What Happened to the C-5 Configuration?


"It's a stretch to say it was my idea. What most of us do is borrow from the past and other parallel, applicable worlds to collect ideas, interpret, and offer up our versions of other things combined. The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away"
-Dr. Linus Pauling

If you scour the internet you will see plenty of past media and dialogue about the design.

The story of the tuna fins is true, but ultimately the design ended up being more closely related to a Twinzer than anything else.

When I worked at G&S in the early 70's, one of the brands under the G&S umbrella was Bing. They had a license to do Bonzers. Mike Eaton shaped me one around 1973. If my memory serves me correct, it was a 3-fin version.

Sometime in the early 90's the Campbell Bros shared their design ideas with me. Although their Bonzer design has stood the test of time and still has a solid following, I never really made very many.

Some of my more recent models such as the Hipster and Hustler do incorporate a subtle Venturi type concave with a somewhat conventional 3 fin configuration.

In 1989 Martin Potter won the World Title. He was sponsored by Blue Hawaii/Glenn Minami for surfboards. Minami worked with Will Jobson on the Twinzers which powered Pottz to many victories.

I think it was George Orbelian who put me together with Will. He came to San Diego and shared his design with me. I made myself one and was blown away at the difference in feel from a conventional twin fin. One of my shapers at the time, Stu Kenson, borrowed my board and wouldn't give it back. I did make quite a few and paid Will a royalty for his idea.

Original C-5

C-5 Contest

Here is a technical explanation from the sailing world but has similar application:

Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing by C.A. Marchaj


I got distracted in early 2000 working with Curtis Hesselgrave on cambered (Vector) fins.

They opened a whole new world of performance that needed to be explored. I even made C5's with all 5 fins having cambered foils. They worked great.

My focus eventually shifted to trying to get the cambered foils dialed. It was easier to understand what was happening with 3 fins.

So the simple answer to your simple question about the C5:

I still make them.

The fin relationships, relative cant, positioning, angles make or break the design. Just a few degrees off and it will feel like the parking brake is on. Get it right and the board will feel like it's turbocharged and riding on little ball bearings.

There are other shapers out there that grasp the concept and make excellent versions. Stu Kenson and Greg Griffin to name a couple. I'm sure there are more.

Happy Surfing!


A True Shortboard Revolution?

This piece was featured on Surfline.com

Rusty examines the best way to go shorter and have more fun...

Nat Young winning the '66 World Champs on a radically short (for the time) 9'4". Photo Tom Keck

Once again there is a full-blown "modern" shortboard revolution going on.

Every generation settles into the equipment of the period, which is usually some version of what really good competitive surfers ride in optimum conditions and that notion of "standard equipment" or "Performance Shortboard" (PSB) is perpetuated by the surf media.

The reality is that most of the time the average surfer is dealing with average conditions and is trying to find the fun in a surfboard designed for a better-than-average surfer in better than average conditions. Ah yes, we can all aspire, but let's get real.

Thus, every decade or so there is a collective cry of B.S. on the PSB and the media announces a "design revolution."

Owning a surfboard designed for average surf is about the most sensible thing a surfer can do. If there is only one board at a time in your budget, wouldn't you rather be having fun, surfing with much less effort 80% of the time, and pushing the threshold of your board on the occasional good day? (Versus bogging and pulling off the odd good hit on your signature world-tour board?)

There is no revelation in the "short shortboard revolution" -- it's practicality and the pursuit of happiness rearing its everyman head.

Go shorter, wider, thicker, flatter, and the fun will find it's way back into your everyday surfing experience. Skip the old-school fish thing; it's been flogged to death. They ride flat on the water and have an appalling lack of continuity in rail-to-rail transition. There are plenty of good alternatives. Round tails, diamond tails, bat tails, and sorry if it sounds sacrilegious, but do yourself a favor and try anything but a tail that ends with a 10-inch gap. One or two sets of wings are a great design feature to step down tail width without excessive outline curve.

Nine-time world champ Kelly Slater getting funky with his stubby board at Snapper. Photo: Sean Rowland

Length: At least four inches shorter than your current PSB. Depending on body type, agility, ability, and (cringe) age you can go even shorter still.

Outline: Go at least an inch wider in the center than your current shortboard. The proportions dictate how the board will ride. As the area shifts forward or back you will be forced to move with the balance point or center of mass. Most generic PSBs have a tail that is three inches wider than their respective noses. These proportions put the wide point at roughly two inches behind center. For your alternative everyday board (why would it be called an alternative?), consider an outline that is proportionately fuller up front. This extra area up front will assist in catching waves, add draw and length to turns (remember the board is shorter) and provide some bonus planing surface under your front foot. (There have been past evolutionary branches that have explored area aft, but history has shown that only staunch advocates of back-foot surfing find happiness down that road.)

