Surfboard fins are a vital part of your surfing experience. They help to provide speed, control, and direction.
Just like a swan that swims along the water, the top is graceful and elegant while underneath all the hard work is being done. Surfboard fins are exactly the same. It’s no good having a fantastic surfboard without the right surfboard fins underneath; they help you to control your line along the wave and give you the ability to steer and perform your cutbacks as you get better in your surfing.
If you imagine surfing without a fin, you can picture the board sitting on top of the water without anything to grip onto; as you try to perform a turn the tail would just slide away. We are going to explain the benefits of a good fin and the different systems you can look out for when trying to choose the best surfboard fin.
What is the Best Surfboard Fin set up?
Depending on your board, the conditions and your ability, you will encounter different fin setups and each one has its own unique impact on performance.
- Single fin – This type of setup will normally be found on long boards. They provide the tail with a pivot point in which the rider can steer from. You often see the professionals or top level surfers turn their whole boards 180 degrees so that they can ride the nose too. They are able to do so because the larger rails on the board offer more stability in the water. A single fin is often larger in size, so therefore comes with some more drag resistance, but this is needed to help manoeuvre the longer/heavier surfboard.
- Twin Fin – Rather than the more traditional thruster (three fin), this setup comes without the central pivot point and features the two outer fins. These fins are curved to offer greater rail engagement and should have less drag without the central fin. This means greater straight line speed and is often seen on shorter boards.
- Thruster (3) Fin – This has two side fins that are curved for rail engagement along the wave face, but also comes with a central fin for stable base in which to start a turn. The surfer riding the wave should be able to use this as a rudder in which to create movement along the wave, while the outer find give the lift throughout the wave face.
- Quad Fin – Similar to the twin fin concept, as the outer fins are curved to offer a large amount of rail engagement with the wave. This setup might be seen in more gnarly conditions such as overhead barrels, as the surfer wants to have the grip on the wave and the straight line speed that it offers. They are normally used on short boards – they give the surfer a better grip on the wave than the twin fin options, which would be needed in heavy conditions.
The Best Surfboard Fins
Northcore Slice S7 Ultra Light Hex Core Surfboard Fin
Slice surfboard fins have been leading the way in producing high quality fins for the last decade. The S7 is a quality looking fin that is ideal for a heavier surfer. It is a Resin Transfer Mould (RTM) with hex core so it gives high level strength with very little weight. You get a free storage case and key with your purchase and comes as part of a three fin set up to complement your thruster.
Kanoa Honeycarbon Surfboard Fin
Kanoa have created a performance fin that performs really well within your turns. Aside from the high performance level, I think it looks great when the sun is shining through the core when the board is out of the water! The honey carbon fins give good flex for an experienced surfer. It is available in a truster or five fin set up so you can custom your look depending on your board set up. It is an Epoxy/Fibreglass RTM laminate so it’s very durable. The fin key and fin bag are included within the price and come with the twin tab/FCS system.
Koalition Tropical Leaves Double Tab Quad Fins Multi
A high performing set of fins that allow great manoeuvrability in all wave conditions. These are good fins as they allow good speed control and the ability to carve out tight turns in small wave conditions, which when surfing in the UK is really important. The design is spot on and brings your board to life. It comes with the FCS double tab locking system and are easily installed with the locking key.
Northcore Slice RTM Hex Core 9 Inch Centre Surfboard Fin
Calling all single fin riders, this Slice RTM ultra light hex core performance provides an excellent pivot point for types of wave. It is made from high quality resins and fibreglass cloth to create a quick moving fin that gives you good speed and traction on the wave face. This has a single tab fit for your board and is ideal for any longboard rider.
FCS II Carver PC Medium Tri Surfboard Fins
A set of surfboard fins that performs well on the open face of the wave. We like these fins due to the fact that it allows a nice drawn out turn. When in the water they give good stability on a point break wave – so in other words, if you are heading out to a regular spot that breaks consistently down the line, then these fins will serve you well.The FCS design means it comes with the double tab installation into the fin box. We think these suit a board with moderate to extreme rockers.
Kanoa Basic Surfboard Fins
Sometimes when you’re looking for items to buy in your surfing journey you can get lost in the jargon and not really know what you need. Here we have a set of basic fins that work in most surfing conditions; we like them because they suit all beginners and mid level abilities. They are cheap and FCS compatible – so just the job for anyone beginning their journey who wants some value for money.
Olaian – Soft Edge Surfboard Fins
We couldn’t review the best surfboard fins without touching on the soft edge designs. Now, if you read the article you already understand that by having these soft edge fins you are increasing your safety for any small impacts that occur. The benefit of these soft fins are that they come with a softer material that will have a greater amount of shock absorption – so you’re less likely to be injured during any falls. They obviously have more flex to them, so they’re not suitable for a high-performance surfer looking to make rapid turns, but they are perfect if you’re looking to get some fins for your kids new board or possibly your own board if you are a beginner.
Northcore Slice Futures Ultra Light Hex Core S5 3 Pack Surfboard Fin
Northcore knows how to design quality surf gear and they have done it again with this set of thruster fins. They are really versatile so you can use these in all conditions and we like them due to their incredible strength and flex. Unlike the S7 design, these are more geared to your mid weight surfers. Now that seems pretty vague, as what does mid-weight actually mean? I guess you’ll understand how much you weigh and if you put yourself in the mid weight category! They have the future single tab for installation and comes with key and storage case as standard.
What are Surfboard Fins made from?
- Fibreglass fins – This fin is made up from multiple layers of fibreglass cloth and resin. These fins are strong and stiff and are perfect for traditional surfboard styles. They are lightweight which is great for shortboards as you don’t want the extra weight sinking your smaller board.
- Composite Fins – These are made from more than just one material and are found on most standard surfboards. They are perfectly fine for all surfers, which is why they are mass produced. A high level surfer may find that they don’t give the right flex – but that’s not something I need to worry about.
- G10 Materials – A step up from the composite fin, these fins offer more flex so it offers the surfer a higher level of control over the wave.
- Performance Core Fins – These are extremely lightweight, which is great if you are designing a larger fin as they keep the whole of the boardweight down. These are high performance fins that often feature a hexagonal/honeycomb design.
- Soft Flex Fins – You will find these on most beginner boards or soft top surfboards due their low impact design. Made from flexible urethane, these fins are perfect for kids or new surfers as they wont hurt you should you end up wiping out with the board hitting you on the head…also safer for those around you who also might end up being hit!
Can I use any Fin on my Surfboard?
No! Don’t make the mistake of buying some sexy new fins for your surfboard, only to find out that they don’t fit. You will need to look at your fin box first before you choose the right fins for your board. There are two main fin bases known as:
- Single Tab or Future Fins
- Twin Tab or FCS II Fins
The main differences between the two are that the single tab slots into the board using, ironically, a single tab that pushes into the fin box and then screws in. Whereas the twin tab has two separate slots for the fin to push into. It’s really easy to tell them apart so don’t get too worried over choosing the right one.
Do I need to have Fins on my Surfboard?
Unless you are an expert surfer, you are going to need to purchase a set of fins along with your surfboard. The board that you have will normally dictate the type of fin setup. One thing to consider for beginners is choosing a rubber fin which will be more forgiving during your novice stage. Being a beginner involves falling off multiple times, a rubber fin will offer a safer alternative to the traditional plastic or fibreglass.