• "Who is Curtis?"

    Simply put by Rusty Preisendorfer, famed founder of Rusty Surfboards, "Curtis is 'The Fin Guru,'" -- and when Rusty says this about someone, it sticks. This coveted nick-name was not handed out because it sounds cool, but rather because it was earned after decades of diligence, perfecting the rudders of our ships. Curtis Hesselgrave is a self-taught mechanical engineer who was fortunate enough to spend considerable time under the guidance of several great innovators and schools of thought leading him down the path of "fin-guruism." After a brief stint at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Hesselgrave spent several months at sea researching the theory of plate tectonics with various scientists. Following these influential voyages around the world, he was trained by Ray Hicks, of the NASA Aeronautical Engineering Program, and then moved to Laguna Beach where he met the surfboard and gracefully transitioned from designing wings to shaping fins. Spending time working for Mike Hynson at Rainbow Surfboard Co. in the early seventies got Hesselgrave's feet wet in the surf industry. He eventually linked up with Bill Bahne of Fins Unlimited and helped design what went on to set the industry standard for longboard box fin set ups. In addition to surfboard fins, Curtis also creates fins for wind surfboards, sail boards, and wake boards and even designed world-record breaking crafts in the eighties, shattering the record for speed by a sail-powered craft. Curtis and Rusty have had an ongoing relationship for many years and they developed the Vector fins together around 2000 and 2001. At the time, Curtis was Vice President of Design at Futures Fins and was working closely with Laird Hamilton on some new tow-in fins. Many of the same concepts applied to the big wave fins, such as cambered foils (which is the main design logic behind the Vector fins), begged to be tested in everyday conditions on go-to fin sized templates. Rusty, being a huge fan of glass on fins, was looking for a solution to the problem of having interchangeable fin systems (good for travel), yet, possessing no adequate fins to put in the boards. It seemed as though none of the plastic fins, in the early days of removable fin systems, remotely compared to the feeling of surfing a board with true glass-ons. Here-in lied the problem. Curtis had the answer. He built Rusty three sets of vector fins for him to take to Tavarua Island, Fiji in 2000 and, apparently, the fins worked insane. "I freaked out!" Rusty went into detail of how playing with the foil cross-sections of the fins and adjusting the cant (tilt-out) of the new foiled vectors released a whole new world of possibilities for surf fins. For example, heavy, concave boards need more cant and now that these variables can be controlled, along with depth of cross-sections, rake, flex patterns, template dimensions, and construction materials.

    The new Future Curtis Fins are made from an, "incredible material," as described by Rusty. The new material is called G-10 and has an off-white look to it. The fiberglass used for the G-10 material is very dense, making it heavier, so Futures went ahead and drilled out the bases of the fins to lose a few extra ounces of glass from the get go. Rusty continued hyping the G-10, explaining, "it is super tight, making for accurate foils. You can go thinner without too much flex, due to the density."

    The evolution of the surfboard fin moves in leaps, bounds, and anticipation. Activity will remain stagnant for a few years and then a new innovation in fin technology will take the world by storm, fueling progression until the next big breakthrough. The single fin surrendered to the twin fin in the seventies, and the twin fin revolution came to a screeching halt with Simon Anderson's introduction of the thruster in the early eighties, minus a few stand out surfers that were stubborn to convert (Shaun Tompson being one of the last). Will Jobson's twinzer and Rusty's C-5 both held a brief moment in the sun in the nineties and then it seemed the waters calmed. Then, along came the Vector Fins, collaborating decades of ideas into a truly scientific fin set up in which the fin templates vary in thickness (creating foils) maximizing the efficiency of the water flow between the fins and the water. The foils increase speed and help keep drive, without losing the ability to release in the pocket. Some wrote it off as a marketing gimmick, while those in the know left the weary behind in their wakes.

    When asking Rusty his advice on finding a favorite set of fins he offered some simple, yet useful words of wisdom, "Use your go-to board to test a new set of fins, and use your go-to fins to test a new board, eliminating variables." Through a process of trial and error you will eventually find the right fins for you and your board, but do not get too used to them because the fin variable is as ever-changing as your board. If you feel like you need to be a rocket scientist to pick out your next set of fins, just remember who is designing 'em...

    Text and Photo: Brody