Mckee M4 & M5 Formula Shortboards
M4 Quattro M5 Multisystem Longboards
Fin Direction Graphic
COULD IT BE TRUE THAT THERE’S LIFE AFTER ‘THRUSTER’?.. Due to the new Hype over Four-Finned surfboards, a little bird told us to have a chat with whom many consider to be the main man behind the movement. We thought we’d better talk to the man himself to make up our own opinion. Is it fact or fiction?
Q1.? So Mckee, there seems to be a new buzz in the industry and it’s encompassing all types of surfboards from small wave fish to big wave guns and tow in boards. Of course we’re referring to ‘Quadmania’ which is hitting most coasts all over the globe, bar a few pockets of resistance.
You having raised the ‘Quattro’ flag and sounded the horn for over, what, twenty four years, how do you explain this new phenomenon and why only now are people taking notice.
A1. Well before giving an up to date version I’ll give you a five year old question and response to a never published interview from another leading surf mag.
(…Q. how do fashion trends affect board sales?
A. Fashion trends fortunately and unfortunately affect board sales. If you happen to be producing the `in vogue´ design used by the currently `in vogue´ surfer then obviously your board sales will be higher than if you are producing a categorized `unfashionable´ design. That is unless you yourself as a shaper designer have been categorized as a design leader. It’s a bit of a ‘catch 22′ situation as instead of design leader you may be categorized as eccentric or weird because you are a non conformist. To break this stereotype, a classified guru or legendary pro must bless you with the ‘credible’ status, but due to the competitive factor you may remain ‘eccentric’ until, by a stroke of fate, some unknown competitor wins a major competition on your creation and you be become anointed co-guru. I’d call it ‘mutation’ of the industry and the stuff of dreams.
The majority of shapers tend to take the easy road and conform. This also is the same for pro surfers not wishing to tarnish or risk their sponsors favor by carrying unfashionable surf equipment under their arm. Major board manufacturers also pressure certain rebel shapers in their stable to tow the line, conform or follow market trends. Others like to have the ‘innovator’ stirring conflict and publicity, but sit on the fence just to be on the safe side. It’s beneficial that the owners or directors of board companies are not ‘kooks’. By this, viable, new technological developments are not swept under the carpet in the interest of ‘playing it safe’ but are thoroughly tested ‘in house’ or in secret until a studied decision can be made.)
Q2.? So how do you relate this to the current situation?
A2. Well I suppose it’s fate, but although I brought a quad fin to Europe with me via Hawaii over 16 years ago, I personally had never been anointed a shape ‘Guru’, so prior to my arrival I was oblivious to the battle that was about to commence with who I could only classify as ‘The Inquisition’.
Q3.We know you worked for a big company in Spain and to keep battling with the concept you must have had some success along the way?
A3. Yeah well I suppose the initial major one was when a board I made for Derek Hynde ended up in the hands of Tom Curren and the next thing I received some ‘too good to be true’ faxes from Derek saying that Tom loves the board, won’t give it back and will be appearing in the new Rip Curl’s ‘Search 2′ video carving up huge Jeffery’s Bay. He also appears on it (a 6’11″) in ‘Searching for Tom Curren and in both films has a wettie with pink flanks.
The only bummer is that in both films, in what can only be an oversight, it was never mentioned that he was getting these monster barrels and hitting harder and faster than ever before bottom turns riding what I called a ‘Quattro’ (named after the car of course).
It was the dawning of the return of the fish and that thanks to Tom became the focus at the detriment of the Quattro concept
Q4. But the people you were working with must have known the truth, so why no support or was there?
A4. Well what you may say is “that was fate”, although I always knew I was in for a tough project I didn’t realize the influence of the ‘Inquisition’. What can happen with certain people and groups is that once they decide to go against something, even if they are proved to be wrong they’ll avoid the truth till the end of their days.. And I’m sure they must be tripping now in light of what’s happened.
But back in those days they just said ‘oh look at Tom, he’s lost it, ‘minds gone’ he’s riding a four fin, doesn’t he know they don’t work and are just twin-fins in disguise. They spin out and are definitely don’t fit into our conformist views and marketing plans.
After more than three meetings to get me to stop making four fins, even after the Search videos, I came to realize that the world itself was caught up in one huge mind set with Pros, Gurus and Surf Championships ruling the industry. Apart from the buddy system and of course, ‘Simon is King, Long live the King’ and deservedly
Q5. But at the time you were also making boards for Sunny Garcia. No success or support there?
