For those of you who live in a hole, blakestah is a very talented engineer whose out-of-the-box thinking has brought us the rotating singlefin system, and most recently, the rotating thruster system. I was seriously tempted to try the RFS single, but held back. When he came out with the tri setup, however, I had to pick up a set.
I generally don't ride tris, as I don't like the way they feel when you do anything but turn them. They turn great, but I always felt like the brakes were on as soon as I stopped going rail-to-rail. As described, Blakestahs system seemed to have the necessary qualities to fix that particular problem for me. Within a certain range (I think 1/4" toe in to 1/4" toe out, that right?) this fin system optimizes the fin toe in by allowing them to rotate. Toed in for turns, straight ahead for going straight.
Ok, enough background stuff, time for the review.
First, the boxes are very robustly built, and engineered very elegantly to do what they need to do (rotate the fins, duh)with the fewest number of moving parts. As far as I can tell, there really isn't anything that can break internally to render it unusable. Tolerances are very tight, and it seems unlikely that it could get jammed with sand, unless you stuffed it with mud and let it dry out. The fin attachment itself looks to be pretty bulletproof, and could easily accomodate another fin of your own design, or one of rainbow's stock shapes, as I'm sure they could put the proper tab on whatever shape you would want.
I ran into a little trouble on installation, as there is a lip on the top of the box to act as a resin dam. I understood the instructions (and I very well may have misunderstood) to be to install the box before lamination. I could see the potential for bubbles to form under the lam at the square edge of the resin dam, so I beveled it before lamming, but I wound up with some bubbles there anyway. Had I been doing a clear lam, I probably would have seen them and chased them out, but I did an opaque white, so I didn't see them until I sanded it all down. It wasn't any big deal, and an easy fix, but that might be something to think about for future runs, beveling the lip somehow.
As I said, the tolerances on everything were quite tight, so much so that after I had everthing finished, the boxes sat a little lower than flush with the final lam, and the fins rubbed a little when rotating. A few strokes with the sandpaper got everthing fitting right, but better too much material there than not enough.
The only real frustration of the whole pre-surf process was trying to get the little rubber bumpers back into the boxes when putting everthing back together for the final fitting. After a few teeth-grinding minutes I did figure out a method, but it was still a challenge to compress the rubber and insert it with the other thingy. The small bits that go between the rubber and the fin shot out at me a couple of times. Once it wound up a solid 25 feet down my driveway, and the other time it tried to damage my face. The good thing is I don't anticipate having to take them in and out too often, so this shouldn't be a frequent aggravation. Again, not a big deal, but when it's the last thing before hitting the water, it seems like torture!
The stick I put the system in is very similar to my MR-style twinnie. I thought about using a more typical thruster template for this application, but in the end I decided it made more sense to use a template and rocker I am already familiar with and enjoy riding, to better make a direct comparison. The only changes I made was to make the tail a squash instead of swallow, and to soften the rail a little. Everything else is the same as my twinnie.
Not quite head-high on the outside, not quite offshore winds (sideshore, actually), but the swell was pretty solid for around here, the waves were actually peaking up, and it was a pretty damned good day for texas surfing. The forecast called for this one for the last week, so I had rushed this board to get it ready for today. I literally sprayed on the sealer coat an hour before it got wet.
This is what it all comes down to, doesn't it? In a word, it was FUN. The kind of fun that leaves you smiling all day long. As I said before, I'm not a thruster guy. This was far and away the best session I've ever had on a Trifin. Actually, one of my two best sessions of 2006.
It was easy to find the sweet spot on this board since I've been riding one so much like it, so I knew what was going on with the very first wave I caught. I caught it, quick pivot to go right, then just rocketed down the line. I honestly could not believe the sensation of acceleration, it threw me so much I almost forgot to turn. But turn I did, layed it back into a deep backside carve, then snapped back around and was flying down the line again, just like that. It was really neat, to tell the truth. And it wasn't like you could say "ok, now the fin is toed in, now it is straight, toed out, etc...". The fins just seemed to be doing whatever needed to be done at that particular moment. Nothing felt odd or forced, it rode very naturally. If I wanted to straight-line it down the face, it was off like a rocket; if I wanted to crank a turn, it was only limited by my abilities; if I wanted to chop-hop a mushy section, it was making drive where I needed it.
And speaking of sections, I took off on a couple of peaks, went right when I should have gone left, and still made it around the wash when I really expected it to eat me up.
From the couple-dozen or so good waves I got on it today, I'm calling it two thumbs WAY up on this fin system. I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time putting this board in more waves, see if I can use it to push my own ability. I would absolutely recommend it without reservation.