When the first fins were introduced and popularized in the 1930s – ‘40s, it changed surfing forever. Stability, control, and turning – which were all once extremely difficult on the heavy, traditional finless surfboards – were now attainable.
Fins allowed surfers and surfboards to progress into a whole new era.
In 1935, when Tom Blake attached a small fin from a speedboat to his board and tested it, he recognized instantly the fin’s huge value.
Today, you’ve got countless combinations of fin designs and fin setups that will make for an endless amount of new surfing sensations and experiences – and that’s what it’s all about.
But if experience and experimentation is what you’re after and if you’ve only ever surfed a modern board with modern fins, you’ve got to ask yourself – can I surf without fins?
Whether you’ve just broken your single fin or are looking at some sweet alais, maybe you’re asking yourself this question.
Can You Surf Without a Fin?
The simple answer is: Yes, you can surf without a fin.
Honestly, you can surf anyway and anything you want to. Whether it works or not is an entirely different issue.
But finless surfing is possible and it does work.
After all, the first surfboards were finless and fins themselves are a relatively recent addition in surfing’s ancient roots.
Surfing without fins could probably be best described as fast and slidey.
By removing the fins, you’re eliminating drag immensely, which means there is little standing in the way of your surfboard and crazy speed and glide.
When surfing without a fin you’ve got to shift your awareness to things you’re able to get a little sloppy with or put on autopilot when you’ve got fins to help hold and control your board in a wave.
Finless surfing requires picking good lines on clean waves.
Your weight and position on the board is going to have a big effect on your control.
You’ll need to get creative and remain conscious of your back foot and with your rails if you want to change direction.
With the re-popularization of alaias, the emergence of blackball-friendly finless foamies, and more experimentation by niche, creative shapers with channeled bottoms and board construction methods it seems finless surfing has entered the mind a good deal of surfers.
While you can certainly remove the fins from your surfboard and go surf, it’s going to feel weird. The tail is going to slide around, even while paddling, and your board is going to want to spin until you start moving your weight on the board differently.
However, simply removing your fins can be an interesting and easy introduction to frictionless surfing.
If you’ve got a taste for more finless surfing, you can also get (or make) an alai or get your hands on a foam board with funky bottom channels that are designed for lift and hold to take the responsibility of the missing fins.