A5.Well funnily enough I had a strange day at Lacanau where I had Sunny pretty happy riding a few of my three fins and he decided to give one of my ‘Quattros’ a go. At the time (we’re talking 1993 or so) they were glassed on fins and way different to the current versions but there he was ripping it up in about three foot surf and I’m thinking ‘sheet, looking positive here’ so out of the water he comes, up to the comp showers, board under arm for all to see, smiling, Marty Thomas quipping “Sunny ripping out there, what you riding bro.. and the full check out etc.. but.. later..
There I was sitting next to Luke Egan who’s checking out Australian ‘Waves’ surf mag and he’s “check this, Curren.. what’s he riding? Fark”. Me “wow that’s one of my four fins called ‘Quattro’”. Sunny behind us says, “Give me a look”. Well that was pretty much the end of his interest in the idea.
I made a few for him after that, even the latest edition M5 Multisystems but they just got garaged and sold no doubt.
Sunny’s best buddy at the time and fellow tour competitor ‘Joey Jenkins’ was a different case and I was stoked to have him test out all kinds of ‘Quattros’ one of which he exclaimed in Brasil to Xanado, was one of his ‘favorite boards’. Kaipo Jaquias also is a fan of the ‘Quattros’.
Understandably on Sunny’s behalf, apart from the obvious lack of exclusivity and dedication on my behalf, Sunny had his own dreams to win the World Title Race and having someone like myself distracting his focus with experimental craft was probably as attractive to him as having fleas.
Q6.But it could have been interesting, some kind of result or exposure from Sunny’s behalf on the idea.
A6. In reality it was fate, because I didn’t have the whole thing worked out anyway but I suppose I was trying to say “But can’t you see the potential!” and the pros are saying “what, are you trying to fuck my image?”
So I backed off but I was still blown out that nobody saw the message. I had ten foot, four-fin guns hanging in better than any three fin when four fins were meant to be twin-fin like and spin out, small wave material.
Q7. Well you must be a hard nut!?
A7. Some called it obsessed but I’d call it dedicated or committed
Q8.Who else of note has dared a ride?
A8. Occy loved a board I made for Glen Winton. Glen liked the board but like many surfer designers, if it ain’t their design it ain’t goin nowhere.
Occy though, who at that era was going through some turbulent times. He’d had his boards run over by the beach sifter on the beach at Hossegor and combined with some emotional issues his life was in turmoil. He did confide in me with a focused eye that he would be making a comeback and was going for the title. Your mind flashes over your own capacities or incapacities with age and to me came.. “Well go for it Ock”; I can’t help but admire optimism when the chips are down. Of course you all know the rest of the story.
But back to the Quattro board, he rode it at Mundaka and a few other spots in Spain and took it back to Australia with him where I was told they made him stop riding it because it was bad for his image.
Q9. Was that the end of it?
A9. No, a couple of years later he asked me for a new one but due to a supposed modification in fin positioning on my behalf I gave him a couple of boards that dug rails. Often you never have much time to rectify the problem and by the time I’d worked it all out, Occy had left and was well focused on his title run so I had to let it go.
A missed opportunity you may say, but once again in my desire to launch the system at whatever cost I paid the price at not having fully developed or nutted out the nitty gritty of four fin technology.
Q10. So how do you see what is appearing in the magazines now and knowing that someone won a Mavericks contest riding a four fin and ‘Stretch’ Riddle was crowned ‘Shaper of the Year” in ‘Surfing Magazine’ partly because of it.
A10. Well initially I thought it was sad, thinking over that if it hadn’t been for the Inquisition, the company I was with could have been celebrating our triumph in having found the holy grail.. but it’s the way the world works. And now the ball has started rolling I believe it’s a non stopper and the best thing that has happened in years.
The other thing I notice is that, from the photos and Stretch’s commentaries saying “they can’t go top to bottom as good as a thruster”, that he is in the same position I was about 8 to 10 years ago. The Occy episode shook me awake and although toeing the fins in more would have eliminated the rail grabbing effect it wouldn’t have eliminated a whole list of other little complaints that impeded an easy acceptance by the masses.
The major step that solved the majority of the mysteries about quad fins was reanalyzing where the back fins had to be in relation to the rail and also in relation to tail width. In my initial ‘Quattros’ my back fins were fairly close together because they were up the back of the tail and forced together by tail narrowness. It was years later after progressing through the doldrums when on trying to solve the positioning on longboards, that, remembering the pushed aside words uttered by a friend at a left hand point break (“why don’t you put the back fins more like they’re a single back fin”) that, the bright light came on. A revelation, and that was the ingredient that linked it all up.
