Performance evaluation of humpback whale-inspired shortboard surfing fins based on ocean wave fieldwork

Surf better with new whale-inspired fins

RESEARCHERS from Australia and America have created a set of surfboard fins that can help a surfer generate more power into a wave, as well as turn better.

The fins, named Real Whale, copy humpbacks' fins that reduce drag through water, including their bony protrusions on the front of their fins called tubercles.

When compared to standard commercial fins, the team found the Real Whale fins were able to allow a skilled surfer to improve their performance relative to a pro-ranked surfer.

According to results published today (Wednesday) in science journal Plos One, researchers from the University of Wollongong's Global Challenges Program and American organisations DIVE and LLC have completed the first study "to present evidence of dynamic roll, pitch and yaw performance of tubercled designs".

The research explains that a humpback's survival depends on controlling its massive body in fast moving, turbulent flow.

"If their flippers do not perform maximally in a variety of conditions, they lose because they cannot capture prey. It is well-known that surfers will not win during surfing competitions if their equipment (e.g. fins) does not perform maximally. Surfboard and surfing fin hydrodynamics, and surfer performance have been investigated. However, reports combining studies coupling fin design with surfer performance are scarce," the study reads.

The study concluded shortboards fitted with Real Whale fin designs showed a widespread increase in performance.

"It was demonstrated that using Real Whale designs can improve a surfer's performance.

"For example, the performance of a Skill Level 8 surfer using control fins is similar compared to a Skill Level 9 (WCT) surfer in the minority (41 per cent) of the analysed performance means.

"In contrast, the similarity increases to 82 per cent when the Skill Level 8 surfer uses Real Whale fins.

"This indicates that it may be possible for surfers to obtain a performance advantage in competitive surfing using Real Whale fin designs."