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There is more to buying surfboard fins than just searching for the right style or price. It’s more like finding the perfect piece of a puzzle that when completed gives you a capable and high performing surfboard. Having the right set of equipment, in this case a surfboard with the right fin setup can exponentially increase your performance.
1. Select a fin that complements your surfing style
2. Get a fin that matches your surfboard manufacturer’s recommendation
3. Select a fin designed for your weight
4. Choose a fin based on your budget without sacrificing build quality
Weight is a little-known factor when selecting the best fin that works for you. Your weight will have a significant effect on what type of fin size you should use. Sizes range from XS (extra small) all the way to XL (extra-large). Weight categories and their corresponding fin sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so be sure to check that out. But weight is not an answer to all solutions. Aggressive surfers, for example, can opt for a bigger fin size since this can give them better manoeuvrability when making turns.
There are 5 basic five setups: single, twin, thruster, quad, and five fins. Each of these are designed to change a surfboard’s behaviour. Selecting the best fin setup basically depends on your surfing style, skill level, and surfing conditions.
These work best for fast and straight shot surfing. These are also regularly found in longboards since these are ideal for relaxed surfing. Single fins perfectly complement the longboard’s stability providing better control and faster straight shot speeds.
A dual fin setup is geared towards improving performance. It gives you better speed, manoeuvrability, and the ability to make sharper turns. Dual fins are best used for small and medium-sized clean surf.
Tri fins (Thrusters)
Perhaps the most popular setup, tri fins or thrusters can be found on almost any surfboard type. It offers the best in terms of stability and manoeuvrability. An all-around performer, tri fins can be used by surfers of all levels.
Four fins (Quad fins)
Quad fins offer the best in terms of turning control. These are ideal for small surf conditions giving surfers better speed on small waves.
It’s not much about how many fins you can equip your surfboard but having the option of selecting different fin setups with its five fin boxes.
Let’s now go into the more technical aspect of how to choose fins for surfboards. The fin template is composed of several elements (area, height, base, rake, foil). Slight changes or any combination of any of these elements can influence your surfboard’s behaviour.
This is the distance from the tip of the fin to its base. The height of the fin can influence your surfboard’s stability and grip when making turns. Taller fins give you better hold and grip when making turns. Shorter fins, on the other hand, don’t give the same bite. Perfect for more advanced surfers that require better manoeuvrability.
The base refers to the widest point of the fin and is where the fin attaches to the fin box on your surfboard. The larger the base, the better hold and drive. It gives water a longer area to run along thus giving you better speed. A shorter base gives you the exact opposite. By offering less resistance, it allows you to make tighter turns and tighter pivot.
This refers to the arc, or how much the fin curves back to the base. More rake draws out your turning arc increasing drive while making turns. Smaller rakes provide faster speeds and give better control when making short, quick turns.
This affects how water moves around the fins or how your surfboard is able to slice through the water. Its distinct shape is determined by the inside and outside faces of the fin. The thinnest area is located near the tip of the fin and gradually becomes thicker as it reaches the base.
Your fins flexibility depends on how it is constructed. The more flexible a fin, the less it is predictable. This makes it perfect for surfers looking for a playful surfing experience. Stiffer fins have predefined characteristics, giving you better control over your surfboard’s behaviour.
The next thing to consider, and in this case the most deciding factor is to determine what type of surfer you are or your skill level. There’s no point setting up your surfboard for bigger waves if you end up wiping out every time.
For more advanced surfers who are trying to maximise their performance, having the right fins is critical. Beginners, on the other hand, could settle for longboards with a single fin setup since it gives them better stability and an excellent platform for training.
One of the most important things to remember when shopping for surfboard fins is that the basic characteristics of each is the exact opposite of the other. Take for example, fin height. Tall fins give you better grip but suffer in terms of speed when making turns compared to their shorter counterparts. It is finding the balance between each factor (construction, fin setup, fin number) and matching that your needs gives you the best result.
For a more comprehensive look into surfboard fins and their specific components, check out our Definitive Surfboard Fin Guide.