Surfboard fins: the best designs provide the additional drive and response surfers need

Surfboard fin technology has evolved dramatically in the 21st century. Get the best fin setup for your surfboard.

For a long time, fins were considered a secondary gear item in surfing.

Today, they are seen as a crucial tool for high-performance wave riding, and the right - or wrong - fins can make the difference in competition mode.

So, what does a fin setup do for a surfer? Surfboard fins provide stability, control, drive, and thrust.

They allow us to direction, sink, and accelerate in a wide range of conditions, in smaller or bigger waves, in mushy or punchy waves.

How to Choose the Best Surfboard Fins

Selecting the best fin kit for your surfboard and surfing skills can be a mind-boggling endeavor, but it is simpler than it appears.

Fins play a decisive role in surfing and surfboard performance. Surfers tend to believe it's all about shaping and surf skills, but fins have evolved much in the 21st century.

So, how should we choose a new set of fins? First, let's learn more about their characteristics.

A surf fin has nine major elements: material, base, depth, sweep, area, cant, toe, foil, and flexibility.

Surfers should pick fins carefully by adjusting their surfboard to their experience.

Molded fins are the most common kits available on the market. They often are seen as custom fins and come with the usual surfboards sold in a surf shop.

There are also resin transfer-molded (RTM) fins - high-tech units designed with aerospace-based concepts.

The RTM fin has a layer of honeycomb foam covered in fiberglass. This gives it a stiff base with a certain amount of tip flex.

Surf fins can vary in flexibility. The most resistant fins ensure more drivability, while a softer kit provides more safety.

Fins can be inserted into a wider or narrower base (found in the surfboard fin box), depending on your speed/drive preferences.

Shorts fins are great for "slide surfing" because they provide less friction in the water.

Longer fins may help a surfer avoid wipeouts but will also slow his or her rides. If the overall fin area (base plus depth) is rather large, it will be harder to turn and carve.

The sweep of a fin is very relevant, too. If your fins are strongly angled backward, your bottom turns and cutbacks will be more rounded.

With the cant angle of a fin, you may fine-tune the responsiveness of your surfboard: decreasing the cant will ride you faster in a straight wave line.

The toe angle is the angle in relation to the stringer. It can be angled inward or not.

If the front of the fins is closer to the stringer, making an inverted "V," any slight body balance adjustment will provoke a response from the surfboard.

Finally, look for the importance of the foil. Like on aircraft wings, you can find curved or foiled fins.

In hydrodynamics, the more pronounced the foil, the slower you'll surf a wave, and a lift will be created under the surfboard.

In the next chapter, we'll discover the best surfboard fins in the world for your level of surfing.

Fin Setups and Brands

We recommend you take a look at a few tips on fin selection based on specific waves. Nevertheless, there are a few rule-of-thumb formulas for making good surfboard fin choices.

For example, if you're a light surfer, choose fins with less area; if your surfboard has a wide tail, choose larger fins.

Are you looking for quick responses from your surfboard? Buy a stiffer fin kit. Are you going for big waves on a small surfboard? Choose larger fins with a more "swept back" shape.

There are multiple combinations, and you are free to mix, match, and test them. One thing is certain: you "will feel it" when you're riding the right configuration.

There are basically six main fin setups: single fin, twin fin, thruster, 2+1 fin, quad, and five fins. The surfboard fin industry is comprised of no more than eight brands.

Fin Control Systems (FCS) is the leading brand and was founded in Australia in 1995 by Brian A. Whitty.

Futures Fins is also fighting for a relevant share of the market with an alternative concept.

Both fin brands offer a complete collection for all types of surfing needs. A few all-around models will allow you to combine and balance speed with surfboard responsiveness.

 

FCS II GM PCC Tri Set

FCS II GM PCC Tri Set

Gabriel Medina's signature fin. An all-around fin setup for a wide range of wave conditions, from beach breaks to point breaks.

For surfers under 165-200 lbs (75-90 kg).

Base: 4.4​8" / 113.7mm
Depth: 4.67" / 11​8mm
Area: 15.​58"2 / 10​054mm2
Sweep: 33.7°
Foil: ​IFT

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II MF PC Tri Set

FCS II MF PC Tri Set

Gabriel Medina's signature fin. An all-around fin setup for a wide range of wave conditions, from beach breaks to point breaks.

For surfers under 120 lbs (55 kg).

Base: 4.13" / 105mm
Depth: 4.30" / 109mm
Area: 13.26"2 / 8554mm2
Sweep: 33.7°
Foil: IFT

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II JF PG Tri Set

FCS II JF PG Tri Set

Jeremy Flores' signature fin. A fin setup for driving hard off the bottom and performing fast, whipping turns in overhead waves. Ideal for performance boards with deep concaves and moderate-to-extreme rocker.

For surfers between 145-175 lbs (65-80 kg).

