11 October 2015
Quads vs Thrusters
During my coaching sessions I’m often asked, “what’s the difference between a quad (4 fins) and thruster (3 fins) fin setup?” Here’s a general overview of what I discuss.
The bottom line is both work in all conditions and it comes down to personal preference. Both have advantages and disadvantages and both feel different and draw different lines on a wave. A general summary to differentiate the two is:
Quads go faster
Thrusters turn better.
Some more points to consider…
Fins create drag and lift, and along with your rail they help hold and change direction.
The back fin on a thruster is a backing/stabilising fin that’s shared when switching from rail to rail.
Boards are shaped to channel water through the back of the board. Water hitting a thruster’s tail fin will slow you down. Water rushing out the back of the tail unobstructed (quad) does not cause this deceleration. This provides an advantage is in really small and really large waves. A surfer on a thruster must work harder to generate speed whereas a quad will accelerate quicker and with less effort.
Overall difference? Quad fin setups produce a looser/skate-ier sensation because they lack the back stabilising fin. You may notice your quad is very responsive but sometimes you might feel a lack of control on the wave's face when doing turns. However when taking a late drop on a critical section or in the barrel on a steep, hollow wave you have two fins to lock into the wave face versus sharing one back fin like on a Thruster.
Overall a Thruster is more stable and predictable than a quad when doing turns, however unpredictability can be fun in certain moments, for example when you do a turn and you slide further than expected or flare the fins out higher on the lip.
What do I ride?
First of all I have all my boards made with 5 fin boxes so I can always try both and have the option depending on conditions. However, my all-round choice is a thruster, especially when doing turns. I ride quads when it’s small and fun, or in long, hollow, fast waves and when it gets huge.
My advice? Try both and figure out what works best for you. Changing fins in a board can make the board feel completely different, for better or worse. Give it a go.