Some say it's a marketing strategy; others consider it to be a 4+1 fin setup. The most extreme experts also say that the five-fin setup is only suited for beginner surfers. So, how useful is the five-fin surfboard?
One of the most important rules in the surfboard fin manual is that there are optimal fin setups for different wave types. Yes, you can - and you should - adjust the feel of your board to different waves.
There are three important surfboard actions over which fin setups have a strong influence: drive (speed), lift and hold. As a rule of thumb, and on an average wave, a thruster is usually slower than a quad.
Quads have been recruiting a growing number of surfing fans and shapers. The vision behind the quad marries the freedom of a twin-fin with the traction of a thruster. This means that if you can actually trim the surf line, you'll be able to manage the additional speed provided by quads.
So then why should we think of getting a five-fin setup into our quiver? There are quite a few good reasons to do so. First of all, you'll have an all-round surfboard that you can ride on any ocean wave. Adjust the number of fins you are using at any time. Go twin-fin, thruster, quad or five fin. It's up to you. Just swap it and ride.
The advanced connoisseur will also appreciate five fins. If you enjoy your quad setup, try adding a small "guitar pick" in the same surf session, so that you can notice the difference. It will increase drive and provide directional control through turns, without causing you to lose speed, flow, or the traditional quad freedom.
The five-fin setup means freedom to choose. Sean Mattison, a surf coach and former pro surfer, developed the fifth "skeg", also known as "Nubster". Kelly Slater first used it during the Quiksilver Pro New York.
Although Mattison was not the first to put a fifth fin on a surfboard, he redesigned the classic fin to make it useful and effective. The "guitar pick" can be moved forward or backward in the fin box, whether you want less drive and more freedom; or more speed and more stability/hold, respectively.