How to choose surfboard fins?
In 2021, choosing surfboard fins, it's quite the task! Different factors can influence your surfing based on the various characters of the surfboard fins itself! In this article, we are going to look two different types (glassed-in and interchangeable); Regarding the interchangeable type we have three other systems (FCS, FCSII and Future) that they have different setup resulting in the number of fins to be used (twin, thruster and quad fins). The main characteristics of what you need to look for are Base, Depth, Sweep and Area.
Surfboard Fins Type Explained
Surfboard fins are one of the keys elements to maximize your surf results. To obtain the maximum performance, you need to take care of the board you are riding, your weight, your surf level and the kind of waves you want to surf!
Glassed-in and Interchangeable surfboard fins type
The glassed-in fins are attached directly to the board, the resin used to laminate your board is extended to the fins attached to it! That's the reason why this kind of fins are non-removable and needs to be as generic as possible to fulfil any type of surfer for his/her weight, skills and kind of surf.
Advantages of glassed-in fins in a surfboard
One of the main benefit of having glassed-in fins it the strength that comes from having the entire base of the fins laminated and inserted into the board, offering that extra strength that no-other setup could offer!
Without a doubt, the performance is crucial, even if it will be hard to notice the difference unless you are a professional surfer. Nevertheless having the fins embedded on the board allows a better transition of the water; therefore flex and drive pattern will always be better.
To overcome this problem, Future and FCS II embed the fins' base inside the board, which makes this gap almost not noticeable.
Disadvantages of glassed-in fins in a surfboard
Well, the main disadvantages of glassed-in fins are that they are not removable. Therefore you can't try a different shape if you don't like the one embedded in your board, and most importantly, in case of breakage, you need to repair or replace the entire fin/s! This process is expensive, and you need a professional board-repairer as they need to set the fins at the right angle and place. Glass a fin is considered the most challenging task in shaping a surfboard.
If you love to travel, this kind of fins type can be not handy for you, as you can't remove the fins and store it; moreover, your board will occupy more space and you need a bigger board-bag or give upbringing the extra board for your Indonesia's dream. Oh... and did we talk about how the air carriers love to throw your board? Having a fin snapped, it's easier than what you can imagine!
Advantages of Interchangeable surfboard fins
There are many advantages if you're using interchangeable fins, for example, you can play with a different setup, switching from a quad to a thruster;
You can easily replace fins or remove them when you are travelling; Last but not least, in the unfortunate occurrence you break the fin, all the interchangeable set are far easier to repair!
Disadvantages of Interchangeable surfboard fins
The only "disadvantage" is that you are losing a bit of performance, but if even kelly slater is using the Fin Control System in WCT, well, I would not very worry about it!
You may also don't get the best fins for the type of board the shaper had in mind!
Fin Control System
There are three primary Fin Control System (FCS, FCSII and Future). Let's talk about them and discover the main characteristic and difference between them. All of them are part of the "Interchangeable fins type", and they allow you to have a different type of plugs. The plugs are the part laminated to your board that will enable you to swap fins easily.
FCS (Fin Control System)
The Fin Control System was developed in 1995 in our beloved country (Australia) by Brian A. Whitty in Elanora! The main characteristic of this system is represented by two plugs laminated into the board and the two tabs attached to the fins' bottom. Thanks to this invention, you can easily use an Allen wrench known in the surfer worlds as FCS key to remove the fins from your surfboard. This system is part of the family of the dual tab fin boxes.
FCSII (Fin Control System Version 2)
The FCSII is the next generation of the FCS (FCS version 2), has been established in September 2013 and the advantage of respect to the first version are multiples! First of all, the system is keyless; this means that you can add/remove/replace a fin without any tool! Secondly the base it now resides entirely into the plug, allowing a more seamless connection. Last but not least, is the compatibility with Version 1, allowing surfers to re-use their previous fins set even in the new system! This system is part of the family of the dual tab fin boxes.
The Future Fins are one of the newest fin control system and surfboard fins type, being created in California in 1996! As any famous American business, they started in a garage exactly in Huntington Beach. The Longo brothers decide to use their aerospace parts fabrication skills to create a new surfing world adventure! The system's main characteristic resides in having the fins wholly-embedded inside the surfboard, thanks to the plug design that is a unique piece for each fin and allow the bottom of the fin to be placed entirely inside and then screwed with an Allen key / FCS key. This system is part of the family of the single tab fin boxes.
