Publication Details

Shormann, D. & in het Panhuis, M. (2020). Performance evaluation of humpback whale-inspired shortboard surfing fins based on ocean wave fieldwork. PLoS ONE, 15 (4),


© 2020 Shormann, in het Panhuis. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. We present field results revealing improved surfing performance when a novel approach (“Real Whale”, RW) is used for applying several of the humpback whale’s passive flow control mechanisms, including tubercles, to surfboard fins. It is also the first study presenting evidence of dynamic performance of tubercled designs rotating on all three axes. We evaluated low aspect ratio, thruster-style 3-fin configurations used in high-performance surfing. Fieldwork involved surfing almost 2,000 ocean waves from around the world, comparing standard commercial fins with straight leading edges to RW fins. We collected surfing data from instrumentation attached to surfboards, including GPS and 9-axis motion sensors. Eighteen turn performance values were measured and calculated, including novel, surfing-specific rotational power coefficients. ANOVA revealed surfers using RW fins showed significant improvements in power generation compared to when they used standard commercial fins. Turn rates using RW fins also improved, although not significantly. We found using RW fins allowed a skilled surfer to improve their surfing performance relative to a professionally ranked surfer.



Link to publisher version (DOI)