…wait, no surf tip can save your life. But your sanity! Yes, this could save your sanity!
For the better part of a quarter century, I’ve enjoyed the flexibility and convenience that removable fin systems offer. In fact, I can’t remember the last board I owned that had glass-ons.
Which is to say I’m well acquainted with the issues that arise with removable fins. I’ve sat on dark Caribbean sand and watched, speechless, as a lapis lazuli blue cylinders spiraled endlessly off a palm-lined point, my brand new EA quads lying impotently in my hand, my fin key a three hour’s drive away and in some twist of tragic irony not another surfer around.
But mostly instances like were my own fault. I brought them upon myself. Neither FCS nor Future can help with stupidity.
But for all 25 of those years I have had the unfortunate experience, when it comes to Futures specifically, of dealing with tight, sticky, stubborn fins. Fins that will not budge, will not sink, will not come the fuck out of the box. Fins positively stuck in there.
I have smacked my palm against a fin’s leading edge so hard it chipped bone. I have on occasion raised a rubber mallet at my beloved and thumped an AM2 out of its box, praying the box holds. I have done this around hundreds of other surfers, on five continents and a dozen or so tropical islands, in dozens of surf shops. I have watched hundreds of other surfers subjected to the same misery, the same rejection, pounding on their fins in Kafka-like desperation.
And then just this week, in a panic of southern-hemi juice, I found myself struggling to get a trailing fin in my precious Mayhem round-pin quad.
A cloudy-haired old man watched me desperately prying the fin into the box. A set made it’s way through the Central California lineup — bumpy and raw, but gorgeously interesting.
The man approached my truck and extended his clenched hand, waiting for me to extend mine to receive whatever gift he’d brought. He dropped into my hand a nub of wax. I stared at him, my face flush with frustration, anticipation, and cheap wine.
“Rub a little on the base of that fin,” he said. “The bottom and the sides.”
I did nothing. I looked at the man, and then again to the wax he’d gifted. The man smiled, turned, and walked away. The fin stuck out of the box crudely, the base’s leading corner sticking out a half-inch. I thumped the fin out with my boot. It went clanking into my truck’s bed.
Another set passed through. I took the fin and gently waxed its base, massaging the wax smooth with my fingers. I wedged the rear tab and pressed down. The fin dropped smoothly, silently into the box. Perfectly flush.
I took the other three fins and did the same thing. Each one dropped into its box. I looked to where the man’s truck had been parked. It was gone and so was he.
I wanted to thank him. I wanted to tell him how much what he’d taught me meant to me. I wanted to shake his calloused hand and tell him how hard, how thoroughly bruising life had been before he came into my life.
I wanted to do all that, but I also wanted to see if he had a motherfucking fin key.