From back room boy to the leader of one of the biggest fin companies in the world

Pio Marasco is the man behind the globally renowned Maui Fin Company, which originated in 1986, however Marasco hasn’t always been at the forefront of one of the biggest fin companies in the world, so we decided to catch up with him to see how he made his way to the very top. 

MFC Hawaii are a household name in the world of windsurfing, surfing and SUP. They makes fins for the likes of the current PWA Wave World Champion - Marcilio ‘Brawzinho’ Browne (Goya Windsurfing / MFC) - as well as previous PWA World Champions - Victor Fernandez (Fanatic / North / MFC) and three-time champion Kauli Seadi (JP / Hot Sails Maui / MFC)- to name just a few. The talent they have at their disposal combined with Pio’s years of world class experience is exactly what make MFC the formidable and hugely successful company they are. Read out interview with Pio below:

How long have you been shaping fins?

"I first moved to Maui when I was nineteen years old, and after three months I found a job, you know stripping floors and putting the fins in plastic bags for Maui Fin Company. So I've been in this cannery since 1990 pretty much, which is a long time, then obviously I moved up the ladder from putting fins in their bags to putting fins in their boxes (laughing). Then I think after about three years, so '93 I started shaping and I was lucky to be taught a lot by my ex-partner from '94 onwards, but, MFC originated in 1986 and was already working with some of the biggest names in the sport."

"In '96 I took over MFC, after my partner decided that he didn't want to shape anymore and wasn't going to move to the mainland. 

"We had our first CNC machines in 1991, using a DOS system, and those are the machines that we were using at the time for all of our slalom fins. Those were the first CNC fins to be made and it was really fun."

PWA: How do you think people value their fins and do you think that people's perspectives have changed?

Pio: "I think people's perspectives have changed, and that they will keep changing. Right now with the speed of the media and the amount of information that is available in two minutes, people are starting to be way more aware of the difference their fins can make, whether that be windsurfing, surfing or SUP. I just had a meeting with Klaas Voget (Fanatic / Simmer / MFC) and he believes the fin can affect the board up to 40% if you have a bad fin, which can be the difference from the board being amazing to not working at all. It's like if you buy a car and you pay €300,000 for your Ferrari, or whatever, and then putting tyres from your bicycle, it's obviously not going to work. It's the same thing in my opinion. We are trying our best to communicate this to our customers so that they can get the absolute best from their boards."

PWA: How about some tips for kit setup relating to fins?

"There's a lot of different factors right now, especially when you consider the multi fin boards for wave riding. Mastfoot position, footstrap position, positions of fins, especially on the tri and quad fins... 

"So the first thing we recommend is really playing with your gear, even for freeride where do you don't have any option to move the fin in the powerbox at all, but as the same time moving your footstraps or moving your mast base can completely change your game. Every variable can have a big affect. People will often jump on a board and instantly decide they don't like it - it even happens to me sometimes when I go testing at Sprecks or Camp One - and then I see and talk to the guys who aren't happy with their board or fins or whatever from any brand it is doesn't matter. Then I look at their fin positions or their mast base positions or even the way the sail is rigged and you realize the whole setup is a mess. So it's really important from a very early level to understand about equipment setup and how to tune your gear to get the very best out of it. Once you can do this, then you can start pinpointing things like fins, once you think you've reached the maximum potential with your current setup."

"Footstap positioning can also have an incredible affect on performance. How far you have them on the rail, how far or back, the distance between the front leg and back all make a big impact."

"As far as fins go, I'd first recommend knowing what effect moving the fins backwards or forwards has on the board. So for example if you move your fins back, you're going to be faster in a straight line, but your board will be stiffer. And the further forward you bring your fins the looser and snappier your board will be, but you will lose some top end speed. Once you know this basic knowledge you can begin to play around more. With multifins you should be moving them all together."

PWA: What projects are you currently working on?

