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How to buy surfboard fins

Buying the correct surfboard fins can be a little tricky but with the right knowledge finding the perfect set of fins can be easy. The right set of fins will enhance the performance you get from your surfboard while the incorrect ones can make it feel sluggish and dead in the water. Surfboard Fins have several distinct characteristcs that will determine how they will perform and whether or not it is the right choice for your needs.

First step in choosing the right fins is knowing the type of fin system your surfboard uses. The two most common fin systems are Future Fins & FCS Fins. Future Fins uses a single box that the fin slides into with a single screw at the front of the Futures fin box. FCS Fins utilizes both a single box (fusion box) and 2 circle boxes (X2 Plugs), the fins have two tabs and are secured to the surfboard via 2 side screws.

Future Fin Box        Future Fin              FCS Fusion Fin Box          FCS X2 Fin Plugs                   FCS Fin

 Future fin box        Future WCT HC Fin        FCS fusion fin box                   FCS X2 fin plugs               FCS PC5 Fin   

Now that you know which fin system you need the next step is choosing the correct fin size. Most fins from Futures & FCS are labeled by size from XS-XL, XS being for a lighter smaller surfer and XL being for a heavier larger surfer. Choosing a fin based off weight range is a great place to get started. Keep in mind this rule can vary, for example a surfer may want to try a larger fin for bigger surf or go with a smaller fin to loosen up a stiff board.

Surfboard Fin Size Range:

  • XS:   Surfers 121lb & Less
  • S:     Surfers 121lb-154lb
  • M:     Surfers 143lb-176lb
  • L:      Surfers 175lb-198lb
  • XL:   Surfers over 187lb


The Final step in buying the right surfboard fins is choosing the fin type that is right for your needs and choosing a fin template that is right for your surfboard and will complement your surfing style. For example a fin that is more vertical with less rake will have tighter snappier turns while a more raked fin will have more hold and longer drawn out arcing turns. The same hold true for the base of a fin, a wider base will have more drive and hold while a narrower base will be looser with less drive.

Fin Types:

Twin Fins will surf looser, have less hold in bigger surf, be fast down the line with longer drawn out turns.

Thrusters considered to be the ultimate shortboard fin, have less speed down the line but enable the tightest arcing turns while maintaining stability.

Quad Fins will be fast down the line like twins with more stability and ability to hold in big surf. Turns will be more drawn out than a thruster but tighter than a twin fin.


The elements that make up your surfboard fin:


BASE: The length between the leading and trailing edge where the fin meets the board. Base is primarily linked to drive. Fins with a longer base will offer substantially more drive and acceleration.

Depth DEPTH: The distance the fin penetrates into the water. Depth directly relates to hold. The greater the depth the more hold, the shorter the depth the more a board will slide and release.


SWEEP: The angle measuring how far the outline of the fin is curved backwards; also referred to as rake. Sweep has a direct influence on pivot. Fins with more sweep produce a longer turning arc, less sweep offers a tighter turning arc.


FLEX: The distortion of the fin from its original shape caused by lateral pressure during a manoeuvre. Flex influences the response characteristics of a fin. Fins with little flex (stiff) produce instant response, speed and drive. Fins with more flex (flexy) are more forgiving and offer a whipping sensation.

CANT: The angle of the side fins measured from a vertical line perpendicular to the flat bottom surface of the board. Cant has a direct effect on acceleration and manoeuvrability. Less cant produces faster acceleration and a stiffer feel. More cant will increase manoeuvrability and gives the board a loose feel.
FOIL: Refers to the shape and geometry of the inside and outside faces of the fin. Foils directly affect the flow of water over the surface of the fin. Different foils create variations in water flow and have a direct link to the overall performance of the fin and the board.