Derek Hynd and the Philosophy of Free Friction

A profile from our October 2011 issue

| posted on September 22, 2011

Derek Hynd’s finless mastery is redefining the term “fins-free.” Photo: Van Gysen

We all know the Hawaiian fin-free equipment: the olo and the alaia of semi-antiquity, the solid redwoods of the Duke era and the cut-down semi-hollow hot curls, which for a time jousted for supremacy with Tom Blake’s new finned surfboards. But what would make a talented surfer past his prime go back and apply any of those arcane principles to modern fiberglass equipment? There are two complementary reasons. One offered from the outside by Hynd’s contemporary (and finless cynic) Nick Carroll, and the other by the man himself. Carroll asserts a Freudian reason, saying that Hynd was using this bizarre dance to impress a certain lady friend whom Hynd was courting at the time. Finless surfing as sexual foreplay? Hynd does not refute it but offers an alternate version: “The problem with that comment is that the lady in question couldn’t see. She was blind. And I was trying to teach her to surf and I realized she couldn’t get to the beach because she couldn’t see the chops in the water. I had to try and relate to her difficulties so I grabbed an old finless Coolite board. During that surf I felt movement and that was it.”

There is something that electrifies the crowd when Hynd surfs. Faces turn and women, in particular, are compelled to watch this strange sliding dance form. I saw it numerous times at pointbreaks near and far. Girls light up when the finless boogie is displayed in their visual arena. Hynd offers this insight into why: “It’s like a gannet gliding. It’s quite arousing. The economy of movement at speed does have a rhythm to it. It might be a new form of dance. Maybe it’s just the pursuit of art and not sport.”

One person who became enamored of the Free Friction Hynd was 24-year-old Taylor Miller. She’s Hynd’s current girlfriend and an accomplished finless surfer in her own right. Taylor is the daughter of Rusty Miller, who’s been everywhere and seen everything in modern surfing. Rusty can look you straight in the eye and tell you about running into a fur-coated Bunker Spreckles in some dive bar in Kauai after he just did a line of coke off Bridget Bardot’s tits in the restroom. Well, maybe not Bridget Bardot, but some other ’60s mega-babe. Or what kind of wax Rolf Aurness used when he won the world title in 1970 right from under the Aussie shortboard supremacist noses.

Still, how the hell did a 54-year-old man get tight with a 24-year-old babe? That’s what you’re thinking, right? Who can say? But the lack of convention seems perfectly natural when you see the two surfing, forming a mirroring montage of finless fun, free of all judgment.

  • SUPerior Being

    Does he work?

  • Waz

    essentially the same as DK

  • The Roller

    Stiv, Old Derek would need to go back a lot farther than those extra oldie party people of the late 50’s/ early 60’s he mentioned. His theory wold need to go all the way back to the beginnings when George Freeth was hired to promote real estate sales.

    By the way, the video of him sliding all over the place on his no finner has gone viral. Currently linked and embedded all over the place.

    Drive thru… No marketing going on here.


  • Mik

    Hate seeing walls like that wasted on some drifter type. If he hadn’t surfed so far into the shorebreak, he wouldn’t have knocked his fins off, in the first place…..

  • neo

    Is this fins free surfing a supposed new thing? As Waz said, looks just like dropknee or standup bodyboarding (fins free).

  • Aquaba

    I’ve seen DK surfing fins free first hand at South West Rocks on the mid-north coast of NSW. He seemed to be having a lot of fun (which is the point of sufing isn’t it) but all the good locals were getting heaps better pits because they needed the fins in the barrel. Fins free doesn’t seem functional in many conditions but lots of fun in certain types of waves. No good if you want to do a cut back like Hoyo. Anyhoo, DK was always on his own trip – far out man – and that kind of thing – each to their own.

  • The realist

    Why do you need to ride anything at all? Life preservers? No swimming ability etc………

  • moira veronica sond

    It must be pretty Awsome felling to surf fin free