True Ames California Classic vs. Greenough 4A: History and Overview

True Ames California Classic vs. Greenough 4A: History and Overview

The California Classic and the Greenough 4A are two of the most essential single fin templates produced in the last 50 years. In the late ’60s, during the transitional era of longboarding, legends like Nat Young, Bob Mctavish, Dick Brewer, Bing Copeland, Skip Frye, George Greenough, and Donald Takayama were pushing the limits of longboard performance. They utilized fin design to create a more lightweight, leisurely riding, and turnable board.

By shaving off the surface area of a traditional D fin, these earlier pioneers created timeless templates that simply work. The Classic and the 4A are a “jack of all trades” longboard fin. The balanced templates are each made with different materials that are excellent for any longboarder to have in their fin quiver.

Fins Reviewed

  • True Ames - California Classic: $68.95+
  • True Ames - Greenough 4A: $71.95+
  • True Ames - Greenough 4A Volan: $97.95+

True Ames California Classic

True Ames California Classic fin set in a surfboard.

The True Ames California Classic is just a “classic” (no pun intended) and is my personal favorite that I use 80% of the time in my logs. It is an incredibly predictable fin that works in every surf condition suitable for longboarding. With its long rake and a medium surface area, you get tons of stability. In addition, I love taking wide, long, and heavy feeling sweeping turns with tons of down-the-line speed. On top of that, it holds very solid at the nose if you (like me) don’t want to commit to a hatchet pivot fin but still like to get on the nose.

Due to its stable feel, it is a perfect option for beginners trying their hands on their first single fin. It has a very fluid feel with the amount of control/hold you get and its ability to connect every motion into one smooth ride. The California Classic’s drive and anchored feel never gets old no matter the conditions or board used.

True Ames California Classic fin

True Ames Greenough 4A

Line up of True Ames Greenough 4A fins in a variety of colors

The True Ames Greenough 4A is an iconic fin that is one of the most used and copied fins in modern longboarding. It works on almost every board and performs in most conditions. While the California Classic specializes in control, hold, and down-the-line speed, the 4A shines when you want that unmistakable slide, spring, drive, and responsiveness. Time and time again, the 4A is a popular choice for both performance longboarding, performance eggs, and single fin mid-lengths.

With its full base and a somewhat flexible tip, it can be great for when you want to generate speed or get as much acceleration out of your bottom turns as you can. This fin holds when you want it to, releases quickly, and performs best when surfing in the pocket.

Don't mistake it exclusively as a performance longboard fin; this fin can and will hold while on the nose with the best of them. Modern longboard legend/shaper Tyler Warren won Joel Tudor’s U.S. Open Pacifico Noseriding Invitational 2012 on a 9’4” Terry Martin (Hobie) One Fin Pin paired with a 9.75 4A Greenough.

True Ames Greenough 4A fin

True Ames Greenough 4A Volan

Close up look at the volan fibers in the True Ames Greenough 4A Volan construction.

In addition to the standard fiberglass construction, the Greenough 4A is also produced in a hand-sanded Volan construction. Produced in Santa Barbara, CA, the fins are manufactured by weaving together thin volan fiberglass sheets before being glassed, hand-cut, and sanded. To achieve a timeless look, each fin is made by hand to ensure the highest quality. The Volan is unique in that the fins are tuned with a high precision foil and a greater amount of flex. Those two characteristics fit the surfer wanting that extra bit of slip and slide in their surfing. The Volan design allows for the flex to come from the body of the fin vs. the tip. All of that translates into extra springiness for speed generation.

From my experience riding a Volan fin, I’ve found that it is great for when you want more speed over more hold. Due to its high-performance flex characteristics, I use the Volan 4A for my mid-sized performance eggs.

True Ames Greenough 4A Volan fin

Final Thoughts

Longboarding is sometimes put on the back burner with the recent explosion for shortboards and mid-lengths. Generally considered a beginner board or only useful in small waves, longboards are easy to learn but hard to master. When surfed correctly, longboarding is timeless, stylish, and effortless looking. Whether you’re nose riding a knee-high wave or putting all your weight on the center of the board and sending it in fat mushy double overhead surf, longboarding is a style of surfing that should never be forgotten.

That said, the California Classic and Greenough 4A are irreplaceable in their usefulness and reliability. Both fins can be used in most surfboards and in almost any condition. Any seasoned surfer can appreciate these two timeless templates. There is a reason why so many fin companies use these fin templates as their base design.