Surfer Yarns: Jim Banks On Single Fins
COASTALWATCH | JIM BANKS SURFBOARDS
Hey guys, sorry if this is a little bit of a long winded story about setting up your single fins, and also why you should probably have at least one single fin in your quiver, if you haven’t already. But hopefully if you follow it, it’ll make sense.
About five years ago I had a couple of customers requesting single fins from me, and at the same time, a UK retailer was requesting something new. So I took my well proven twin keel fish design, switched the tail template into a classic early 70s wing pin, and threw in 4 quad boxes with a 10” single box.
At the time, it was pretty much impossible to get a quality single fin in Bali, so initially I could only surf it as a quad. The board surfed nice as a quad, but it wasn’t setting my world on fire, and so it started the season at the back of the pile on the Indo Odyssey expedition boat at the time. But fairly early in the season, a customer turned up with a nice looking single fin that he let me borrow.
One of the reasons that I hadn’t been interested in working on single fins much is that i remembered how slow and unresponsive they were, compared to the modern multi-finned boards. But this board turned out to be a real surprise. I had no idea that it would surf so well. The single into double concave gave it way more drive, hold and squirt than any 70s single fin, and it turned like dream, effortlessly pulling full roundhouse cutbacks (post 70s crew might have to research that one!), lip smacks and some drivey carves off the top. By the end of the season, my little winged pin, single fin had become my favourite board, and so since then, I’ve always had at least one single fin in my quiver.
For those of you who have been following my boards, you’ll already know that I have been having great success with the Full Length Vees that I’m now putting in all of my boards. For those of you not up to speed, it’s a complex series of vee’s blended with concaves, that run thru the entire bottom of the board. You can read up more about them on my website.
Of course, ever since I started working on them, it was pretty obvious that the FLV’s would be a beautiful match for the single fins. So for the last month, I have been putting a series of FLV single fins through their paces at Uluwatu, from knee high, onshore dribblers to solid double overhead slabs, with great results. The smooth rail to rail transition of the vee underfoot, combined with the power and drive of the concaves within the vee, all tied in with a single fin, has resulted in what are by far, the best single fins that I have ever built or surfed.
But one thing that came to my attention very quickly was how sensitive these boards were to fin placement. Usually I ride an 8 1/4” flex style fin, set 8” up from the tail, and I have surfed a 6’0” single fin at double overhead Uluwatu very successfully with this setup. However, with the new FLV bottom contour, the boards are much looser than the previous single into double concave versions, and I was finding that my regular setup was letting go through the turns a little more than I liked. So I tried moving my fin back just 10mm. Bingo! The board completely changed, becoming very solid in the turns, and even allowing me to pull a couple of fairly brutal hacks and some very quick direction changes.
So here’s the deal, if your single fin is feeling a little stiff or slow, move your fin forward. Depending on the board, you might be surprised just how far forward you can move the fin. If it’s letting go too much on some of your turns, move it back. I find increments of about 10mm are enough to start with, and then as you dial it in more, you can make finer adjustments. I’ve found that usually once I get it in the spot, that one position will work for all sizes and types of surf. Although, if you get a stormy day with a lot more water moving around, sliding it back a little, can make the board a lot more solid in the rougher conditions. Same if you get a really soft day, slide it forward a bit for more glide and drift in the turns.
I hope this was interesting and shined a little light on single fin placement. Hopefully, if I get a chance, I’ll follow this up with a rundown on some classic single fin templates.
To read more about Jim’s single fins and his new Full Length Vee bottom contour, head over to jimbanksurf.com
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