While thoughts of surfing may evoke summertime and warm, sandy beaches, there also exists an entirely separate sect of surfers who brave sub-freezing temperatures to catch waves on frigid waters. "Cold-water surfing" has become the alternative for die-hard surfers who have moved to a cooler climate or who are looking to catch a wave on a less crowded shore. And the British company Finisterre has set itself the challenge of providing gear that serves these hardcore athletes—including, most recently, the world's first surf knife designed specifically for the brutal conditions of freezing waters.
The knife marks a new direction for Finisterre, which is looking to expand from clothing into tactical equipment. So it enlisted the help of the skilled knife-smiths at Joseph Rodgers and Sons, based in Sheffield, England. "This was a new product for them and they relished the challenge," says Ernest Capbert, Finisterre's marketing director. "After specializing in folding knives and cut-throat razors for centuries, it was a nice change for them to experiment with new ideas and create a new model of knife."
To make an effective cold-water surf knife, the two companies had to focus on the symptoms one experiences when confronted with stage-two hypothermia, such as muscle miscoordination, labored movements and contracted blood vessels, which make it hard to use tools quickly and accurately. The Finisterre design team drove across the country to work in-house with Joseph Rodgers and Sons for six months, sketching and ideating potential designs.
"Some of the earlier sketches featured saws, simple triple-blade editions, built-in fin keys, separate bottle- and tin-opener blades, a cork handle and various lanyard and clip styles," Capbert explains. "In the end, we opted for a two-blade knife—a simple multi-use blade and an additional blade that could handle a flat head, tin opener and bottle opener in one." The 3/32 hex fin key was removed from the main knife and an "easy pull" loop was added, making the blade more accessible in the harshest conditions.
The knife blade and fin key are made of 420S45 high-carbon stainless steel, hardened to 51-55 on the Rockwell scale. The decision to go with stainless steel was not an easy one. Carbon steel blades hold a very sharp edge, but are brittle and can rust and dull quickly, needing extra care and sharpening. While stainless isn't as hard and is more difficult to sharpen, it doesn't rust. For Finisterre, the 420S45 high carbon stainless struck the perfect balance.
Joseph Rodgers and Sons supervised the knife manufacturing, a process that spans a few days for each knife. Each blade is first laser-cut, die-stamped and shaped by hand before the metal is cut and cleaned for assembly. The FSC-approved oak handle is loosely cut to form, then hand-riveted with brass. Next, each knife and fin key is sanded down and shaped by hand to match the original sample, and then there is additional extra-fine sanding and polishing. Finally, the knife is oiled and treated, and then placed in a template mold to be laser-marked and numbered.
But getting the manufacturing right was the easy part. "The main challenge was sticking to our brief," Capbert says. "Without a clear starting point we could have easily strayed into other areas. With such a lengthy process comes the ability to be influenced by other design ideas. We could have just as easily designed several knives all looking very different but each just as functional. A lot of these ideas have been held back for future designs."
Since this knife was a first for Finisterre, the company decided to make it in a limited-edition run of 100, which quickly sold out. Finisterre is now back in talks with Joseph Rodgers and Sons about extending the collaboration—and about letting the team re-explore some of the design ideas it had to set aside the first time. "Rather than simply remake it and exploit sales, we would much rather create a completely new version," Capbert says.
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A fixed blade is the ideal choice for salt water environments but not really socially acceptable for surfing, although use of a knife would really only be necessary when surfing alone or with one or two friends somewhere a bit wild not in a crowded lineup. Something like a Spyderco salt would be my choice. H1 steel that doesn't ever rust.
Having said all that I do think the Finisterre Rodgers knife is a nice little knife for use back at camp pre / post surf.
Its a traditional clip point stainless folder... oh!...with a surf key. This design felt really phoned in.
Let's start with the fact that is a folder. Ok, its relatively small... cool. But its a riveted folder. Meaning that the pivot of the whole mechanism is held together with a rivet that was then ground flush with the guard. So exactly how do you see the sand and grime coming out of that? If you were going to do a folder you should have used fasteners that allow for disassembly.
Also, a folder is a poor choice to start with if its for surf. Surf and SCUBA share a lot of the same hazards. Mostly that the ocean can decide it wants you dead in a heartbeat. You might find yourself tangled with a leash against a rock, or wrapped in a kelp bed, all the while the CO2 in your blood is rising. So the idea of stopping to fold out a blade (With a nail groove! Really!) while your being ragdolled underwater is preposterous. You want a fixed blade (With serrations. You'll be cutting nylon webbing, rope, kelp, fishing line, other fibrous materials), with a handle that provides the proper signifiers as to which way is forward on the blade, and where to grip. You shouldn't have to think about using the blade you should just be able to do it.
The next issue is where does this thing go? Itâ€™s kind of bulky compared to most surf gear. I see a nylon lanyard, but that implies that itâ€™s going to be loop on to something. I suppose they're testers may have been the lucky few with pockets on their winter wetsuits, but the only pockets on my are for fin keys. And the idea of a loose knife flapping around doesn't sound like a good idea for my face or my board during a wipe out.
And frankly the inclusion of a fin key is sort of gilding the lily. It feels kind of sad that if the package didn't have a fin key provided you could have thought this is one of hundreds of other folding knife designs on the market for one of hundreds of everyday tasks.
As for the composition of the blade, stainless is fine, so what if you have to sharpen it? It just means you put it to good use. I have a 30 yr old knife for hunting, and i sharpen it before each use, not a big deal. Put some gun oil on the blade every now and again and your rusting problem isn't that big of deal if you actually let it dry.
While im not a surfer, i would assume that in the end a straight blade with a ankle sheath would be the best. The whole hypothermia makes moving your hands difficult after 5-10 min. How about a panic situation? still favors the straight blade, for not having to fumble with opening something and dropping it.
@Anthony "..look cute in a desk drawer. This is pretend design" - indeed, might i add post rational?
This is the kind of $100 gift you give to your stay at home retired dad.
And sorry to be rude but wtf is "Cold-water surf company" that doesn't even have a cold water wetsuit yet ?
I kinda think there was some half baked thought into this knife. Like why does the knife blade have a nail groove instead of a thumb stud or hole like the bottle opener part has. Also what makes this knife any different from the Spyderco Clipitool, which can be had for $25.
Knives are a hotly debated issue and what method of deployment is best/looks best can vary, but what is used up there is not the type of thing a half hypothermic surfer is going to use when his hands are blue and shaking and he has to align his nail with a tiny slit in the knife.
Also I agree with the other people, this is a place where serrated blades could actually be useful(since their meant for cutting ropes and such), so why is there no such option?