FCS Fin Test – Performer XL Front and GL Center

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 25, 2016

Back in Costa Rica!  Seven days of no surfing and zero athletic activity.  For me, that’s unheard of, but the body needed a break.  I was getting sore  in the hip flexor area and the elbows and one week of downtime seems to have solved both of those issues.  The downtime was and always seems good for my surfing.

Taking a break from an activity  allows time for the mind to process new skills.  I find this in both surfing and language.  I group the two because if I’m not surfing I’m also probably not speaking spanish.  When I return from a trip back to the states surfing and spanish are noticeably better and more fluid.

Now, I’m not sure if the time away has allowed me to forget the level of where I was and thus it seems that I’m more proficient, or if in fact the mind uses that time off to solidify new processes.

The latter makes sense.  The feeling I have in the water is that the areas focused on are now naturally included with other older skills.  I also find that the “chatter” has dropped out and there’s more efficiency in movement.  The same holds true for language.  And I’m not built for language, so it is probably a better barometer for the learning process.

I’d be interested to know if there is a documented process in learning and strategic off time for processing, internalizing skills and movements.  If you know of a resource please comment below or shoot me an email.  Otherwise, I’ll do some research when I get time.

Prone Pop Up - 1

Today is the first session report from our fin test.  Tyler Callaway, a guest on the show and head of FCS, has sent me 3 new sets of fins to test.  I’ll be testing and journaling what I’m feeling and then at the beginning of next month we’re going to circle up and he’ll explain why and how it’s all working.

The fin setup for the morning session was Performer XL for the front fins and a GL (Gerry Lopez) FCS2 center.  I’ll be testing all the fins on the Starboard 7.4 because I’ve committed to riding that board in the Costa Rica SUP finals which will take place on June 25.  For the past month I’ve been using the Starboard with an AM2 center and Performer L fronts.  So, the change today was larger front fins and a taller, .5cm, but narrower, especially at the base of the fin, center fin.

Tyler sent the specific sets of fins to try after a discussion where I was explaining that the board felt a touch loose on the bottom and I didn’t feel I could hold hard bottom turns.  I had to decide to do a harder turn and lose speed or pull the turn and surf flatter.  I tried different fin positions with the AM2 and I could get more drive off the bottom with the fin all the way back in the box, but then the board felt slow and tight on the top.  It drew out the lines too much and the gains from riding a small board were lost.  If you’re going to ride a small board, you want to be able to draw tight lines.

Prone Pop Up - 3

Here’s the GL FCS2 center.  This fin is a game changer from a feedback perspective.  Never before have you been able to make micro adjustments to equipment in the water with no tools.  Normally you surf a whole session, thinking about how the board feels and then make a change for the next day.  But by then the waves are different and the test isn’t apples to apples.  Now, you can surf a wave, make a change, then surf the next to compare.  This significantly reduces time for discovery.  I also believe that you mind will change and shape experience due to outside factors so you may not truly own the sensation of the wave after a few hours.  Game changer!

Here are my notes from the morning.

  • On my first wave the board felt a bit loose and I blew the tail out completely and fell on a normal cutback.  I relied on the back fin with previous setup.  It wasn’t there in the same way.
  • I adjusted foot position forward, slightly, for the second wave, and used more rail and felt the larger front fins grab.  Bottom turn held, but the waves were small.  I’m not going to give a verdict until we have some juice.  Off the top the board is very loose.
  • I was able to refine cutbacks and began to like the feeling of larger front fins with a smaller, it did feel smaller than the AM2, center.  I would equate it to riding a Twin with a trailer.  Specifically it felt like a Lost Round Nose Fish with the MR 2+1 setup.
  • My favorite turn of the morning was a slingshot cutback, generally the most difficult turn for me on the starboard.  It felt like the front fins allowed more rail to be used.  The lead in picture is this turn.
  • Backside results felt similar.  Bottom turns were similar, here we really need big, fast surf to know.  And of the top the board was very loose.  It is going to take some getting used to as on two turns I just blew the tail out and slid around.  I’m going to need to use more rail for powerful turns off the top both frontside and backside.


Loose off the top, wish this shot were a second before as the tail released.  Felt like sliding a coping on a skate ramp.


I notice looking at the photos that there isn’t as much spray as the other fin setup.  That loose feeling is a loss of power.  Better for video, worse for photos.


I like this shot because the rail is still engaged and the fins didn’t release.  I pushed hard in the turn trying to feel if the fins would break out and they didn’t.  Could be good in bigger surf, we’ll have to wait and see.

Side note:  If you go to Atlanta, you’ve got to hit the Georgia Aquarium.  My kids were blown away.  Here’s a shot of one of the three Whale Sharks.

If you want to swim with one, come down to our camp and surf with us and you might get the chance!  I had the opportunity to swim with whale shark’s twice now!

Whale shark - 1


Progression Journal

One Comment

  • Ivan Entchevitch

    Hey Erik,
    Need to do a bit more research as I’m out of the physiology game (used to be a fitness trainer and sports conditioning expert in another life). But from what I do remember, learning a new skill is not just the muscles firing but has a lot to do with your nervous system (which for example tell exactly when your muscles to contract or relax, which muscles etc) as well. When you overtrain or are fatigued to the extreme the issue is actually not your muscles but your nervous system – that can affect the smoothness of your movements. So you taking a bit of a break from time to time could help in solidifying new movement by restoring your nervous system and making it more efficient. That may explain why you felt the way you did. Hope this helps! (Btw also related to this, there’s a lot of research from Europe on young/kid atlhletes that advises kids not to specialize in a sport too early as doing that may increase injuries and reduce coordination – in other words mixing it up with different activities can be a good thing :)). Thanks for the article – what fin set up would you recco for a 8’6″ Naish GTW? I’m about 185, intermediary and really trying to work on my turns and cutbacks. Cheers, Ivan

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