Monday, November 25, 2013

Plastic vs G10 Wave/Freestyle Fins


Jake Patrick of K4 Fins contacted me and asked me to post an article on the new plastic windsurfing fins which K4 have developed.   Of course I agreed and his article follows this comment.  Unfortunately for most of us, the new material is not suitable for slalom fins but who knows what the future may hold.  If you sail in waves or are into freestyle then you need to read this.

Anyway, here is Jake's article.  He includes two links which you can use if you are interested to learn more.

K4 Fins, the pro's and con's of plastic fins.

K4 Fins are the birth child of Steve Thorpe and Murray Saunders. Steve is a UK windsurfing legend. Currently he is the only man to have windsurfed the Cribbar, a famous big wave spot for surfers in the UK. Steve works for a plastic injection moulding company in the midlands and constantly travels to whatever coast line gets the best forecast. Tired of the fins on offer Steve started making windsurfing fins in his spare time in the warehouse.

On a trip to the west coast of Ireland with Murray Saunders, a BWA sailor and Industry Salesman, Steve used the fins to amazing effect. Once Murray had tried them the pair joined forces to offer K4 Fins to the windsurfing market. Now K4 Fins have an international distribution network with K4 sailors ripping waves in every corner of the globe.

K4 Fins founder Steve Thorpe.

K4 fins use a unique moulded resin, long fibre matrix, which they call 'Optoflex'. This plastic injection material has been optimised to provide the ideal flex patterns for wave riding and freestyle. Optoflex was in development for 2 years and offers a unique combination of strength, durability, flex and performance.

Compared to the industry standard G10 construction, K4 Fins offer a fin that flexes and works with you. This flex in the fins is what gives more grip, drive and then release when wave riding. The increased flex allows the rider to drive harder through the bottom turn. Then, as the rider comes out of the turn and approaches the lip, the fins give back some of the stored energy allowing for a much harder and more radical top turn.

This is obviously good news for advanced wave riders, but they also work well, if not better, for more everyday wave riders. By 'storing' energy in the bottom turn and releasing it into the top turn, K4 Fins help average riders to complete fluid turns that they perhaps weren't capable of with G10's. A Lyme Regis windsurfer, Malcolm Jones says "I can wave ride so much better with the K4's on my board. I haven't got the most precise technique, but with the extra grip and drive through my bottom turn, I come into my top turn with more speed than I could ever have managed through technique alone!"

K4 Fins flex compared to standard G10.

The fins are also pretty handy at getting your board up and planing. In fact when compared to the stiffer G10’s some riders think that K4 are earlier planing. Rich Potter (UK Wave Champion) remarked that when jumping the fins allow him to spring off the wave better, and then landing they work with him, gripping the water and straightening him up. 

The benefits of the Optoflex material on a practical level are evident too. The plastic injection fins are much lighter than any G10 alternative and the material is more forgiving to mistakes. Bumps or scrapes with rocks and reefs are easy to sand and smooth out. They also don’t split if rammed into underwater obstacles so you can sail in the confidence that one bad strike isn’t going to render them useless.

Due to demand K4 have expanded their range in the last couple of years. They now offer a variety of models in a wide range of different sizes. The new shapes include a more upright, stiffer 'stubby’ fin, and an exciting ‘Ezzy’ Asymmetric fin side fin.

K4 Team rider Graham Ezzy on his signature side fin

Perhaps the only drawback with K4 Fins is that currently their range is limited to multi fin wave boards and freestyle boards. The biggest fin in the range is 20cm, but there are rumours that work is being done to find a new material for single fin wave boards and free-ride boards. The current Optoflex plastic is too flexible for the longer fins.

One thing for sure is that K4 Fins offer a unique and alternative performance aspect compared to conventional G10 fins. Those looking to improve on basic techniques can benefit from the added grip and release the fins offer. When you consider the savings made in both cost and weight, it certainly seems irrational not to at least try the fins.

It will be interesting to see how K4 Fins continue to develop and whether their entrance into the free ride and single fin market is as successful as their triumph with multi fin wave and freestyle windsurfing fins. Find a setup that suits your style and see if K4 Fins are the ingredient you have been missing to improve your windsurfing.

Many thanks,

Jake Patrick

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