Mission Quattro. Surfing World Magazine Interview

Hi Bruce, My name is Josh Gliddon, I am working on a piece for SW magazine here in Australia about quads. I know that you’ve spent at least two decades building and refining them, so I’m hoping you can answer some questions for me.

How long have you been building quads? .
I’ve been making quads since late 1981. Just after Simon launched the ‘Thruster’.

Why did you start building quads, and what is it about the design that has made you persevere with them? 
I grew up on Bungan headland and passed my teen years in the seventies. For my friends and I surfboards were made like fuselages of aeroplanes. We stuck fins on where we thought we needed them to make them fly. A friend who lived up the road `Marty Simpson’, took a board with seven fins on it to Nias and blitzed. We all grew up with resin, foam and dust. We all loved to test the latest fad, stingers etc. I started making my backyard boards at age 15 and loved all the mythical stuff, channels, asymmetrics etc, so when the twinnies, thrusters and quads came out we all completely remastered the mixes. I never rode one of the old quads as they were just twinnies with two baby stabilizers, but the number added up to four. I loved water-skiing and snow skiing and nothing better than slamming a grunty turn, so when I encountered weaknesses in the now famous ‘Thruster’ system, i.e. spinouts and a need to nurse the turns because your back fin pops out, I thought, “I’m going to make a four fin channel bottom but with bigger back fins than front”, and from the first bottom turn, I new where the future was… under my feet (though not necessarily with channels). I persevered with the concept, having the positive aspects outweighing the negative, which I knew could be resolved by trial and error and brainstorming .

How would you describe the performance of a quad compared to a ‘Thruster’? 
I must start by saying that there are quads and there are quads and now just because it’s fashionable doesn’t mean that you can put all quads in the same basket. When I refer to quads, I refer to my M4 Quattro fin positioning, as it has taken years of trial and error to work out where it all has to go, so, just because your Johnny shaper down the road sticks four fins on a board, with an “I’ll do it my way” approach, this doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Maybe you’ll love it, but read the manual first please. As in motor cars and shopping trolleys, they both have four wheels. There are F1s and Fiat Pandas. Not all fours are the same. There are hundreds of fin mixes that give each board a different flavour but generalising it goes like this; As guns, they are unbeatable as they give incredible security as you thunder through the boils, across the steps, troughs and bumps. You lay a fully committed knee buckling bottom turn, with no thought of spin outs, and when you see that the end is near, riding high up on the face, you can pull out serenely without thought of loosing it to the chasm. Midsized and short-board ‘Mckee Quattros’ climb the foam better, are more controlled in floaters, more secure deep in the barrel or high on a wall. You can slam the bottom turn as soon as you reach the bottom, from the centre of the board or off the tail. No nursing the turn. Non stop, top to bottom.

Bigger guys, wider tails, no problem. Quads mean that you always have two fins securely locked below the surface. Of course, logically with decent fins and not with chewing gum flex. They have more drive and so with a large finned choice you need to allow more space for rail to railing. Depending on your choice of back fin, you can make them pivotal or mega drive and everything in between. When you think of the asymmetrical mixes you can put on quads, it’s like two boards on one wave. Full customising potential for point-break surfing. Solid bottom turn, loose off the top. One side of the board reacts differently to the other. It’s a mind boggler. Quads drive off the top instead of stall but you can snap and perform all the rest of the ‘whirling dervish’ stuff. Quads keep their speed and are faster just going across a wall. The proof is revealed with the ‘Mckee M5 Multisystem’. Three-fin or quad in one board, and a bunch of other fin combos as well. Test it yourself.

What variation is there in quad design (there’s the ‘twinzer’, quad fish etc) and which particular variation do you build? 
If you check out my web site, I build from knee-boards, long-boards, to all the mixes in between, and have all the fin info to go with them. There has been talk by the new quad experts of having to, shorten the board, widen the tail and a whole heap of other fallacies. In reality you can use exactly the same shape as with a three fin, but yes, quads work better than `Thrusters’ on those shortened, widened boards.. Doesn’t mean they all have to be like that though. ‘Twinzer’, has the number four accredited to it but I’d put it in the Twin with a bit more two category.

What do you call a twin with a baby back fin?, a three-fin?, a `Thruster’?. This has been the exact reason why quads have been ostracized by the Inquisition. People put them all in the same basket; shopping trolleys mixed with Ferraris.

How important is the actual foil, size and placement of fins in a quad? Why are these aspects important? 
Different foils give different holding qualities. Take an asymmetrical mix for example. Imagine four standard same sized fins on a quad but only one of the backs has a double or symmetrical foil. That side will give a much softer more forgiving feel than the side that has two flat faced asymmetrical foils. Therefore you can have one side with grunty, drivey turn, and the other with a softer more pivotal feel. Grunty `off the bottoms,´ and easy `off the tops´.

Size obviously affects the holding characteristics and as in a car, you can have, big wheels on the front, small on the back and visa versa. Soft tires, hard tires, low air, hard, etc .It all adds up to give a resulting feel and reaction. Fin placement. Limousine wheelbase or mini minor equals ‘down the line’ or short arcs.

Balancing up a surfboard to give a desired performance is like balancing up any aquatic sports product. From sailing skiffs to water skis, raking the mast or repositioning those bindings, they all have to be balanced out in relation to the other physical forces, wind, weight, speed etc. Foil, size and placement of fins on quads are all very important.

What do you make of the current interest in the quad design? Do you feel vindicated for sticking with them?
When I embarked on Mission Quattro I knew it would be my most difficult project to date. In the world, in so many fields, there are people out there trying to launch concepts that benefit others, but it’s a battle and of course we would all like to compensated for our efforts. No country is exempt from narrow-mindedness, no person exempt from scepticism. The inquisitions are alive and well and the self elected gurus and glee clubs with their propaganda machines are all in place to protect conformity and the established hierarchies.
Try to rock the boat!. Change is a destabiliser.
We are all fortunate that some guy won a big wave contest on a quad and that somebody won `Shaper of the Year´ in a US magazine partly because of it.. A contest and a mag… And if the guy had come second?..
People are riding what I observe to be antiquated quads, like I made 10 years ago but now they ignore any negatives and just say `You have to learn to ride them’, adapt etc. Not the old ‘one strike and you’re out’ effect I was used to. Vindication, rancour, resentment, revenge. In this age of reconciliation, we’ll see how the world plays out this new source of stimulation in the surfing industry. We’ll also see how the true history of it’s roots is portrayed. It’s going to be interesting.

Is a quad design suitable to replace a ‘Thruster’ as an everyday surfboard for a committed surfer?
Absolutely, though for many surfers and shapers that have harped for so many years of the superiority of the Thruster over all other designs, it is going to take a lot of back peddling and a lot of humble pie before they would admit to the benefits of riding a quad. There’s the ‘Mckee M5 Multisystem’ for the tail draggers anyway. The ‘System of Truth’ is what I call it. Same board, so less excuses for the final test results.