Derek Hynd and the Philosophy of Free Friction

A profile from our October 2011 issue

Derek Hynd’s finless mastery is redefining the term “fins-free.” Photo: Van Gysen

We all know the Hawaiian fin-free equipment: the olo and the alaia of semi-antiquity, the solid redwoods of the Duke era and the cut-down semi-hollow hot curls, which for a time jousted for supremacy with Tom Blake’s new finned surfboards. But what would make a talented surfer past his prime go back and apply any of those arcane principles to modern fiberglass equipment? There are two complementary reasons. One offered from the outside by Hynd’s contemporary (and finless cynic) Nick Carroll, and the other by the man himself. Carroll asserts a Freudian reason, saying that Hynd was using this bizarre dance to impress a certain lady friend whom Hynd was courting at the time. Finless surfing as sexual foreplay? Hynd does not refute it but offers an alternate version: “The problem with that comment is that the lady in question couldn’t see. She was blind. And I was trying to teach her to surf and I realized she couldn’t get to the beach because she couldn’t see the chops in the water. I had to try and relate to her difficulties so I grabbed an old finless Coolite board. During that surf I felt movement and that was it.”

There is something that electrifies the crowd when Hynd surfs. Faces turn and women, in particular, are compelled to watch this strange sliding dance form. I saw it numerous times at pointbreaks near and far. Girls light up when the finless boogie is displayed in their visual arena. Hynd offers this insight into why: “It’s like a gannet gliding. It’s quite arousing. The economy of movement at speed does have a rhythm to it. It might be a new form of dance. Maybe it’s just the pursuit of art and not sport.”

One person who became enamored of the Free Friction Hynd was 24-year-old Taylor Miller. She’s Hynd’s current girlfriend and an accomplished finless surfer in her own right. Taylor is the daughter of Rusty Miller, who’s been everywhere and seen everything in modern surfing. Rusty can look you straight in the eye and tell you about running into a fur-coated Bunker Spreckles in some dive bar in Kauai after he just did a line of coke off Bridget Bardot’s tits in the restroom. Well, maybe not Bridget Bardot, but some other ’60s mega-babe. Or what kind of wax Rolf Aurness used when he won the world title in 1970 right from under the Aussie shortboard supremacist noses.

Still, how the hell did a 54-year-old man get tight with a 24-year-old babe? That’s what you’re thinking, right? Who can say? But the lack of convention seems perfectly natural when you see the two surfing, forming a mirroring montage of finless fun, free of all judgment.