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Quad vs Thrusters – Fin Setup

Quad VS Thruster

Quad vs Thrusters

What is the difference between tri fin and quad fin set ups? This is a huge question that is coming up more and more often as we now see new surf boards with 5/4/3 fin set ups. The 5/4/3 setup is a setup that has 5 fin boxes that allows a surfer to choose between 3 fins or 4. Question is, which set up is right for you?

Let’s start by identifying the performance difference between these two setups. The tri fin, or thruster, setup is the classic fin setup. It features three fins creating the shape of a triangle, one stabilizer fin in the back and two more in front of the stabilizer close to the rails. This setup is made for speed control; the center stabilizer fin creates drag which is an important action for controlling your speed. The quad fin setup is used to be more maneuverable and faster than a thruster setup. Believe it or not the quad fin setup is less restrictive than a thruster which really helps for quick accelerations when taking off on a wave. Also another benefit over the thruster is its more maneuverable and turns quicker and feels more “skaty”, or loose, due to the lack of a center stabilizer fin.

Thruster Setup

Thruster Setup

So now you are probably thinking that a quad fin setup its better in many more ways than a thruster, but it all depends of what you are surfing whether one setup is better than the other. A quad setup is better for smaller waves. When the waves are smaller it can be harder to catch one and turn on a dime, a quad setup allows a surfer to really accelerate quickly to catch the wave, get that critical first turn in easily, and maintain the speed he/she needs to ride out the smaller waves. So really when you’re surfing in less than stellar conditions, a quad fin setup would be a wiser choice if you’re looking for that more high performance ride in smaller surf.

If you are looking at surfing huge waves and catching barrels then a tri fin setup would be the ideal setup for a good time. That center stabilizer fin will help keep your board going straight and help maintain the correct speed to stay in the barrel and not lose control. Also when you’re surfing bigger waves and hitting snaps, the thruster setup will help you keep the control you need to nail your maneuver without overshooting  your landing or coming in to trick too with too much speed. Overall the thruster setup will really help you keep speed control you need on the bigger waves and getting barreled.

Quad Fin Setup

Quad Fin Setup

This information is really based off of knowledge I have learned from listening to other surfers, but really every surfer has a different feel on the wave than another surfer. The knowledge learned is just from basic concepts of physics and hydrodynamics. This information is not wrong by any means, but some people maybe prefer a thruster in small waves and others may prefer a quad in huge waves. It’s all about how you react with either setup. Take time to try out different setups and see which one works for you the best, but just know the general benefits you will get from 3 fins or 4 and take that into consideration when selecting what fins you want to buy.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. More Waves #

    Well put. It’s important when switching setups to give it some time and in varied conditions.

    April 1, 2013
  2. Great over view. I gotta respectfully disagree on the matter of barrels though – I find that having 8.5 inches of fin base gives incredible stability – though speed management is a (good) problem.

    Overall, I find the quad set-up superior – BUT – much less forgiving of fin selection than a thruster. Once that hurdle is cleared the quad is really tough to beat!

    July 22, 2013
  3. Keeping my quad setup on my Icon after reading this.. Unfortunately we ‘re not after the ‘big’ waves in Greece. Nice post!

    January 23, 2014

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