3 fins – the story of a copyright wrong.


This original logo is frustratingly close to the copyright emblem.

In 1981 when surfer  Simon Anderson turned up at Bells Beach to compete in the Bells Australian surfing classic on a new style of board he’d designed there were some who laughed at him.

simon anderson with the thruster

The board was quirky and had three fins while at the time surfers were used to boards with one fin or two fins.
Anderson won the Bells competition that day on his ‘Thruster’ board, and went on to claim victory on the same style of board at two more major titles that year, the Coke 2sm surfabout and the Pipemasters. From the day he won at Bell’s Beach other surfers and board shapers copied the three fin ‘thruster’ design which has become the standard fin configuration and board design of today.

Anderson, who was no doubt busy with his boardmaking and professional surfing,  had not patented his three fin design and so the design was duplicated by others. If he’d legally protected his intellectual property Anderson could have profited from the popularity and widespread acceptance of his thruster design. If he’d earned even a meagre $5 for each board made using that configuration design he’d have had vast and ongoing earnings from that one innovative design. His story is instructive, not only for what it might suggest about the importance or unimportance of copyright (depending how you look at it), but also for the insight it gives into how innovative design and cultures of innovation develop. Anderson surfed and  made boards with a group of surfer-boardmakers in the 70s and 80s ,  testing out new designs, ideas, technologies and styles of surfing among other things.

On this site he gives an interview that offers some insight into the design developments and surfing requirements of the time.


This shows some of his current designs. http://www.basesurfboards.com/brand_models/show/id/7

As boardcollector notes Anderson did not like being associated only with the ‘thruster’ design since he was committed to innovation in board design and created many different kinds of boards.

Simon considers himself a cutting edge shaper and dislikes being only associated with the development of the thruster. from http://www.boardcollector.com/2009/08/simon-andersons-new-hollow-pop-out.html



Add yours →

  1. I was there at the time.. I was working for Ben Aipa shaping his Surfboards in California at the time.. The concept board was a partnership of Andersen’s and Aipa’s stinger . built on by Rino’s board from the win the year before at Huntington Beach … The out line was a modified Stinger that Aipa was working with Anderson on, the Squish was Andersen’s, and the three fins was what the Hawaiians and Aipa were playing around with the year before,, I was sent a letter form Ben Aipa, before the Bells contest about what thy were working on together, and what We were going to start to work on, when Ben got back in town, LA that is.. It’s a bummer that Al Merrick ripped off both of them.

    • Thanks for this. Have you or others written about these important developments in shaping and surfing history. I’d appreciate if you could refer me to some accounts that you think are legitimate.

  2. This is an art work, a sculpture, functional, yes, but a “handmade shape” is truly the definition of art and NEEDS NO ADDITIONAL COPYRIGHT or patent in the USA because the work is unique. The act of creation is sufficient.
    “Copyright legally belongs to the artist from the moment of creation”


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