What size of surfboard fins should I get?
To get the perfect surfboard fins for your board you need to know your weight and your skill level! Based on your weight will be easy to understand what size you should ride, then adding your skill level you can decide to go for a bigger or a smaller fins depending on the wave condition. If you have doubt choose the biggest one associated to your weight As you can see fins can have different sizes; in the table below, you can find the most common one.
To choose the perfect fin size, you need to follow this ultimate guide in 2021:
|Size||Weight (KGs)||Weight (lbs)|
|XS||< 55Kg||< 120 lbs|
|Small||55 - 70Kg||120-155 lbs|
|Medium||65 - 80Kg||145-175 lbs|
|Large||75+ Kg||165+ lbs|
The weight of the surfer positively influences the fin size. Nevertheless, the more experienced you're and the bigger the waves are you can go up/down a few sizes. Having a more prominent fin will help you gain control and stability; on the other side, smaller fins will give you a more "skate sensation".
|Surfer Experience||Wave Size||Weight (lbs)|
|Beginner||High||+1 or 2 Sizes|
|Intermediate / Advanced||Small||-1 Size|
|Intermediate / Advanced||Medium||Default|
|Intermediate / Advanced||High||+1 Size|
Surfboard Fins Configuration
Now that you know what kind of fin size you need based on your weight, the next big decision is how you want to configure your fins! The decision needs to be based on your kind of board; The number of fin boxes (plugs) can vary from one to five. The most common configuration are Single, Twin Fins, Thruster and Quad.
Single Fin / One Fin
Single Fin configuration is the defacto for longboard! The big long fin will provide limited turning, nevertheless will increase the speed and deliver control, stability and predictability! This kind of fin is recommended for a "relaxed" surf where you don't turn too much!
One peculiarity of this kind of configuration is that most of the fin boxes come adjustable, this means you can place the fin more forward for a looser feel, or further back to gain significant control!
Twin Fins / Two Fins
If you have a fish shortboard, you most probably are familiar with this kind of setup, where your board only mount two fins to allow you to have a more maneuverable and fun experience! Usually, this setup requires the two side fins two times bigger than what your average fin size. (e.g. if you usually use a G3, you want to go with a G7, if you are already a G7, you want to use custom shape made for twin fins)
Thruster Fin / Tri Fin / Three fins
The world standard! All the surfboard that you have usually seen they come with this standard setup, three fins! It applies to any board (short/mini mal/longboard). This kind of design provide control, stability and maneuverability, in summary, is the best all-around setup you can have!
Quad Fin / Four Fins
If you are surfing small waves, this should be your preferred setup; The water is channelled through the middle of the surfboard and out from the bottom (tail) to provide acceleration! This technique provides the extra speed that you need if the waves are not so pushy! Moreover is a great setup even for big waves, as the two fins close to the rails will increase the stability and hold when you do a turn (you will have two fins instead of one in the water)
2 + 1
Are you a longboard surfer and you like a radical turn? If the answer is yes, this is the setup for you! The long fin is accompanied by two small ones that allow you to give the longboard more sense of direction and the ability to turn much faster!
5 fins setup
The 5 fins setup is the most flexible setup you can choose for your board. Normally is not used with 5 fins, however it enables you to change configuration. Swap from the traction of a thruster, to the freedom of a twin fin, to the speed of a quad using the same surfboard!
The geometry of the fins gives the fins different characteristics. Therefore if you want to get the best fins for your surfing, you should be aware of the changes produced by any single of this factor: Sweep, Toe, Base Length, Foil, Flex, Height & Cant.
