Choosing the Right Surfboard Fin

Surfboard fins are crucial in every surfer’s performance. Choosing the right fin has a significant impact on maneuvering, surfing, paddling, and popping out.

Throughout the years, surfboard fins have been providing stability, thrust, control, and drive for surfers. It helps the surfer to stay in the right direction and accelerate during small or big waves.

Choosing the right fin for a particular surfer can be overwhelming. Therefore, they must take a look at this exclusive article to gain expert tips when it comes to surfboard fins.

Surfboard Fin Types: Your Detailed Guide

What is the difference between a swappable (Removable) and a glassed-in fin?

Obviously, glassed-in fins are permanently laminated in the surfboard. It brings out a smoother performance compared to using a removable one. Its laminated fin affects the way that the board in overcoming both small and big waves. Most experienced surfers prefer to use this for better performance. However, this fin is challenging to repair.

Swappable fins are screwed into the surfboard. It can be easily removed and replaced using the small inset screw. For beginners, installing and removing this fin type can be confusing and daunting. Therefore, one must take time to learn first before buying one.

And one must make sure that the screw is loose enough to replace the old fin. Afterward, center the new fin and tighten the screw using the key.

What are the different box types or fin systems?

#1. Dual Tab (FCS and FCS II) Fin Boxes

FCS means Fin Control System. Since the 1990s, it became one of the most popular surfboard fins worldwide. An FCS product features two plugs or tabs that will secure the fin to the board. Recently, FCS has released a keyless Fin called FCS II. It can be easily installed in a surfboard without any grub screws or keys.

#2. Single-Tab (Futures) Fins

Single-tab Fins, also known as Future Fins, are more user-friendly compared to FCS. It is easier to install and, at the same time, stronger. When a single-tab fin breaks, only the fins are affected. When the FCS fin broke, there was a considerable possibility of a broken board, too.

Box Type XS S M L XL
FCS Under 120 lbs. 120 – 155 lbs. 140 – 175 lbs. 165 – 200 lbs. 190 lbs. +
Future 75 – 115 lbs. 105 – 155 lbs. 145 – 195 lbs. 180 lbs. N/A

#3. Three Fins (Thruster)

Thruster fins work better in all ocean conditions. It provides a more stable feeling in maneuvering the board. The three fins also allow the surfer to speed up to turn around comfortably.

#4. Rainbow Fin Co.

The Rainbow fin is almost similar to Future fins but has smaller fin boxes. Only a small area of the base will fit in the box, and the design has a similarity to a rainbow. Some Rainbow fin products can fit into FCS and Future, which makes them versatile compared to other box types.

#5. Longboard Fins

Unlike other fins, only the base of a longboard fin will fit in the box. It aims to provide adjustability to the fin itself and the surfer. A surfer can have options to sit closer to the back (this position adds more control to the board) or closer to the center (this position is ideal for turning) of his surfboard.

#6. Patagonia Fins

The Patagonia fin system came from the famous Fletcher Chouinard. It has a unique setup since the fin is screwed and tightened from the board’s deck. Additionally, its outline is made up of small curves that can hold the fin in place tighter.

#7. Turbo Tunnel

The Turbo Tunnel has a more innovative design compared to other box types. It has a tub that runs through the center of the fin. It allows the fin to grip the wave tighter. Plus, it can also give the surfer a longer nose ride, quicker turn, smoother re-entries, and increased stability during the performance. This fin can also bring out better maneuver and speed.

Which is better: FCS or Future Fins?

Surfers prefer to use FCS fins since these products are readily available worldwide. It is an ideal option for surfers who travel a lot. However, these fins are more costly compared to Future fins.

Some surfers complain about the FCS price. Therefore, they choose to have a Future fin. This product is not only easy-to-install but also durable. However, the Future fin system is not accessible in some places. Therefore, some surfers might find it hard to find a replacement for their broken Future fin.

What is the essential measurement in choosing a surfboard fin?

Sweep (Rake)

The sweep, also known as the rake of the fin, is the measurement of “how far the front edge of the fin arcs backward”. To measure a fin’s rake, a surfer can imagine a line that continues and extends from the back up to the tip of the fin. It determines the relation of fin curves to their base. Fins with small rakes can propel the board easier. It also helps a surfer to have a more stable and predictable turn in the water. On the other hand, big rakes can allow the surfer to turn his board tighter and more playfully. However, bigger rakes do not offer more stability compared to small rakes.

Toe (Splay)

A fin’s toe is the angle of the box from its center stringer. Side fins that are closer to the stringer are called toe-ins. Toe-in can allow the water to pressure the outer part of the fins. This way, the board becomes more responsive to the surfer.

Base (Length)

The base is the length of this fin. It measures the widest point of the entire body and locks with the board once installed. Fins with more extended bases can allow the water and the surfer to move faster. Therefore, if the surfer wants to do a sharper turn, he must go for fins with a shorter base.


The foil is the measurement of the fin from front to back. It generates the lifting part under the board. The thinnest part of the foil is at the tip while the thicker part is near the base. The Foil’s responsibility is to alter the flow of water and bring it over the fin’s surface. It has a significant impact on a rider’s performance and on the surfboard, as well. The middle fins, also known as 50/50, bring out even distribution and stability. The flat and inside fins boost a surfer’s balance, speed, control, and playfulness. The concave design of an inside fin allows the surfer to generate more speed and fluidity for the entire performance.


The flex of a fin provides a more playful and smoother feeling during the performance. It can boost a surfer’s speed in the hollow waves. Nowadays, fins are both soft and stiff. These features give the rider a stable, predictable, flexible, and robust platform. Moreover, the flex also helps the rider to create sharper turns. The stiffness of the flex is ideal for beginners since it can give them the stability they need in training.

Height (Depth)

Surfers can measure the height of a fin from the base up to the tallest part of the entire body. It is basically how far the fin sticks in the water. This measurement mostly affects the surfer’s grip in turns. Considering this measurement can improve a surfer’s stability and grip in taking turns. Experts suggest taller fins for surfers who want to control and turn their boards easier while shorter fins for better maneuvering.


Cant is the measurement of a fin’s tilt in degrees. If it’s straight (90 degrees), it will boost the rider’s speed. If it is titled more than 90 degrees, it will bring out increased responsiveness. Canted fins are suitable for surfers who want to improve their board’s responsiveness in maneuvering and turning. The less cant, the more acceleration and control the surfboard will have. However, it will make the performance less playful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Does surfboard fin size matter?

Yes. The size of a surfboard fin has a massive impact on a rider’s performance. If one wants to increase their control in the water, he or she must choose a larger fin. If he or she wants to be playful, he can stick to a smaller fin. According to studies, with the correct size of a surfboard, surfers can increase their up to 40% of their performance. Therefore, every surfer must take thorough research on finding the best surfboard for them. He must know his exact weight first before purchasing one (it will serve as his guide).

Q: What is the difference between carbon-based and composite surfboard fins?

The carbon-based fins contain lightweight and ultra-stiff carbon fiber that results in an excellent-quality base. This quality allows the rider to enjoy his maximum speed and drive while not losing the board’s flexibility. This surfboard fin also helps the rider to conserve his energy since it can easily flow through the water. The composite surfboard fins are made using a combination of fiberglass and pure plastic. It is slightly faster in water compared to other fins. This product is ideal for maneuvering and turning.

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