Q11. So what are you seeing?
A11. Well if you see a large distance between the back fins, meaning between each other or the back fins are very close to the rail, this means that they hold a lot. Good you say, but tricky. They are having to use smaller fins on the back from necessity to eliminate this rail grab or tracky effect. When they mention the difficulty in achieving a fluid top to bottom it’s due to the time lag in getting the back fins to redirect the board on a straight course between turns as achievable with a thruster, the rider has to throw the board to the other rail rather than just rolling comfortably onto the other rail. The board can get stuck in a turn and to redirect can be tricky.
I’m not saying that just the being close solves all because it’s all to do with the proportion. Too close on a wide tail can mean lack of drive, too wide, grabby. It’s all a matter of balance.
I’ve also read how they widen the tail in needing to make room for the extra tail fin. A bit of fantasy, in fact you can use exactly the same tails and widths used on Thrusters
Q12. Having looked at your website with such a detailed formula and information, this doesn’t look like it was developed overnight.
A12. Well after I escaped the inquisition 6 years ago it was then I decided to publish the whole thing. I’ve had a formula for over 20 or so years but I have made slight changes and have added some stuff but it basically remains unchanged from the last 9 years, though there is still a lot of testing to be done in the 7’6″ minimal to 9’0″ longboard area because there are so many ways that people want them to feel, secure but loose etc, plus the operating speeds are always so varied. I worked the formula out in metric so that the progressions depending on board size were easier to calculate.
Q13. I hear you even have the formula for kneeboards?
A13. Yup, no discrimination. I make them as the M5 Multisystem which I call ‘The system of truth’
Q14. Tom Carroll is in one of your videos riding one of your 8’2″ Quattros. How did that come about?
A14. I’ve known Tom Since school days as we went to the same primary school but he was in the year below and his brother in the same class as my sister. I’d previously offered him to participate in the promoting of one of my previous products the ‘Mcski’, the worlds first ever production wakeboard or ‘ski-board’ as we called it at the time, anyway Tom always seemed open to stuff even if we didn’t make a deal on the Mcski and I had previously done an article in ‘Surfing’ magazine with his brother Nick about ‘Quattros’. I’d made about 20 or so ‘Quattros’ at the Blue Hawaii factory with Glen Minami a kind collaborator on the project at the time and Pete Frieden took the pics.
I had everything up to 9’6″ and had amped Nick to get off his Rawson and to check out an 8’0″ for comparison but I must confess Nick didn’t bite on the idea. The article he wrote, I can say, suffered from lack of research and objectivity. He never touched one of the Hawaiian boards
. I bumped into Tom at a ‘Masters’ comp in Lafitenia France and he said “Yep I’d love to try” so I made him a couple which he took to Fiji. They were M5 Multisystems so he could do the full test and ended up loving them.
I was hyped on getting Tom to help me to also hype FCS to get on the program as there would be great rewards for all the surf industry if we launched the idea. The old Tom Carroll bottom turn snap combo at Pipe could have worked wonders. His brother would have seen the new videos I’d made, so one can only wonder what goes on in a surf journo’s mind
Q15. So why no go?
A15. I suppose a conflict of interests.
Tom was launching his new range of three finned ‘Tuff-lites’ and already had a couple of fin models bringing in a return, plus a flood of Asian boards were entering into all surfing countries world wide, so why bother rocking the boat with Quattro or M5 Multisystem.
On Tom’s behalf he did even try to get Kelly Slater on board but Tom said he put the wrong fins on the test board and ‘one strike and you’re out!’.
Q16.Suppose it’s like trying to change the usage of fossil fuels to alternative clean..?
A16. Well there are a lot of controls in the industry and although change can be refreshing and can stimulate a stagnant industry, change also shakes up the established hierarchies, so unless change is forced, generally nothing will budge
Q17. What other shapers have you had contact with about quattros?
A17. In the early days Maurice Cole, Mike Croteau who made himself a couple (huge boards for a huge man), Pat Rawson was very open to them, made his own versions and was great for an alternative perspective of the concept. Also Ned Mcmann made some, Gordon Hanson, mostly Hawaiians.
