Dietrich „Rick“ Hanke – Inventor of Maui Ultra Fins
There have been endless fin experiments since the invention of windsurfing – the pretty common dissatisfaction with the fin’s performance caused a huge boost of inventions in now more than 30 years of windsurfing history. However, arguably nobody else has calculated fins as scientifically as Dietrich Hanke from Braunschweig, Germany a.k.a. as “Rick” on Maui, Hawai’i. This passionate windsurfer has also been annoyed by underperforming fins for many years. Finally, he seized the opportunity using his previous working experience and had stunning success with his phenomenal Maui Ultra Fins!
Rick has been windsurfing since 1979 and that is exactly when he started being displeased by the wasted potential of the available fins: “Nice colours, fancy outlines, bad profiles“. From 2005 on, having just retired, he finally had time to dedicate himself to fin development. Rick is very familiar with aerodynamics being an aerospace engineer – just like the inventor of windsurfing Jim Drake – and having worked in flight mechanics for almost 35 years at the German Aerospace Center in Braunschweig (DLR).
Since the start of his second career as a professional fin designer, he spends about five months a year on Maui, windsurfing, taking Ukulele lessons and developing and testing fins. The rest of the time sees him travelling to other great surf spots or snowboarding.
The extraordinary story of Maui Ultra Fins began with a debate on aerodynamic design principles with a professor for design aerodynamics at Technical University Braunschweig. Following that, Rick used a computer program to calculate hundreds of different profiles which he then optimized until he had come up with a completely new profile that matched Rick’s demands best – much better than today’s thin and sharp nosed fin profiles.
The first prototypes were built in G-10 on a highly precise CNC machine on Maui. Maui proved to be the perfect place for fin development: First of all, there is the chance to have prototypes made locally at Maui CNC within a day or two. Secondly, Maui hosts ideal windsurfing conditions with almost daily wind. Thirdly, there are always open-minded windsurfers around – pros and amateurs alike – who like to test fins and in return provide valuable information on the prototype’s characteristics.
The first test sessions immediately showed that Rick was on the right track. The first fin was already fast, agile, showed good upwind performance, and was almost spinout-free. With that prototype Rick had questioned the typical swept-back form of wave fins, constructing his Wave fin with an elliptic outline and a fairly straight leading edge which promised a much better performance. And it was a big success: Excellent in the waves, stable in bottom turns and loose in cut backs, just like it should be…
At the beginning it was still sometimes difficult to convince some sailors to give such a wave fin a try. Having it tested though, they didn’t want to return it. Some typical comments were: “The best fin I have ever sailed”, “It is a completely different board now”, and “Like a Porsche” etc.
The growing demand forced Rick to offer the fins to a bigger public and finally sell online. So in October 2007 “Maui Ultra Fins – Advanced Airfoil Design“ was born. The superior fin: German engineered, Maui developed and tested.
A year later, the original Wave fin was modified. The result was the X-Wave, almost like the elliptic Wave but with a cut-out to reduce the area at the tip. This design was an instant success, even looser in waves without a loss in speed and grip. The same design principle was used a bit later in the design of the first twinser fins: The X-Twin was born and Jason Polakow said it was the best fin, he had ever used.
The design features were later used for Quad- und Tri-fins and the X-series became the standard for wave boards. They were copied by JP Australia and used on all JP-Wave- und Wave/Freestyle-boards.
Another innovation came along in 2009 with the so called Nospin-fin, which – big surprise – can be sailed practically spinout-free. Rick developed a profile that still works at very high angles of attack and thus delays spinouts to extremely high angles. Even nonsense activities, like kicking against the board when sailing, didn’t cause spinouts – the board reacted with a strong counter pressure, it’s like kicking against the wall of a rubber cell.
A further confirmation of the outstanding sailing characteristics was Anders Bringdal’s decision to equip all Mistral boards with Maui Ultra Fins.
Maui Ultra Fins has already established its own team with world-class athletes like Philip Köster, the Moreno twins, Sarah-Quita Offringa and many others. For them, they are simply the best fins, having tried all the other brands.
By now Maui Ultra Fins offers a comprehensive fin range: Wave, freestyle, freeride, slalom, speed, weed, SUP and surf fins.
A modern fairy tale is still possible in the established windsurfing industry – as you can see in this extraordinary story.