By Phase Five

Phase Five has partnered with the 3DFINS team over the last few years to offer 3DFINS in its lineup. Phase Five interviewed Creator/Founder Courtney Potter and P5 Sales Representative Chris Bank to garner more information about the technology behind the fins.  

Interview with 3D Fins founder- Courtney Potter

1. When and where did your fin addiction start? 

I've been messing with Fins since I was a kid. I started trying to shape surfboards but I didn't have anywhere to do it and my mum wasn't real happy when I shaped and glassed one in my bedroom (Spilt resin on my new carpet and made the house stink of resin for months). I realized with fins I could do small adjustments and change the way my board went so started to make and tweak existing fins for all my mates. My background is in art painting and sculpture so I could sculpt a fin foil and template pretty well.

2. How did you come up with the idea of adding golf ball like dimples on the outside of surf fins?

I was working in the toy industry in the US making flying toys and learnt a lot about foils and aerodynamics. I started on a really radical design inspired by a NASA wing prototype that NASA wanted to make into a toy (I did the Package artwork for them). They were out there but had a lot of knowledge and we would talk about this wing for hours.  I believed at the time this would change surfing, it works amazing and is the best fin I've ever made but the surfing community wasn't ready and it needed an unusual plug arrangement so couldn't fit into a normal fin set up. I had investors and some of the best surfers in the world test it and agreed it worked insane and a major breakthrough but we couldn't get it into market. Facing complete financial disaster for all involved, I had a incredible strike of luck my mate asked if wanted to play a game of golf. We rolled a few skoobs and played nine holes. He was whacking this ball wildly to the left or right and it would always straighten up during flight and head straight down the fairway. I was stunned and thought he had some kind of trick on how to get spin. Anyway he explained on the ninth hole it was the ball (Polaris) which had smaller dimples on each polar end so acted like a axle. He told me to check out the website and get one (since I was losing all my balls in the rough). I was checking the site and realized all the aerodynamic info was similar to what I had been working on with fins and I had this very clear vision of a standard fin with dimples on it. I made a prototype using a normal fin I knew well and put Dimples in it using a dremel. I went for a surf on it and was amazed that it actually felt faster and better through turns especially cut backs and bottom turns. I had a couple mates that ripped and they said the same. So I mapped a golf balls dimple pattern and had a CAD designer lay it on a fin. Josh Kerr tested and he said it felt like it had no max speed like normal fins and said he felt he could go as fast as he wanted.

3. What was wrong with “standard fins” that you felt a need to reinvent the wheel?

There was nothing really wrong with a standard fin but I wanted to push them into the future and thought there must be more to improving performance than just changing flex and materials. The fin technically was the same as it was since the early 60's. It's similar to us still riding single fins and saying that's it we will now just stick with this and change the flex and templates. I knew about surface architecture in planes and other aerodynamic designs and figured it was the missing link.


4. We know wakesurfing presented its own challenges when setting out to design a wakesurf specific fin.  What features does the Speed Base Fin have that are unique to 3D’s traditional ocean fins?  

The Speed Base Fin was designed specifically for wake surfing and particularly for Phase 5. It all started when after we met with Chris Bank who was really into my ideas and Phase 5 crew who were innovators and we just talked about fins. I'm also a big fan of wakesurfing and did a lot of it in Oregon when I lived there. I felt standard surfing fins were good for wakeboarding but a little sticky and a slow so once again I felt there must be a design that's better for wakesurfing as it has different forces to wave riding. The concept was based on nature and NASA. I looked at the way water flowed over river rapids and how water speeds up over undulations. There's some aerodynamic principles there too. I also took inspiration from surfboard flyers that allow for a wider design but reduce area in a short space and break up the surface tension of a surfboard or wakeboard rail without losing drive or having too much hold. I have always felt a fin is like a mini surfboard and very similar effect of performance are involved. The leading edge of a fin is similar to a rail.

Pictured Above: Phase 5 3D Dimpster


5. Now that the Speed Base has been born, have you tried it in ocean conditions?  Any surprising results? 

Yes although designed for wakesurfing I tested it in the surf first. I immediately felt a drag free feeling. It was fast and very loose with lots of release. What is surprising is how well they go as a rear quad fin and I am sure they would be pretty insane as a rear center fin for a thruster also.. These are now my go to rear fins when its small conditions. I'm working on versions of these for different water sports and they are still surprising me.