Brian Bulkley made and rode four fins many years ago in the Pipe masters but told me he had to stop making them because it was affecting his reputation. He rode a couple of mine including an 8’6″ Quattro in Spain which rekindled his enthusiasm on the quads. I suppose he passed it on to Stretch Riddle along with some info. Brian sent me an e-mail not long ago asking about why I had my back fins as close as they were. Bulkley works with Biolas who gave me a typical smirking response to my quad chat. He then went on to make some.
The guy who I believe to have taken a similar trajectory to my own was Jeff Clarke. Pat Rawson told me about his efforts and that he was riding them at big Mavericks etc
Q18. Why no publicity?
A18. He had videos of him, Skin-Dog and the boys tearing it up on four finned paddle-in guns and tow-boards but if they had have organized that contest back then then Jeff would probably have been crowned shaper of the year 10 years ago. Suppose if they had have organized one where I was in Spain also.. How many crowns are there? (chuckles).
It’s a blow out to think that you need a winner’s blue ribbon for the world to take notice when years of death defying hell drops and monster bottom turns are witnessed but “nope, don’t count, no contest”. Anyone need a brain wash
Q19. So you’ve never talked to him?
A19. No, but when I did the Tom Carroll footage in Hawaii 1999, I checked out a 9’6″ Jeff Clarke that someone had on the beach and it had a ‘Lock-Box’ fin system with all double foiled fins. Looked pretty much on the mark.
Q20. In all your Hawaian trips you must have a few quad boards stashed around the island.
A20. Oh yeah there is everything from 5’10″ to 10’2″, about 30 or 40 of my boards on Oahu. Victor Muh also left a few at the Gerry Lopes ‘Pipe House’. I left a few for testing also at Pat Rawson’s.
In 1991 a nine and a ten footer were left with John someone at Sunset Point and Charlie Walker tested them out.
Even Frances Laurent Pujol had a test ride of a M5 Multisystem as a quad out at Eukai Beach park area. Dani Garcia took his own over there that I’d made for him in Spain, plus I had some of the Blue Hawaii versions ready for him there.
Q21. Do you think they’ve had some influence?
A21. In this day and age it would be very generous of someone claiming to have found the Holy Grail to admit they were shown the path previously. People can conveniently forget the ones they’ve seen or tested. One of the Willis brothers paddled up to me out at Sunset wanting to see the bottom of my board from the bottom turns I could hit.
Even Ben Aipa at Haleiwa said to me “hitting some pretty hard turns on that four fin!”. Some guys keep writing to me asking when I’m going to come back to Hawaii to shape some more. Would love to go back..
Q22.You’ve been living off and on in Portugal for the last 5 or so years. What has been the attraction as it doesn’t seem to have a huge surfboard market or to be a place likely to influence any of the other main markets?
A22. Portugal has some awesome waves and unfortunately I haven’t even checked out Madeira etc but what I did find was friendly people, great relatively cheap food and some people open to helping me by testing and riding my Quattro and M5 models.
The main man for me there on the board scene is Tiago Oliveira (co-owner of Ribeira Da Ilhas Surf Camp). A fearless surfer who charges big ‘Coxos’ etc, who had the open-mindedness to give the system a go and has been a faithful supporter and spokesperson for the concept.
Q23. Has he influenced others?
A23.He’s been on the television riding and talking about them. Quite a few others such as Andre Pedroso who also features in a couple of my vids in the website loves them. Andre charges, absolutely no fear. He received a 10 pointer riding a 6’8″ Quattro in a ‘Supertubes’ competition that resembled Porto Escondido. Everyone saw and checked the board, blown away but if he wore a Kelly Slater face mask I’d have thousands of orders.. Need that Guru!
Q24. And other manufacturers?
A24. Only one (Gero from Fatum)has been open to make a few customs when asked but the rest consider making some as helping me, the opposition.
Q25. But don’t you have all the info open to the public in your website?
A25. Maybe if they now knew that Andy and Bruce Irons have been riding Quads at Teahupoó lately they’d take their heads out of the sand
Q26. What made you want to publish all the info in a website? Why not keep it all to yourself if it is of obvious value?
A26. Nobody gave a shit about Quads until that Guy won the comp and six years before that I thought in all fairness to the surfing population I was going to offer my concept by independent means via website and of course I bombarded the influential people in the magazines and of course Al Merrick etc with the site link and short videos of Tiago etc.
Q27. Any reaction?
A27. If any bothered to look..Some e-mails and the odd bit of feedback, but I’m no Guru so who gives a shit?!.
