Martin Potter and Peter Mel called it the guitar pick. Some folks called it the fifth fin. But Sean Mattison, creator of the cute, little, red skeg that Kelly Slater used in his quad at the Quiksilver Pro New York, calls it the "Nubster."
So Slater went to the finals in New York and Mattison, a surfer/designer/coach from Oceanside, sold hundreds of "Nubsters" on his Von Sol Surfboards website overnight.
In actuality, Mattison grew up in Florida. He was on the ESA All Star team as a kid with Slater. A self-professed design junky. Kimball Taylor caught up with him back in October for ESPN and learned the backstory as to how he got his crazy little fin into Slater's hands.
Most of us were entertained by Kelly's latest creative foray, but assumed it was a passing trend. In a week, it would be enjoying the same status as the twist lock wetsuit fastener and the webbed glove. But in Portugal, Slater again threw the Nubster into his quad and made the finals in spitting tubes. Then in round four of the Quik Pro Gold Coast, Slater ditched his thruster mid-heat, opting for his quad with the Nubster. Just last week, in some overhead, windy conditions at Margaret River, he ignored advice to ride more board and stuck with the Nubster on his 5'9 (and advanced.) This is no passing trend, especially not for the champ.
"It gives us the stability we're all hoping for with a four-fin," says Mattison, "There's so much potential to tune your board for particular conditions. It can change a board like crazy."
And while even Slater has been unable to bring the springsuit back into fashion, the Nubster has taken off. You can still go directly to the Von Sol Surfboards website and buy the true fiberglass fin made by Mattison himself for $25.95 for your FCS or Future fin set up. He offers the "Pivot" for smaller waves or smaller surfers, a larger version, and also a longboard/SUP model.
FCS has a polycarbonate fin called the "VS Knubster." Yes, it is spelled differently and yes, it's the same fin Kelly used to win his 11th world title. You can likely find it at your local FCS dealer, prices vary around the world, but they run about $15.95. And for your tech geeks out there, it's 3 ¾ inches at the base and 2-inches high.
According to Slater himself, "The Knubster will make your favorite quad set up faster, smoother and adds a little more control."
If you're a fan of Future Fins, they carry a molded Nubster of the same material and dimensions, available where you'd find a Futures Fin Tree..
It's no doubt that competitive surfing is completely stuck on the thruster. Even taking into account a judging criteria that no longer detracts points for riding wider/fatter boards and Slater's influence, the entire tour is rides exactly the same fin set up (and board for that matter.) But for the average surfer, is there any harm in changing it up?
The key is to buy or order custom boards that are "convertible," or able to be switched out between quad and thruster. Think of how much nicer it would be to travel with one less board. In the middle of a session, you can swap out the fins and be riding a whole different functioning shape. The Nubster fits in to where you would traditionally screw your trailer fin on a thruster. The beauty is that the option is there. Having five fin boxes doesn't hamper your surfing (unless you think Slater looks like he's dragging a cinder block, in which case you needn't worry about fins anyway.) There's no $650 board to buy, just a few bucks for a fin.