Why do Surfers put a Dolphin’s CENTER FIN on the TAIL END of Surboards?
Dolphin dorsal fins are a dolphin’s center fin. So why do most surfers use them the tail end of their surfboards?
Dolphins use only one dorsal fin—and it’s a symmetrical or double-foil fin. But lots of surfers often use three dorsal fins in a thruster setup and four in a quad. Why? Or maybe we should we count asymmetric-flat-foiled fins as one fin, since flat-foiled fins are essentially one fin cut in half?
But dolphins don’t use flat-foiled fins. So why should we?
Dolphins use a single dorsal fin for longitudinal stability—for going straight—for roll stability, and for body-temperature control.
But surfers use dolphin dorsal fins for turning and for drive, i.e. propulsion.
For propulsion, dolphins use much higher-aspect-ratio fins on their tails—and those tail flukes are symmetrical. So why do we use low-aspect ratio asymmetrical fins?
And nowhere on a dolphin’s body are there any toed-in fins.
So even if mimicking dolphin dorsal fins is a good idea, we’re doing it wrong most of the time.
Check out the fins below—the gallery looks like it came right out of a manufacturer’s thruster-page lineup—except there is nobody’s signature fin or graphics.
Mimicking nature makes sense—as a design starting point. Otto Lilienthal did just that when he invented his first glider, which looked like a bird, as did Monsieur Le Bris, and his glider. Even the Wright Brothers mimicked nature by bending wings for control. Of course no planes these days look like birds; we use science to develop more modern shapes. Who’d want to ride a commercial airliner that looked like one of these planes?
In ship design we mimicked nature for hundreds of years. We used codfish bows and mackerel sterns on ships from Christopher Columbus in the 1400s, through the Pilgrims in the 1600s, through the Revolutionary War in the 1700s, and into the 1900s. But eventually we began using modern science in design. Imagine if our cars were designed to simply mimic horses!
We make fins that use modern science to make fins more fun. We aim to create fins that are faster, paddle more easily, and turn better. Try one!