Sweep / Rake
The sweep/rake measurement calculates how far back the fin bend in relation of the base point or, in other words, how much the tip overhangs the base. Having a small rake allows you to propel the board to the limit. Nevertheless, not having the end exposed to the outside will decrease stability. Whenever the conditions are heavy, choose surfboard fins with a large rake; instead, if the waves are small and you want to have a good pivot use the small rake that is excellent of tight pocket surfing.
|Small Rake||Tighter turn at the cost of losing drive and stability|
|Large Rake||Long drawn out turns, increase in stability and predictability|
Toe / Splay
The toe/splay measurement calculates a side fin angle in relation to the middle of the board (the stringer). This angle is designed by the shaper and allows control of water passing through the board. The more significant is the angle, the bigger is the amount of water pressuring the fins, increasing your responsiveness, however decreasing your speed.
|More Angle||Lose Speed, increase responsiveness|
|More Centered||Increase Speed, lose responsiveness|
The base length measure precisely what the word means! This measure affects how the board respond to turn and speed. The longer is the base, the more push along trajectories for water to go past, increasing the speed; nevertheless, the more the speed, the more the turns become open.
|Wider Base||Increase Speed, lose turns radius|
|Tight Base||Decrease Speed, increase turns radius|
The flex of the fins measures the flexibility of the fin itself. In 2021 we already have various models of fins with a different types of flexibility. Moreover, you can even purchase fins made with other materials. Therefore the flexibility change from the bottom to the top depending on the material used. A good example is the surfboard fins with carbon fibre and fibreglass or the bamboo with fibreglass. The idea is to use different fabrics and provide an extra level of flexibility.
|The More Flexible||Will provide a more skate experience; Good for small waves|
|The More Rigid||Will provide hold; This is perfect in hollow waves|
The height measures the distance from the bottom to the highest point of the fin. The higher the fin, the more water surface you will be touching, increasing stability and providing open turns. On the other end, if you choose to go with shorter fins, your turns will be tighter. However, your board will lose traction.
|Taller fin||Provides control and relaxed turns|
|Shorter Fin||Less hold for a more "skate" sensation and for spin tricks|
The cant measurement calculates the degrees of the fin concerning the surfboard's base.
|More cant||Increase responsiveness, decrease hold and speed.|
|Less cant||Increase speed and hold, decrease responsiveness|
The most common question asked from our customer all replied in here for your convenience
Do surfboard fins make a difference?
100% they would! The reality that you will start to notice the difference from when you begin to be at the intermediate level! As you can read from the previous sections, fins can change radically the way you surf a surfboard! Can give you more/less stability, more/less speed etc. etc. Depending on the kind of waves you want a different type of fins to enjoy your surfing in any conditions!
Can you surf with only 2 fins?
Yes, you can! Using two fins means using the twin fin setup where you have only two fins mounted in the board (one left side, one right side). Twin fins are suitable for giving the board a "skate" feeling where you can do tighter turn and have increased speed. To increase the hold, you have to use 2/3 times the size you usually use with your standard fins in a thruster setup. That's why you can find a lot of custom size "side fins" for twin fin / double fin setup.
In a situation where you are just dismounting the central fin, and you're using only the side fins, in that case, surfing with only two fins can result very difficult!
Can you use a surfboard without fins?
Nothing is impossible, but why would you? The only reason will be if you like to spin 360 degrees with your board! Usually, this technique is used with the soft board, where you remove all the fins completely, and you catch the waves with the sole purpose to do rotations. As soon as you stand up, you need to balance your weight in one side, or even better stick one of your hand in the water and start spinning!
What does FCS fins stand for?
FCS is the acronym of Fin Control System. Surfers can use this acronym for identifying the type of fin-setup and even the FCS™ brand.
Can you use FCS 2 fins in FCS plugs?
As said before in this article, yes you can use it! FCS II is fully compatible with his predecessor FCS. You can use the FCS surfboard fins straight out of the box or purchase an adaptation kit that will allow you to have a much better fit and feel.
Do FCS 2 fins need screws?
No, the FCS II fin system doesn't need screw; it is the new Fin Control System's central innovation. You need to insert the fins into the FCS box and apply downward pressure to lock the fin. To remove it, you need to apply the same force but in the other direction. To make the whole process even more comfortable, you can use an FCS II fins extractor.
How many fins should a beginner surfer have?
For a beginner surfer, the ideal fin setup is the thruster, as it gives lots of stability and easy turning. Having lots of equilibrium will be easier to practice the stand-up, moreover, as soon as the stand-up technique will improve, it will allow (using the side fins) to practice the turns.
Can you use thruster fins on a quad?
99% of the answer is yes! Most of the quad boards come with a five fin box setup, that allows you to easily interchange in all the different fin setup we've explained in this guide to choose the best surfboard fins for your level!