Macho Fins is a creative and small company from northern spain which does amazing Fins. It is a passionate family business which you can see in the beautiful details of the their artwork. We had a nice little chat with Gonzalo and Nat about Macho Fins …
How did Macho Fins start?
We’re three brothers, our surname is Macho, and all three of us are engineers in different capacities, with different skills, hobbies and interests. We were looking for a project to undertake together, something that would inspire us and allow us to use our skills and get creative. We were exploring various avenues, when a friend of ours, a pro-longboarder and shaper over here, talked to us about how hard it was to find decent fins, and how they were all shipped over in bulk from China. We thought about it, and realised how fin making would fit perfectly into what we were looking for, and totally inspired us.
The first step though, was to make the space to work in. Back in the day, our dad built our family home, so we followed suit, and took over half of the ground floor garage and in November 2012 the whole family chipped in and built our 4 room Macho Fins workshop. Since then, really, the whole family has been involved in one way or another.
What inspired you to make fins?
Initially, the creativity and limitless experimentation of fin making. Of course, as a longboarder himself, the thought of riding with self-made fins was a bit of a buzz for Gonzalo too! Making fins is not an easy job, hence there are not many people out there doing it. To be perfectly honest, we didn’t realise quite how difficult it would be, it took 3 long, frustrating years of work behind the scenes before we launched the brand in July 2015 – for every fin we made along the way, at least another dozen went in the bin. We’re perfectionists, so it was a really really long process, but we were spurred on by the challenge, we knew we could do it, and the experimenting is part of the excitement of making something from scratch. We strove for perfection, and we think we’re pretty close. We’re constantly making modifications and experimenting, that won’t stop for us, there are so many endless possibilities, it’s just finding the time to explore them all!
How big is your team?
We’ve gone through a few changes, but everything has always stayed within the Macho family – we’re a true family business. We’re actually 4 brothers, however one dropped out at the beginning due to work commitments. So the brand launched with 3 of us, Gonzalo, Jose Luis and Alberto Macho. All of us have other normal jobs too, of course, so it’s always a bit of a juggling act – time is always our enemy, there are not enough days in the week or hours in the day, but we’re lucky to have a tight-knit family where everyone chips in somehow or other. Mama Macho makes the fin sleeves, Gonzalo’s English wife Nat does a lot of the correspondence and social media side of things, and Dad and fourth brother Jandro are always on hand to fix things and modify bits and bobs in the workshop. And of course all the kids who are running round making mischief – it’s a real family afair here at Macho Fins!
Have you ever thought about shaping surfboards instead of fins?
No! We had it clear from the start that fins were what we are interested in. We don’t have the time to start experimenting in other areas to be honest, and we value and are proud of the fact that we do fins and nothing else – we are true fin specialists. We’ve got many friends and clients who are shapers all over the north coast and beyond, and we have major respect for them and their work, but it’s not a direction we will be going in ourselves.
What is developing a new fin like?
It starts with conversations of course, whether it be between ourselves, with shapers or with our riders. At the moment for example, we’re in the process of developing new models with a couple of our riders, and this entails them having tried out the fins we’ve got, and discussing how to fine tune them for their boards and riding style. Next, we go away and design the outline and foil, and also work on the strength and aerodynamics, and then we make up a prototype for testing. Once this has been tweaked and got the all clear, we then start producing the fin, often for shapers initially to get more feedback, and then finally they go into the catalogue and onto the website.
Compared to Australia or California, in Europe there are just a few good fin Shapers (like you). Why do you think that is?
The simple answer is that Australia and the States have a longer running surf tradition, therefore a much bigger, more developed and deep rooted industry in all areas. But also, specifically with regard to fins, there are not many of us because fin making is not easy! It’s very time consuming, especially the sanding and finishing, and there are so, so many things that can go wrong in the manufacturing process. Plus, it can be hard to get hold of the right materials and have consistent suppliers too, especially over here in Europe. We’ve been contacted by lots of shapers who have started off making their own fins, but after making a few have realised it just isn’t practical timewise and sometimes skillswise, especially if you’re trying to make a top quality fin for a top quality board.
In terms of making it a viable business, there is just so much competition from China, where fins are shipped by the thousand, it’s hard to be competitive. It’s true that if your objective is to start a business to make money, you’ve got good marketing and you’re not particularly worried about quality, then it’s an easy path – buying cheap in bulk, putting your brand on the product, and selling it. But that totally goes against our ethos. Here at Macho Fins our fins are not cheap, but we know we’re providing top quality product and service, and we also know the work and love that’s gone into each and every fin. At the end of the day, all our fins have our name on, we don’t make fins for anybody else, so in our eyes they should be as perfect as we are perfectionists.
Why is it important to get a good fin for a surfboard?
Naturally, there’s no comparison to riding a board with a cheap plastic fin to a 100% fibreglass fin like ours. We chose to work purely with fibreglass as it combines strength, beauty and rideability. In addition to normal fibreglass, we also use Volan fibreglass, often used in boardmaking too, which for fins gives more flex to the fin. Some people like this, others prefer more rigid with less or zero flex, this really depends on personal taste, and also the type of board and conditions you’re riding.
The right fin can totally change how your board rides, both the model of fin, and the size. Some boards, like classic longboards over 9.6, clearly ask for larger fins, however with the appearance of the mid-length, different fins and sizes can be used, changing the ride completely. We’ve got riders who’ll use various different fins with the same board depending on the waves. Some of our riders will make use of our handscrews too to move the position of the fin (further forward or back) whilst in the water depending on the conditions. There are a lot of variables with a fin, although realistically, many of these will only be noticed by the more experienced rider.
You do have some amazing Ambassadors like Mike Lay or Leah Dawson. What is working with these great Surfers like?
Fun and very rewarding. Mike and Leah both have such unique style and grace in the water, they were both idols of ours before they started riding with our fins, so we’re stoked to now be working with them and have them riding with our fins. We’re really proud of all our riders, and they all give us different insights, different requirements, different objectives in their fins, and of course different boards and shapers to work with. Some of them are riding competitively in the WSL, some like Mike and Leah are free surfers, and between them they’re riding at a huge range of spots all over the world. Many of our new models come from these guys asking us for something specific. For example, it’s been interesting discussing models with Mike and Eurico recently, who both ride with Mitch Surman’s boards. Mitch’s board design is unique and experimental, and calls for totally different fins than more standard models. This pushes us, expands our fin horizons, and keeps up the creativity and experimentation. We also notice the effect of interest off the back of Instagram photos of riders using the fins, for example the Mark Richards type twins which Leah has been using – as soon as she posted a photo of them, suddenly everyone was asking for them. So fast in fact that we haven’t had time to get them into the catalogue yet! It’s always best to follow us on Instagram for the latest updates and models, and to get in touch personally with us via email or private message, we’re always happy to help – after all, our fins are made by us, for you.
Thanks guys, it’s nice to tell our story!
Here you can find some more beautiful fins of Macho Fins: