Focus on Fins

Focus on Fins

By Zac Heisey

Attempting even the most basic surfing maneuvers without the aid of a fin will make you wonder how the ancient Hawaiians didn’t collectively torch their wooden olos and alaias after one session. There is a very small (but growing) community of finless riders, most notably perhaps is Derek Hynd, but most surfers owe a lot more to Tom Blake, George Greenough, and other fin pioneers than they realize.

Timothy Hogan, a Venice-based surfer and professional photographer has set out to help the fin earn the credit he believes is long overdue. Through theFINproject, Hogan hopes to shed light on the historical and visual elements behind various types of fins through photographic displays, a book, and a documentary film.

Following the launch of a Kickstarter campaign and an appearance at The Boardroom Show in Costa Mesa Oct. 5-6, I spoke with Timothy to get some additional details about his inspiration behind theFINproject, how each component of the project fits together, and what he hopes to accomplish by focusing so intensely on one of the more overlooked elements of our daily surfing lives.

Zac Heisey: What was your main inspiration behind starting theFINproject?

Timothy Hogan: It really is the definition of a passion project. I’ve always been obsessed with the ocean and I’ve been working professionally in commercial photography for 14 years. I needed a soulful way to combine the two. In addition, I identify with the unique individuals who are the innovators behind the fin — the tactile and exploratory nature of their work is very inspiring for me on a personal level.

ZH: Give me some details on each aspect of theFINproject (photographic study, gallery, documentary film, book, website, etc.), and how they work together?

TH: The genesis for the project was obviously the photographic study — working with the fin as an object and as a piece of art. I treat each subject like an artifact — each fin has its own history, its own unique story. And through the photography, I work to bring out the essence of those stories via the lighting and tone of the photograph. Sometimes that comes out through the patina of the subject, and sometimes that comes out in the shiny perfection of a new fin or restored board.

The gallery show is the display of this work in large format. The fins are transformed into massive, iconic displays of craftsmanship and history. They invite the viewer to ponder the larger-than-life scratches, the sanding marks and bubbles within the fiberglass — to wonder what waves this fin has ridden, what stories it could tell, as well as invoking curiosity about who made the fin, and why.

If the study and show are about the fin as artifact, the documentary and book are about the personalities and journey of the fin, and my personal journey in exploring all things fin-related. Very early on it became obvious to me the wealth of personalities involved in the history of the fin, as well as the incredible fact that, as a whole, the story of the fin had never been explored. In fact, it has been universally glossed-over. But one question to a surfer about the importance of fins unleashes a torrent of personal stories and passion, not to mention an endless family tree of innovations and innovators to talk to! 

Through the documentary, I look to not only honor the people who have devoted so much of their craft and passion to the development of the fin (and therefore, to surfing), but to look into their personalities and inspiring stories as a metaphor for our own personal self-belief and calling.

The book then becomes a way of tying all of these venues together in a tactile form. I’ve always been drawn to creating physical objects that can be touched and appreciated, and a fine book is part of that. In it will be fine-quality reproductions of the photographs, as well as portraits of my journey along the way.

ZH: Tell me a little bit about how theFINproject was received at The Boardroom Show in Costa Mesa.

TH: Our appearance at The Boardroom was our public debut. The main goal was to get people excited about the Kickstarter campaign, and the secondary goal was to introduce the artwork out in the public eye – to raise awareness of how beautiful the fin is and, obviously, to get people excited about the story and journey of theFINproject. Through our display of framed art, I wanted to tap into that passion for the fin that arises nearly universally. It also helped to bring theFINproject offline and out of cyberspace, making it a bit more real.

We had an amazing show! The response was incredible and unanimous. Everyone from shapers to enthusiasts and all the fin brands were into the project. People were blown away by the prints – especially the huge Terry Martin quad we had on display.

ZH: Up to this point, what has been the most revealing or rewarding aspect of working on theFINproject?

TH: Sharing in people’s excitement for the fin, and meeting inspiring, passionate people along the way. And to think, we haven’t even begun the documentary journey! 

Also, from a personal standpoint, I feel like I’m finally tying my own story as an artist into this project. By telling the important story of these individuals and their contributions to the sport, I’m finally able to see the connection between myself as a little kid bodysurfing in Maine for hours and my last 14 years as a photographer. This project is part of following my own calling.

ZH: When all is said and done, what do you hope people will take away from theFINproject?

TH: You mean besides some beautiful artwork? In a few words, inspiration, respect, and curiosity. Inspiration for people to follow their passions and creative calling. As surfers, respect for our equipment and the people who have devoted their lives to innovating that equipment. And finally, curiosity to take an overlooked part of our daily lives and see how interconnected we are to it and how complex its story is.

theFINproject’s Kickstarter launched recently. Check it out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1426112942/thefinproject-the-epic-tale-of-the-surfboard-fin

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