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There’s quite a few questions I get asked on a daily basis, but the one that stands out to me the most is, “do you think it’s best for me to use a thruster or a quad?”
Nowadays, with 5 fin boards becoming more popular, I want to take the time to dive into this a little deeper to help you understand what is best when it comes to a quad fins vs thruster setup along with the benefits and the downsides between the two. Let’s get into it.
As crazy as it might sound, choosing between a thruster or a quad fin can greatly change the way your handles, ultimately affecting the amount of fun you have out in the water.
What matters most when considering between the two is understanding how you want your board to perform and in what conditions.
While the designs between quad fins vs thrusters vary, I want to dive into exactly how they differ and what the benefits and fallouts are of the two.
I hope that by the time you finish reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of these terms in order to make a more informed decision when choosing your board.
Quad fin boards are known to be the quickest when it comes to riding the line. Their design removes the center fin which means there’s not really as much drag as when you’re riding a thruster.
Less drag means you can catch those waves quicker and more efficiently. These are positioned closer to the rails which ultimately gives you more stability when you’re on the front of the wave.
With quads, you may notice the fins being grouped together more – this lets you make tighter turns so you can carve more effectively.
If you’re ever on a huge wave, you’ll notice how much extra grip and speed you’ll get.
The cool thing here that you might notice as well is that you’ll benefit not only on those big waves, but on the baby waves too. They’re great for both big and small waves.
Now, as I stated earlier, they are placed more towards the rails. If you look at your board and you notice the fins are closer to the tail and more tightly grouped, it will ride more like a thruster.
If they are more apart and closer to the rails than the center, you’ll have more speed and better control when turning and carving those arcs on the face of the waves.
They are designed to handle small waves and usually place them closer to the rails and more towards the front, allowing you to have those tighter turns on all kinds of wave faces.
This design will basically give you less drag which ultimately gives you more speed if you come across a plateau in your wave. Perfect for chaining between waves.
Now, if your quads are closer to the tail, you may notice the benefits on days when the waves are more hollow.
The great thing about them is that the design lends itself to predictability and adds a touch more length to your sharp turns (aka carves) while letting you maintain your speed throughout.
They’re perfect for days with big waves because they let you focus on the more demanding sections of the wave with more control than you would with any other board.More control means less chance of bailing. Less bailing means more fun!
However, there is one downside – when it comes to riding, they can sometimes be a little unpredictable.
If you’re trying to slow down, you won’t be able to drop speed as quickly as you can with a thruster.
They tend to lose speed when coming out of turns which make it different than thrusters and a little more demanding on your surfing skills.
They can be hard to control sometimes. But, that’s the only downside. Let’s give thrusters a shot and see what they bring to the table.
Here we are. now it’s time for thrusters. If you look at the majority of boards out there, you may notice that thrusters are the most used.
Why is that you ask? Easy! Because they get the job done! They’re incredibly balanced and offer a sure-fire way to make sure you get everything you want out of your waves and take advantage of your newfound ability to read waves.
Not only are they fast, they allow you to have calculable control when you’re maneuvering through turns AND let’s not forget about they’re balance. They give you everything you’d want in a board – speed, predictability, and control.
When you choose one you’ll notice they give you more control than many other setups.
They are great for everyday situations. If you’re looking for a something that follows your every command, I definitely recommend thrusters.
The only downside I can say is…there is none! Thrusters are my go-to when choosing a board for pure fun. Now, go out there and catch those waves!
What makes a thruster setup better than a quad?
To put it simply, the less you have pulling on the surface of the water, the better. With a thruster setup you make it quite a bit faster for the board to release from the water. Once you air, your thruster allows you to cleanly slice through the water with less drag.
Does having a flat foil fin matter for use in thrusters?
So your standard setup with a thruster your fins are fully foiled on the center and on the outer edges on your side. The impact having flat foil on your thrusters make is directly correlated to the size of the waves you’re surfing. On waves 7 foot or below, you really won’t notice a large difference anyway.
About the Author Chet Thornberry
My name is Chet and I'm a surfer living in Cocoa Beach. I created this blog to put my experience with surfing, skimboarding, bodyboarding, and paddleboarding to good use (pretty much all things water sports).
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