(Phase 5 Team Rider Stacia Bank rides 3D Fins on her Swell)

6. We saw Jamie O'brien won the Volcom Pro in Hawaii. What was it like designing a fin with a rider of his caliber?  

Jamie has been amazing because he is a open minded and into new ideas. I actually found out he was riding our 5.0 Dimple Fin when he did the Teahupoo on Fire stunt. I got in touch with him after and he said he really like the speed they had. We kept in touch and hooked him up with some fins at the same time I was working on the Channel fin concept. I called him asked if he would be keen to try them he was yeah send them over. I hand made him a set of our fins with Channels added (Carved into with a file).  I sent them over and kind of forgot about it for a month or so and then he had the mad 10 point ride in Pipe Master (2017) and got second to Slater in Volcom Pro (2017). I sent him an email and to congratulate him and asked if he was riding the Channel fin by any chance. He said I've been riding them all winter and want it to be my signature fin, I said I wasn't sure I could afford him (haha) but he was like I don't care about the money I just want this to be my signature fin. So immediately I had a huge amount of respect for him as he wasn't about money but about performance. He can feel the slightest difference in fins and obviously put them into pretty extreme places so has been amazing to work with.


Interview with P5 Sales Representative- Chris Bank

Chris Bank originally brought the idea to us about bringing the 3D fin to the Phase 5 line. He had done a lot of testing on his own and believed these fins truly performed better. He is one of the main reasons that Phase 5 has a 3D fins in the lineup.

1. How was working with the fin guru Courtney during the creation of the Speed Base Fin?  He seems to be a mad scientist of the sorts.

Working with Courtney was such a blast!  When it comes to board/fin design, I am a true nerd.  I enjoy learning how different design components and attributes of boards and fins work together in concert to deliver performance.  From our first conversation, Courtney and I were unified in our goal of creating a fin design built specifically for wakesurfing.  His extensive experience in fin design, along with his passion for incorporating new ideas put us in a unique position to collaborate and make something new to further push the sport. 


2. Did you learn anything new in the process of creating the Speed Base Fin that surprised you?  

YES!!!  Fin design is an art, as well as a science!  I was surprised by how what would seem logical in fin design, does not always work as intended.   In fin design, there are an almost infinite number of attribute combinations that effect one another.  Changes in the combination of shape, foil, depth, surface, base, composite all affect one another.  Sometimes, what you believe should be the perfect combination of design features can yield a completely different performance outcome that you would have guessed.  You can get overwhelmed trying to determine what the ideal "formula" is for a wakesurf specific fin design.  

3. The curvy edge of the fin.  Where did this idea come about?  How does it work behind the boat?

The curvy edge of the Speed Base fin creates a "longer" leading edge of the fin.  The longer the leading edge is, the more speed and drive it can deliver.  If you were to straighten out the leading edge, you would see that it has the same length as a much larger or deeper fin.  Wakesurfers want great hold and control, but they do not want the fins to be so big and deep that they do not create too much drag or inhibit the maneuverability of the board.  By incorporating the curved leading edge, the Speed Base fins can be shorter, but deliver the power, drive and speed that the rider is looking for.  

4. Overall the Speed Base Fin is pretty short, but offers tons of drive for its size.  How did you accomplish this?

The Speed Base Fins are short, but super powerful!!  Wake surfers don't necessarily need the depth that an ocean surfer would need to help their board perform, specifically speaking to the depth and rake (backward curve) of the fin.  The Speed Base Fins are designed for use on wakesurf boards, vs. other fins that were built for ocean use and then transitioned into wake surfing.  In wake surfing, the waves are smaller by comparison to ocean swell.  A deep, long rake ocean fin will not pivot/turn as quickly and will have more difficulty releasing from the lip of the wake.  By incorporating the curved leading edge, a shallow rake, longer base and dimple technology, the Speed Base Fins allow a wake surfer the agility to make quick turns and provides ease in pop/release.  And, they deliver serious down-the-line speed for GIANT airs and deliver great hold for HUGE bottom turns.  

5. Last words on 3D Fins?

Phase 5 designs high performance boards.  They need high performance fins to complete the package.  Putting Speed Base fins on your Phase 5 board is kind of like putting high performance tires on your race car!!