What do we know about the quad set up? Well, as it turns out, I don’t know very much at all. I know I like riding quad setups in smaller conditions, they feel faster and a little more drifty, but that’s about it from an everyday surfer. Some of you will know a lot more and some may have never seriously tested or owned a board with a quad setup.
I grew up during the ‘dark years’ of surfboard design, when everyone wanted a 6’1 to 6’3 pointy ‘elf shoe rocker’ squash tail. I believe they call these ‘new’ boards in the trade. Known by some as the boards that nobody could ride, these ‘shortboards’ took over, and the all-consuming lust for them almost snuffed out the demand for any other type of surfboard.
I have always been a heavy human and the traditional template for a short board never suited my frame or the weak-willed waves of the island where I grew up. Fortunate for me in a way that I have always been on the search for something a little different.
Since 1981, when the world saw Simon Anderson win his first competition at Bells Beach on the infamous ‘thruster’ (three fin setup) the surfing public has been smitten. The more radical style and approach to surfing were like nothing else seen on the world stage before.
A chap called Glen Winton from Australia (or 'Mr X' to his mates) won Pipeline on a quad in 1989, but this had little or no effect as regards to steering the world's surfboard industry away from the aforementioned trusty thruster 'elf shoe' template.
A little later on in 1992 when Tom Curran first paddled out at 12ft Jbay, he chose to surf a Mckee Quatro setup which incorporated four fins and was... yes, you guessed it. A quad.
Peter 'The Friar' Ware is a kneeboarding legend who claims to have stumbled across the quad setup back in the '70s, he also claims to have invented the 'man-on-man' heat that we all take for granted as part of the WSL now. Who are we to call a legend out on an untruth and, let's face it, no one else is stepping up and claiming that they invented the four fin wonder set up. We dug up this video which will tell you about the original concept of the quad setup, which actually is insightful into what the advantages of a quad are. Unfortunately, you have to go to YouTube to watch the flick, but it is worth it if you want to find out more. Enjoy the Friar's words.
There is little or no argument that the quad does firmly belong at the forefront of surfing, and performs in a multitude of conditions. Some people say that quads give you that extra drive and 'squirt' down the line in small waves, and conversely, many renowned big wave surfers prefer the quad. With so many contradictory opinions we thought it might be an idea to give you the facts of design.
Design Advantages :
A quad has less 'form drag' due to reduced fin area relative to the thruster setup because the fins are toed to a similar angle. The thruster inherently drags due to the 'toe of the side fins relative to the straight centre fin.
The quad is an extremely versatile setup and can be used with a variety of templates and shape features, it is better suited to wide 'fish style' tails than a thruster.
A quad has more holding power on the rail than a thruster.
A quad has more drive and hold than a twin fin (similar to a thruster).
The quad setup is used regularly with concave hulls because the flow along the bottom is not interrupted by a dragging centre fin.
After speaking to many different surfboard shapers, pro surfers and enthusiasts like myself, all I can sum up for you is that the world still can't agree on the right place for a quad. There are many contradictory things said and written by 'experts' from the same and different ilk in the surfing world.
Luckily for you guys, the perfect way to see if a quad is for you remains uncomplicated. Try one. Most shortboards these days come with five fin plugs so you can try each board as a thruster, twin or quad configuration. No need to go nuts with the quality, just get a cheap set until you know if you like it. Maybe the board is just not meant to be ridden as a quad, but keep the fins and throw them in your next board, keep experimenting.
Personally, I have owned three or four different quads. I can almost go out on a limb and say they are fast and drivey, they are also not the most predictable. Saying that they all surfed so differently. There were too many other differences in the boards, it makes it hard to know if it was down to the actual quad setup or not. So, in actual fact, I have been no help, just as most people are not.
So who invented the quad? I think we have to give this one to Peter Ware. Please give us a shout if you know someone else who lays claim to inventing the quad configuration. Perhaps the moral of the story is to keep an open mind and never stop searching for new experiences on the wave. If it's good enough for Slats and Curran it's good enough for everyone.