Quad vs Thruster Fins: The Ultimate Face Off

The increasing number of surfboards in the market today are brought by shapes and sizes designed according to surfer’s preference. Aside from the profiles and dimensions of the boards, another feature that surfers look at is its fin setup.

The question of whether which fin setup is better always arises especially when you are trying to let go or hold on to the board you have been riding. The thought of not having enough to too much fin setup leaves you wondering which is better, quad or thruster fins.

This dilemma has been experienced not just by surfers trying to change the board they currently have but for curious onlookers too. Wondering which setup helps to do more vertical turns or gain more speed are just a few factors why snooping surfers ask.

So, which is better? Quad or thruster?

The Dawn of Fins

To get a better idea of which setup is better, understanding how they came about and their purpose is where you should start.

It wasn’t until 1935 that fins were experimented to be part of surfboards. Before fins, planks were poor in managing the ripples that waves would produce. When fins came about, it kept riders poised up the surfboard with less difficulty.

Its evolution over the years brought us from the birth of single-fin to different assortments of fin setups. This improvement allowed for boards to interchange between thrusters and quads.

Fins are not just an accessory to make your surfboard look professional. They are significant in defining how you ride. They account for half of your would-be performance. That means, its not just the board that lets you ride better.

Fins, with their adequate set of, proper placement, and correct configuration enhance your ride, even more so satisfies you ultimately in the waves.

Quad vs Thruster Fins

Amongst the many fin setup for boards, quads and thrusters are the most preferred choices, especially in modern shortboards. Both can work in all conditions but it all boils down to personal fondness. They equally have advantages and disadvantages with different feelings and lines drawn on the waves.

Quad Fin Setup

Having superior down-the-line speed to thrusters is the quad fin setup. This is because of the removal of the center fin that lessens the drag. The added grip and speed offered by quad setup can be put to good use particularly in fast, heavy, and hollow waves.

Not to mention its speed and tight turning abilities contribute to the quad’s strength in smaller, peaky, and weaker swells.

It is important to take note of where to place the quad fin plugs on the tail of your board. The distance between fins and whether they are close to the tails affects how they perform.

The closer the fins are clustered together and the further back they are set, the more they act like a thruster. The farther apart they sit together and the closer they are to the rail, the quicker they are down the line. It also helps to make your board become a tighter turning arc.

Riding the Quad Fin Setup


Quad fins help hold and change direction even when they produce drag when surfing in a straight line. Shapers’ purpose in modeling the board is to channel the water through the back of the board.

The water that hits the thruster’s tail fin slows you down. Water tearing out of the back tail unobstructed does not account for losing speed.  This provides more advantages in smaller surf.

The bottom line is a rider with a thruster generates his speed while a quad naturally screams down the line.

Sizeable Surf

A greater number of big wave surfers choose quad fins when taking on risky breaks such as Jaws and Mavericks. The two fins near the rail working together are what makes the superior hold in larger surf. Outrunning a bomb is always better with a faster board with more hold.


Aside from the ease in going rail to rail with more fins further up the board, it also helps direct the board with more control in less response time. This is because they hold a higher line in sharper waves and generate more drive through a turn.


Everyone wants that fast but loses feeling while maintaining control and this is exactly what quad fins offer. The lack of the back fin which acts as thrusters make it and freer all the while allowing you to add a bit of length to your curves and helping you hold speed through turns.

What riders don’t like about quad fin setups is that they can be somewhat unpredictable to ride. They are not easy to slow down especially when you are trying to stall or wash off speed.

Which Quad Fin to Try?

Alpha Quad Fin by Futures Controller delivers the highest performance when it comes to maintaining a great balance of spring, hold, and predictability. Its special composite design along with the help of 3M makes them great for creating a ride at the local beach as they give you greater control than a thruster configuration.

Quads are ideal for:

  • Small days for:
    • To make flat sections
    • To get enough speed to ride the wave
  • Hollow days because they:
    • Are quicker than thrusters
    • Have fins on each side that hold better for sharp take offs
    • Jump the line in barreling conditions where there is not much room to do turns

Thruster Fin Setup

The most common of fin configuration is the thrusters. Simply because they work. They are the most balanced and conventional fin setup. Thrusters are fast and they give excellent control with unbeatable balance of drive, speed, and maneuverability as you push through turns.

With a lot of fins configurations, you’d wonder why thruster setup remains.

Thruster setup is the go-to for surfboards because they are ideal for those super ripple days. While you can get your quad in small waves or hollow water conditions that are down the line, thruster gets you what you want when you have time to show off.

Instead of speeding past sections, thruster setup gives you a controlled drag that is suitable when you do high-level surfing on good quality waves.

Riding the Thruster Fin Setup

Strong Points

Thruster’s biggest strength is that it is strong in a wide range of conditions. It can hold well in a steep and barreling condition. This setup lets the rider do vertical surfing that has opened the doors for above the lip as well as aerial tricks.

Thrusters are the “working class” fins because they get the job done. They are extremely balanced and is a dependable way to get everything you want out of your waves.


The only downside for the thruster fin setup is the drag that the fins create when the board is heading in a straight line. To make good use of a board with this kind of setup, the riders have to have the board on rail, turning constantly.

Best Conditions

Being the best in a wide range of conditions, thruster fin setup does not limit you from riding any kind of waves. You can ride it in a 2 ft condition with your longboard, or a 20 ft condition with a shortboard.

Thruster fin setup allows you to make use of any kinds of boards to ride them to their fullest ability.

What Thruster Fin to Try?

Small Tech Flex by Futures is a favorite when it comes to thruster fins. Its reduced and refined tip along with a medium base delivers a very reliable drive, release, and control in its most powerful surf.

Thrusters are ideal for:

  • Pros and beginners with their ample speed, control, and maneuverability
  • Vertical surfing and higher performance maneuvers


Choosing between quad and thruster fin setup, especially when you went through thorough research of what each can do, can greatly affect the way you look at them. Possibly, you can even change the way you handle the amount of fun you have in the water.

However, the most important thing is how well you understand how you want to perform and in what conditions.

Setting your board up with a quad allows you to ride certain waves to its full potential. But, it does not replace the snappy, all-around action of a thruster.

The thruster, even with its strength in a wide range of water conditions its unpredictability can only be fun in certain moments. Sometimes, a simple turn makes you slide further than expected or flare-up fins higher on the lip.

The best way to decide is to figure out which works best for you. The waves you like to surf and the style in which you like to surf should be taken into consideration. The setup of the fins underneath your board makes it feel completely different. And it could be for better or for worse.

Remember that you can always experiment with the different shapes, sizes, and setups of fins to find out which setup is the true ground you can surf on.

Related Resources

This post may contain links that we earn a small commission from, at no cost to you, read more.

Leave a Comment