I have been lucky to have had the odd magazine article such as the one in ‘Tracks’ and ‘Waves’. ‘Fluir’ completely turned my words around saying they were for small waves etc and didn’t publish the formula I offered. This was all way back, but if the company you are working with actively fights against you, what hope is there..
“Don’t let the bastards drag you down” I was always told, so I keep fighting.
Q28. In what other countries have you made the Quads?
A28. In Brasil I have a bunch of guys down south in Florianopolis who also took the guns to Pico Alto in Peru and to Chile. I’ve made some 8 to 10 footers and they love them. South Africa’s Dean Geraghty has been using my M5 formula with his ’4WFS’ (Four Way Fin System which is the perfect system for totally fine-tuning your board.
I made some Quattros in Newquay, England also at Custard Point about 16 years ago. Nick Williams the master painter rode them.
Spain, France, Portugal, Brasil and Hawaii is where you’d find most of them. A few in Australia. If any one has any photos I’d appreciate them for my website scrapbook.
Q29. And now, where do you see your role in the new era of Quads?
A29. In reality I never wanted to pump out a million personally but I’d love to be involved in the further marketing and development of the system. I’ve been talking with the heads FCS for at least ten years trying to show them that it is better to do something with the idea than to wait for someone else to raise the first Everest flag. The administration has changed so I’ll see if we can now work together for the benefit of all concerned. We’ll see.
Q30. So things are on the up?
A30. In Portugal before I separated from the last company, glassing and distributing my boards, two out of every five boards were M5 Multisystem. But it’s time to move even further ahead.
The aim of the game has been to have everyone benefiting from all the new enthusiasm at the moment and if they use all the info I provide they can’t go wrong. People don’t know what they’re missing by not trying.
Q31.So give us a quick rundown of the benefits of using a M4 Quattro or M5 Multisystem..
A31.They are faster, have more drive and acceleration, hold-in better in all types of wave surfaces.
You can drop into a wave with greater security and slam the bottom turn with no risk of spin outs. No more ‘nursing’ the turn.
You can drive off the top instead of stall.
They cover sections with much greater ease.
They give much more control in floaters and foam climbing.
You can run higher on a wall and deeper in the pocket than with a thruster. No tail fin popping out. This also makes pulling out of a wave easier.
All the same maneuvers you perform on a thruster can be performed with the Quattros, snaps etc.
They have a new feeling, nothing weird, the only limit in performance comes from your own inabilities.
Big guys that need wider tails are smiling from ear to ear. Lets see if King Simon tries one.. I actually sent him one fifteen years ago. It’s in the hands of head Rip Curl CEO Steve Kay. It was too undervolumed for Simon so he never rode it. Whoops.
Q32.What about weight?
A32. Four little FCS plugs don’t weigh much and putting on a bigger motor compensates for any weight change. These days with the super-lite fins the difference is negligible. Even with heavier fins the benefits outweigh the negatives
Q33. What do you think about all this talk over the new rounded leading edges on fins or inside foil? Is that a new discovery and development?
A33. I don’t know the age of these new experts the mags seem to to find, but rounded inside leading edges have been around ever since the first twin fins. Are we led to believe that they only just invented the airplane wing and birds are a new mutant species? When the first plastic fins came off the production line, personally I was very worried about using fins that didn’t have the rounded inside leading edge that we had been using since the late seventies.
For ease of mould manufacture the first plastic fins had the flat inner face. To counteract the push back to glass-on fins by the pros thus influencing the masses, the plastic fin production companies had to react fast to maintain the volume of people buying their fins. The inner cupped shaped foil, rare although apparent on some manufacturer’s glassed on fins was never truly studied so much in the early days and probably only occurred by accident. Difficult to get your sander to perfect and it was probably a mutant popout of a plastic fin that started the focus anyway. Occasionally the inside face of the plastic fins is concave due to a shrinking effect after moulding. Someone might have tried some rejects and felt the difference but if it was a truly studied decision to make fin models with the concave inside foil then they have created fins efficient for their size.
I recently tried some of the new models as a ‘Quattro’ and they definitely felt good.
Q34.With Clarke foam out of the market, it seems to have revitalised?
A34.It’s difficult to estimate the true power and control monopolies have or had until. They’re gone but there is definitely a re-think going on. Epoxy boards, environmentally safe boards. I love it. Plus in an expanding market anything to break the conformity is good.
Well thanks Mckee, see you in the line-up.