Free-friction devotee, 21, Byron Bay, AUS
“The fun of finless surfing lies somewhere in its balance between order and chaos,” says Ari Browne, Byron Bay’s experimental surf-craft wizard. Maybe you’ve seen his sections in art-house surf films like Ryan Lovelace’s Almost Cut My Hair or Jack Coleman’s Groove Move, where he can be found flying down the line like a skipping stone at a few perfect Australian points. If you haven’t, now is as good a time as any to familiarize yourself with his unhinged lines. But be prepared to question your entire approach to wave riding.
How did you start down the finless path in the first place?
About four years ago I jumped on a wood board with no fins for a few waves and loved it. After that session, I was so stoked with the feeling of finless surfing that a few of my mates and I made some finless boards of our own. I’ve been riding them all the time ever since.
Describe the feeling of finless surfing to those of us who’ve yet to embrace the free-fiction revolution.
Riding a finless board isn’t that dissimilar to riding a normal board, actually. At least most of the feelings—trim, glide, and the sense of speed—are very similar. The difference is that riding a finless board is way more dynamic. There’s a lot more left to chance. You really have to let the wave push you around. I love to ride a surf mat for the same feeling.
What kind of waves are you looking for when you’re surfing finless?
Any waist- to shoulder-high peeling wave on your frontside is ideal. You can ride finless boards on your backhand, but it’s definitely easier on your frontside. We have so many good waves for surfing finless around here in Byron, especially Lennox Head. You really need a wave that produces its own speed, because the boards I typically ride don’t generate much speed by themselves.
In terms of wave size, is there a limit to what a finless board can handle?
The bigger the wave, the better, in my opinion. It can get a little wild and a little out of hand when you get to ride finless boards in bigger waves, but that’s the reason you ride those boards in the first place. That’s part of the fun. And you can get barreled on them, for sure, but it’s much more complicated than on a board with fins. They have to be slipped into the tube, and you’ve got almost no control once you’re in there. But again, that’s the feeling you’re looking for anyway.
Does surfing finless change your approach to riding regular boards?
Absolutely, although I’m not sure that I’d even thought about it ’til just now. I ride boards with fins a lot of the time, and riding finless has definitely changed how I read waves and how I ride any board. Finless boards help you realize that the possibilities for creative lines are so much greater than you may have thought, which is good because it’s usually hard to keep me interested.