Rocker: Lower rocker will help the board plane in softer surf. I feel that old-school fish rocker is too flat and limiting. A relaxed modern shortboard rocker not too far off your current shortboard will be fine. Extra width and fuller, firmer rails will add plenty of skate and glide. Simply delete the nose flip: imagine cutting a few inches off the front of your board: the arc you are left with will be fine for your new everyday board.

Rail Volume: Go fuller -- more volume. The object is to stay on top of the water and not bog. The trick is to find a rail that is full and still somewhat angular so you can still set the rail on turns but not over commit in weaker, softer, surf.

Rail Shape: Low; a lower apex and tighter bottom radius facilitates more efficient water release and generates more lift. It will also make for a more sensitive rail that reacts more quickly than a softer, rounder rail. You will find that a well designed full rail with a firm tucked edge will get up on top of the water and be quicker out of the gate than the garden variety, round, Frisbee rail. Other positive attributes: better carry and glide through flat spots and weak sections with a free and loose feel.

Fins: why wouldn't you want to be able to change your fins? Fins make or break the board. It may sound counterintuitive, but bigger front fins will generate more lift. Softer tips are a good thing in softer surf. Fins with dynamic rebound, usually only found in all glass or RTM construction (a whole other conversation), are worth the investment. Rear fin(s): smaller will free up the tail.

This is a good trick if you want to get a little more out of your current three-fin in weaker surf: Speaking in general terms, most surfers are running about 4.5" fins in all three slots. Try something on the order of 4.75 up front and 4.25 in the rear and this should give your board more lift and free up the tail.

Construction and Weight: In smaller, weaker surf, light is your friend. You will get the best weight to strength ratio with EPS/Epoxy construction; handbuilt, composite, molded or otherwise. The lightness of an EPS core combined with the strength of epoxy resin, pound for pound, ounce for ounce will make for a more responsive, lively board.

Sounds like fun? It should be!

Rusty, mowing foam in his SD shaping bay. Photo: Aaron Chang

Thanks Surfline.com

Rusty’s Quiver: The Original C-5



"I was out fishing and I was staring at the dead fish in the bottom of the boat, especially the fast swimmers like the tuna and the wahoo," explained Rusty about the origin of inspiration for the C-5 design. "I was looking at the fin structure they had and the feeder fins by the tail," Rusty continued, "These are the fastest fish in the water. What do those little fins do!?"

After hours of speculation and design, Rusty constructed a few sets of small feeder fins to closely resemble the remarkably fast fish. These small canard fins were designed to be added to the thruster set up, placed slightly in front of the side fins, towards the rails. Although Rusty made the canard fins and was curious as to how they would work, he did not end up glassing them on a board at the time. It was not until Surfing Magazine's Nick Carrol put out a shaper challenge circa 1995 for the top shapers to build the most trippy and futuristic board they could conjure up. Rusty saw this as a perfect opportunity to put his tuna-esque fin set up to the test. He designed and shaped the original C-5 and it turned out to be a huge success.

The C-5 boards were highly influenced by Will Jobson's "Twinzer" concept, which he created in the early nineties. The twinzer is a four fin board with a twin fin design accompanied by two smaller fins and the C-5 is a five fin board with a thruster design accompanied by two smaller fins. The small fins were strategically placed to help the main fins release easier, making the four fin board smooth and offering more control than the standard twin fin. Martin Potter was riding twin fins and switched to the twinzer along with many other big name surfers of the era. At the time, Rusty began working with Jobson on a few twinzer models and they were very popular for a few years.

Then the C-5 came out and the reason the design was so influential is that at the time there was a lack of good box fins. Everyone was just making the switch to interchangeable fin systems, but the only fins available were bad plastic fins that did not provide nearly enough drive or stability. The canard fins helped the performance of the boards with the plastic fins. The smaller fins help keep the water flow attached to the main fins at a higher degree of attack and also created a wider effective base. Rusty claims, "the little fins help punch a hole in the water and help the outboard fin come out even easier, a very smooth feeling."

However, in 2000 Rusty began to work with the fin guru, Curtis Hasslegrave and Shawd Dewitt at Rainbow Fin Company to create some really nice glass fins for the box systems. With the popularity of the new fiberglass fins, many people began to drift away from C-5 design. Nowadays, you can still order a C-5, but for the most part there is an ample selection of interchangeable fins (made with everything from wood to carbon fiber) to supply our thrusters with adequate drive. There has also been a huge resurgence in quad fins that have put the five fin board on the back burner for now.

Any way you slice it, the C-5 is an innovative concept and only Rusty could turn a potential sashimi dinner into a revolutionary surfboard design.

Text and Photos: Brody

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