers to a slight roll before blending into some soft concave/channels (concaves;-) through the back half of the board. The idea is that as the water flows diagonally across the bottom of board the bottom shape will redirect some of the flow towards the tail resulting in forward motion. Hard channels create speed and drive in glassy conditions, but can create cavitation and lose there effectiveness if the water flow is uneven during choppy conditions, but softer concaves are less effected by chop; by combining the two you get the best of both worlds. The rail in the back third changes to a hard down rail to cut into the face giving the rail more bite and drive. From the rocker lift in the nose the rest of the board is virtually flat.

After leaving Steve in the shaping bay for a few hours I returned to find a red faced, sweaty Crofty swigging on a big bottle of water, surrounded by great mounds of foam dust. Steve confirmed what Daz had foretold, “that’s the hardest shape I’ve done in years!” and under the bright lights of the shaping bay the old lumpy lump of foam was now a perfectly sculpted board waiting to be glassed.

*Mark’s finless board made it’s debut at REEF The Slyder Social and Steve Croft of Empire Surfboards was awarded the covetted Shaper’s Shield for his amazing craftsmanship.