Although Pro Teck
fins are commonly known for safety, they have also been proven to hold their own against the name brand fin technologies. My first experience with Pro Teck fins was on a trip to Maui. Our rental longboards were each equipped with Super Flex
center fins. I could have lived with the bright red and yellow color scheme, but watching the fin bend past a 90 degree angle to the touch made me question whether this was some sort of sadistic haole initiation. The shop owner reassured me that the fins would work just fine even in bigger surf. He proceeded to show me a shot of pro surfer Dino Miranad charging the North Shore ... with Super Flex fins.
While not all Pro Teck fins are as flexible as their Super Flex line, they all share a distinctive trim along the leading and trailing edges made of soft material with varying flexibility. The company behind the fin, SurfCo Hawaii
, is renowned for safety related surfing products the first of which was the “Nose Guard” released in 1986. Current CEO David Sedeleski
co-invented SurfCo’s second product, the Pro Teck fin, inspired by his son’s severe fin injury which involved over 100 stitches.
Surfing safety is no joke. Although surfing popularity continues to surge, there are still only as many beaches. You don’t need to have a degree in statistics to see how increasingly crowded your local line-up gets with every passing summer. With the increased crowds come the inevitable collisions. A Surfing Medical Association
study found that nearly half of all surfing injuries involved lacerations from fins. On top of that, 70% of injuries occurred when waves were less than head high. In other words, you don’t need to be charging Teahupo'o to risk major injury – El Porto on any other summer day will do. The soft edge of Pro Teck fins greatly reduces the chance of skin puncture or serious injury in the event of a collision.
Practicing safety with Pro Teck fins does not necessarily mean sacrificing performance. The flexible edge of the fins also serve a hydrodynamic purpose. Water tends to flow with far less turbulence across the trailing edge of Pro Teck fins. As a result, the trailing edge actually generates underwater pressure allowing for tighter and more fluid turns. This “rudder action” is not dissimilar to how water flows across the fins of a dolphin or shark.
Pro Teck fins also come in many different sizes and flavors from high performance, stiff “Carbon X” thruster fins, “Power Flex” fins which bend on turns, “Super Flex” fins which are the epitome of fin safety, and the “Performance” fins. All of them are equipped with the flexible edges which come in two stiffness levels. They will also fit all major fin boxes including FCS, Future Fins, O’Fish’l, Lokbox, Red X, and the common longboard center boxes. Prices range from about $60 for a set of Performance thruster fins, $74 for a set of the Carbon X thruster fins, $60 for a single longboard fin, and $90 for a set of 9” longboard fins including sidebites.On Performance
Two sets of Pro Teck Performance thruster fins were tested on a Channel Islands Flyer I against the Future Fins Black Stix. One set of fins were the Performance Fins
with a rigid core aimed at creating drive and projection.
The other set of fins were the Power Flex Fins
with a medium core flex aimed at smoother turns with sustained speed.
The Flyer which measures in at 6’ x 19” x 2-3/8” works great for smaller, mushy surf but is also notorious for being sluggish down the line. As such, I was particularly critical of the drive the fins could produce and speed sustained through turns.
I had the opportunity to test the fins in typical waste high mush as well as in larger, faster conditions. In smaller waves, any difference between the fins was very subtle. There was no difference in the way the Flyer was able to get into waves for either set of Pro Teck fins. There was however some noticeable difference in turning. The Black Stix felt like it wanted to make a tighter turning radius losing a lot of drive through the turns. With similar effort, the Pro Teck medium core fins drew out turns and managed to maintain my momentum. I suspect this is the flexing of the edges adapting to the turn thereby drawing it out and releasing water faster reducing drag and keeping momentum. In my opinion, this is favorable to these conditions since I found myself needing to regenerate speed coming out of turns with the Black Styx. In terms of down the line pumping, I felt little difference in the way the rigid core Pro Teck fins produced drive relative to the Black Stix. This is a testament to the Pro Tecks since the Black Stix were designed to excel at creating drive.
I also tested the Pro Teck Power Flex longboard fin set
on an Ohana Kemp Islander performance longboard against an FCS Fluid Foil 9” center fin and FCS G-X sidebites.
The Islander measures in at 9’ x 22” x 2-1/4” sporting a double stringer structure brought in at the nose with a squared off tail. Meant to be more of a performance longboard rather than a noserider, this thing was designed to turn and generate speed.
As with the shortboard testing, I was able to take the Pro Tecks out in both small and bigger surf. My observations were generally consistent with the shortboard testing. Although even in smaller surf, I could more noticeably feel the drawn out turning of the Pro Teck fins.
What surprised me however was how well the Pro Tecks held in the pocket in bigger surf. Often times I’ll stay fairly deep in the pocket for as long as the section allows to build up as much speed as I can to power through the shoulder. With the flexible edges of the Pro Tecks, the sheer weight of the Islander, and the steepness of the pocket, I had expected to “slide down” (for lack of a better phrase) the wall. I did not! On the contrary, it held in there like it was on rails building up momentum letting me shoot out clear past the section. Thinking this was a fluke, I kept repeating this with the same effect. I’m not sure I understand why the Pro Tecks were able to cling to the wall like that ... but damn it’s fun!On Safety
At the extreme end of the safety scale is the Super Flex fin. As I mentioned, I was introduced to these fins in Maui. We were surfing by Launiupoko State park when I had the brilliant idea of scaling some rocks to get to the lineup quicker. Of course, I slipped, bashed my shin, dropped my board, and landed my left arm across the fin. Had this been any other fin, I would have most certainly suffered a deep gash. This being the first day of our trip, that would have been a serious bummer.
I was so impressed by the Super Flex fin that we decided to replace my wife’s longboard fin with one. Being a relative beginner, she often pearls leaving the board to shoot up into the air landing inches away from her head – or someone else’s. With the Super Flex, at least the risk of a serious, perhaps fatal, laceration is greatly reduced. She has also managed to slice her legs a few times with the fin. At worse, some slight bruising occurs with the Super Flex which has typically healed quickly.
Keeping in mind, you don’t necessarily need to be sporting the Super Flex to maintain some degree of safety. Testimonials and reports abound on how the flexible edges of all Pro Teck fins have prevented serious injury.Conclusion
Any surfer, regardless of how experienced they are, would be doing themselves a disservice by not considering a Pro Teck as a fin alternative. In terms of performance, I personally feel that these fins are able to hold their own against their counterparts. But don’t just take it from me. The pros that comprise SurfCo’s team riders are a testament to these fin’s capabilities to perform in the most extreme conditions. Of course, there is also the safety factor. The most random things can happen when you lose control of your board. The flexible edges of Pro Teck fins provide that much more confidence that in the event these random things occur against your favor, the injury you or others sustain will be far less severe than with traditional hard fins.DISCLOSURE: THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE WAS PROVIDED THIS PRODUCT FOR FREE FOR PURPOSES OF TESTING.