Base: 4.65" / 118mm
Depth: 4.58" / 116mm
Area: 14.96"2 / 9652 mm2
Sweep: 33.7°
Foil: Flat

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II FT PC Tri Set

FCS II FT PC Tri Set

Filipe Toledo's signature fin. An ultra-light fin setup that will deliver exceptional drive and control off the bottom without hampering the speed off the top and release through the lip. Ideal for performance boards with deep concaves and moderate-to-extreme rocker.

For surfers between 165-200Lbs (75-90 kg).

Base: 4.​5​2" / 1​1​5mm
Depth: 4.​​54" / 11​​​8mm
Area: 1​5.​71"2 / 10​134 mm2
Sweep: 3​4.8°
Foil (Side Fins): 80/20
Foil (Centre Fin): 50/50

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II Firewire PC Carbon Tri Set

FCS II Firewire PC Carbon Tri Set

A fin setup designed by Nev Hyman. A great pick highly maneuverable fin which provides exceptional stability through turns. Ideal for performance shortboards and hybrid models.

For surfers between 145-175 lbs (65-80 kg).

Side Fins:
Base: 4.37" / 113mm
Depth: 4.89" / 124mm
Area: 15.78"2 / 10180mm2
Sweep: 32.1°
Foil: Flat

Center Fins:
Base: 4.38" / 111mm
Depth: 4.57" / 116mm
Area: 14.91"2 / 9622 mm2
Sweep: 34.7°
Foil: 50/50

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II Performer PC Quad Set

FCS II Performer PC Quad Set

An all-around quad fin setup that will deliver a balance of drive, pivot, and hold - ideal for all types of surfboards.

For surfers between 145-175 lbs (65-80 kg).

Front:
Base: 4.37" / 111mm
Depth: 4.55" / 115mm
Area: 14.81"2 / 9554mm2
Sweep: 33.7°
Foil: Inside

Rear:
Base: 4.09" / 104mm
Depth: 4.26" / 108mm
Area: 12.63"2 / 8150mm2
Sweep: 32.4°
Foil: 80/20

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II Super PC Tri-Quad Set

FCS II Super PC Tri-Quad Set

A fin setup developed by Super Brand capable of offering great drive and control off the bottom. Ideal for surfboards with deep concaves and moderate-to-extreme rocker.

For surfers between 165-200 lbs (75-90 kg).

Side Fins:
Base: 4.58" / 116mm
Depth: 4.66" / 118mm
Area: 15.73"2 / 10150mm2
Sweep: 37.0º
Foil: Flat

Center Fin:
Base: 4.47" / 113mm
Depth: 4.54" / 115mm
Area: 14.96"2 / 9650mm2
Sweep: 37.0°
Foil: Flat

Rear Fins:
Base: 4.​​​33" / 110mm
Depth: 4.​​​51" / 1​15mm
Area: ​14.18"2 / ​9150mm2
Sweep: 32.0°
Foil: Flat

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II MB PC Carbon Tri-Quad Set

FCS II MB PC Carbon Tri-Quad Set

Matt Biolos's signature tri-quad fin setup. It will allow you to choose the thruster for more control in hollow sections or the quad for more speed and flow when carving on the open face. Ideal for shortboards and hybrid models.

For surfers between 145-175 lbs (65-80 kg).

Front Fins:
Base: 4.​30" / 1​09mm
Depth: 4.​59" / 1​16mm
Area: 1​4.49"2 / 9​347mm2
Sweep: 31.7°
Foil: Flat

Rear Fins:
Base: 4.10" / 104mm
Depth: 4.26" / 108mm
Area: 12.64"2 / 8158mm2
Sweep: 32.4°
Foil: 50/50

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS VS Knubster

FCS VS Knubster

A center fin designed by Sean Mattison. Add it to a quad setup to increase drive and provide directional control through turns without sacrificing speed, flow, or the freedom of movement typically associated with a quad.

Buy: Amazon.com

 

FCS II Delpero

FCS II Delpero

A longboard fin with a longer base and lower sweep for making tight turns with control and speed.

7.5" Model
Base: 5.63" / 143mm
Depth: 7.51" / 191mm
Area: ​28.​80"2 / 1​6188mm2
Sweep: 3​1°

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Futures Jordy Medium

Futures Jordy Medium

Jordy Smith's signature fin. A balanced thruster fin setup featuring a neutral flex pattern combined with an additional rake and a thinner tip for a great blend of hold when on rail and release off the top.

For surfers between 145-195 lbs (65kg - 88kg).

Side Fins:
Height: 4.54
Base: 4.59"
Area: 14.85"

Center Fin:
Height: 4.54"
Base: 4.59"
Area: 14.85"

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Futures HS 4.20 Generation

Futures HS 4.20 Generation

A quad rear fin setup designed by Hayden Coz. A speed-generating configuration that maintains an element of control.

For surfers heavier than 180 lbs (80 kg +).

Rear Fins:
Height: 4.21
Base: 3.99"
Area: 12.09"

Buy: Amazon.com


DorsalRainbow Fins, Fin Solutions, Kinetik RacingTurbo Tunnel, Red-X Fins, and Speed Fins are also brands operating in the surfboard fin market. Almost all fins can be tightened down with a Hex key or Allen wrench.


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