Pio: "Right now, new thrusters, quads for 2015 and a new freestyle fin which will be released. It's basically done and the new freestyle fin should weigh as little as 100g. 

PWA: Is that using a different construction method to normal?

Pio: "Yeah, we achieve the very light weight by using a moulded construction. I'm a promoter of moulds, it's just a matter of cost and being able to make it affordable. So we've actually being developing with different manufacturers since 2000 to reach an affordable mould cost. They are very expensive around $1500-2000 each."

"Coming back to my current projects I'm working on the new facility we are setting up here on Maui, which will make it possible to do the complete fin production here, because I'm really going to be putting a lot of effort into our racing fins next year. We had been leading the racing category for a long time - it's not that we let it go, it's just that we had to focus on some other stuff - when you have a business you have to choose which direction you want to go in and inevitably there will always be some sacrifice. We chose to go with SUP and surfing, we've had the opportunity to work with a lot of surfers on the North-shore. So now we feel like it's our time to comeback to racing, which is getting really big, and we have the knowledge and the facilities to make prototypes, etc. Freestyle, SUP - which is already going. Being able to work with Kai Lenny (Naish / MFC), who has been world champion in every discipline - and racing are our new main targets". 

PWA: What’s your outlook or philosophy on business?

Pio: "I don't like to do things just to do it. I've only ever done things where I'm convinced that I can do great, that's why I've never made kite fins. Not because I don't like kiting, I think it's a great sport, but first and foremost I don't kite so I don't have the required knowledge to make a good product. I also don't just follow projects because they might be lucrative. For example we've just finished developing our new harness finally. It took a year and a half, but I'd much rather take my time and produce the best products I know we're capable of making rather than just trying to bust out 20 lines every year."

PWA: What sort of changes have you made to your harnesses?

Pio: "We've basically made a very light and compact harness, which goes complete against our current model. Its all vinyl outside, a harness undergoes many torsions so this stripped back harness is great for waveriding. I wouldn't suggest it for freeriding. It's really for manoeuvre orientated sailing. So for example the sides are very narrow, because we want as little restriction to fluid movement as possible. We find that a lot of harnesses are just too high and they make it very difficult to move. The new harness does take some getting used to, but it gives you a much more direct feeling to the sail."

PWA: What fin constructions do you use?

Pio: "G10, polyester panels with 70 layers compared the 40 it used to be, and moulded fins which I've always considered like my little baby. We do also use Carbon Kevlar."

"Personally I'm not a big fan of G10, it's a good and comfortable material, but I don't think it's great. The difference between G10 and the moulded and polyester is when you machine a fin in G10 you either have to make it thicker or thinner to change the flex or stiffness of the fin. However with moulded we can change the flexibility or stiffness of the fin, not by the thickness, but by the materials we put in the mould to begin with. For example I could have a full Carbon fin that is paper fin, but has absolutely no flex. If you try to make this out of G10 you're just going to snap it because it's too thin. So the advantage with polyester and mouldings is that you have almost no limits."

PWA: Which brands are MFC affiliated with?

Pio: "MFC designs fins for Fanatic, RRD, Quatro and Goya. Also the fins on the Starboard Kode, which have the Drake logo. We've worked with a lot of different manufacturers for a long time and this opened up a lot of relationships, which have ultimately helped us and them reach the best for their boards."

"We're currently setting up the same testing facility as we have here in Maui. We have a warehouse in Tarifa too, so people will be able to go there and try fins outs."

PWA: Lastly, how do you find it and manage to cope developing fins for so many riders?

Pio: "Firstly the team is incredible. It's such a blessing to work with all these guys and the thing with working with so many people is it gives me the chance to develop for people that have completely open minds. All of our sailors have a different fin setup because they all have such different ideas. Trying to please them all drives me nuts, but this is what it is and it drives progression."

PWA: Thanks for your time Pio. Good luck with all of your projects.

If you'd like to see all of the fantastic products that MFC have to offer then be sure to check out their website here.

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