One of the more common fin configurations available for shortboards is the 5-fin set up that allows you to set your surfboard up as quad, a thruster, or a twin fin.
We are going to focus on the quad and thruster because that is what most shortboard surfer ride.
So, which is the better option for a shortboard: A quad fin setup or a thruster fin setup?
It’s a question that many surfers have asked and one that has created somewhat of a divide.
Both of these fin configurations are great and provide a number of benefits, so it’s a hard question to answer. However, we’re going to tackle it as best we can, comparing the benefits of each fin option and seeing which one comes out on top.
The Thruster Fin Setup
The thruster or tri-fin setup was first used by Aussie surfer Simon Anderson back in the 1980s.
He created three equal-sized fins, with one in the middle towards the back of the surfboard and the other two sitting either side near the rails, angled inward.
After Simon Anderson first used the tri-fin setup, it exploded in popularity and became the fin setup of choice for many high-level surfers and started the shortboard revolution.
A thruster as the name suggests allows a surfer to thrust down the line because a surfer can leverage the two fins on the rails to create speed as they move rail to rail while at the same time the rear fin is providing drive. Thruster surfboards are used in surf of all sizes and on all kinds of surfboards.
The Quad Fin Setup
As you might have guessed, the quad fin setup uses four fins. There is no center fin and the surf fins are positioned with two sitting parallel at the back of the board and the other two sitting ahead of them with a bigger gap in between.
A quad fin set up provides similar drive and turning abilities as the thruster.
So, What’s The Difference Between A Quad vs Thruster Fin Setup on a Shortboard Surfboard
The main difference between a quad and thruster lies in the center fin of the thruster which arguably give a surfer a center point from which to pivot and create drive.
But that is just the beginning. You may find that the pivot point that a thruster provides doesn’t matter based on your style of surfing.
Also, some surfers swear that a quad is faster than a thruster because there is no center fin dragging you down and you have two fins on either side of the surfboard that are used to surf rail to rail which creates speed every time the surfboard is on rail.
You may also find that you prefer the same surfboard with a different set up, be it a thruster or a quad, based on the size of surf and the type of surfer you are riding.
In truth, these two fin setups provide similar benefits and control and it really all comes down to whether or not you can benefit from the additional center fin.
The only way to know for sure is to get out there and experience quad fins and a thruster setup for yourself!