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 options 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 and toward the back of the board and the other two sitting either side, 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.
The 2+1 fin option also uses three fins, but the difference is that the center fin is much bigger. The 2+1 is basically a large single fin (as used on longboards) flanked either side by smaller fins, whereas the Tri fins are all of the same size.
The Quad Fin Setup
As you might have guessed, the Quad fin setup uses four fins. There is no center fin and the fins are often positioned with two sitting parallel at the back of the board and the other 2 sitting ahead of them with a bigger gap in between.
What is the Difference Between a Tri Fin and a Quad?
The center fin in the Tri fin setup makes a big difference as it provides a lot of drag. You also have the stability and control provided by the other two fins and this makes the Thruster fin setup ideal for shoulder-high waves.
The Quad setup doesn't benefit from any center fin drag but it offers a lot of control, making it an ideal choice for tackling bigger and stronger waves, keeping you stable throughout. It's also good for small waves or hollow surf and is somewhat of an all-rounder in that sense.
It's not ideally suited to beginner surfers and when you're using Quad fins for the first time you may notice that they feel a little looser and lighter than Thruster fins and other fin setups, but once you get used to them, you'll be cruising!
The Thruster setup is good for pulling off tricks and also has a lot of control.
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! The great thing about modern fins is that you can tweak them as you see fit, adding, removing, and adjusting the fin configuration until you find the perfect one for you.