Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Brian Barkdoll


Wave surfing is a multi-billion dollar industry involving both maneuverability and speed, yet little research has been done regarding optimal fins shape for these competing qualities. The purpose of this master's thesis was to focus on a single fin setup in order to identify a bio-inspired fin shape that maximized lateral stability while minimizing drag forces, in order to increase surfing maneuverability.

The computational fluid dynamic models NX and laboratory experiments performed in a water channel, with lift and drag being directly measured, were used to compare nine fins based on dorsal fins of real fish. To properly compare, fluid conditions were comparable between the CFD and lab experiments. It was found that the Short-finned Pilot Whale at an angle of attack of 10° had the greatest lift-to-drag ratios. Flow patterns around fins at a low angle of attack were smooth with negligible flow separation, while at any angle of attack greater than 25°, flow separation-induced drag forces became excessive.