Surfboard Fin Setups Decoded - Part 1

Surfboard fin setups all do something a little different. Each one changes the way a board will feel and surf. Which fin setup should go on what type of board and in what type of surf condition do they perform the best. We attempt to demystify it for you... pictures and everything.

Single: Classic Form.

single fin

Description: A large center fin with a wide base set along the stringer.

Wave Type: Highly variable depending on skill level.

Characteristics:

  • Great drive and balance
  • Not terribly maneuverable.
  • All but the most skilled will only be able to cruise in a straight line.

Style of Board: Longboard, Big Wave Guns, Retro Boards

Twin: Small Wave Specialist

twin fin setup

Description: As the name implies, Twin setups are two identical fins place on either side of the stringer.

Wave Type: Mushy, Knee to Chest High.

Characteristics:

  • Maneuverable and fast
  • Allows for drifting turns
  • A little wild and unpredictable
  • Terrible for big waves.

Style of Board: Fish

2+1: Combo

Description: Literally a combination of the twin and the single fin, hence 2+1.

Wave Type: All types.

Characteristics:

  • Maneuverable, stable, and adaptable.
  • Customizable: replace the twins and find your ideal setup
  • Rail to rail turning

Style of Board: Longboard

Tri/Thruster: All Rounder

thruster or 3 fin setup

Description: The thruster consists of three similarly sized fins and is what most people picture when they think “surfboard”. It is probably the single most popular configuration in the water.

Wave Type: All types.

Characteristics:

  • Stable and maneuverable
  • Reliable and consistent performance across wave conditions
  • Rail to rail turning

Style of Board: Shortboards, Funboards, Fish, Hybrids, Longboards... EVERYTHING!

Quad: Retro Cool.

quad fin setup

Description: Surprisingly this setup has been around for ages—since the 80’s. They’ve only recently made a return to popularity. There are a lot of big names out there riding Quads at the competition level.

Wave Type: Knee-high mush and titanic crushers

Characteristics:

  • Stupid maneuverable and highly responsive
  • Reduced drag compared to the thruster
  • Doesn’t function very well outside of ideal wave types

Style of Board: Fish, Shortboards, Hybrids

Twinzer: Uhm…what?

twinzer fin setup

Description: Looks like a Quad with the outer fins slimmed down. Rare and elusive, the Twinzer is the bigfoot of the surfing world.

Wave Type: Knee high to overhead

Characteristics:

  • Once you’re on the wave, a ridiculously fast and maneuverable ride
  • Turning feels like a cross between the Quad and Twin—halfway between drifting and carving
  • Quad vs. Twinzer: the debate still rages which of these is a superior ride. The Twinzer is looser and wilder, the Quad is more about control.

Style of Board: Hybrids

Bonzer/C5: Five times the fun.

bonzer fin setup

Description: Think Twinzer with a center fin.

Wave Type: Clean, hollow, and overhead

Characteristics:

  • Unbeatable in ideal wave type
  • Absolutely unredeemable in other conditions
  • Extremely customizable

Style of Board: Hybrids

Stay tuned, in part 2 we will attempt to walk you through the basics of fin design and construction. Changing your fins is the single great way to change the way your surfboard feels under foot. We'll do our best to help you figure out what to try next. Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Garek Hurt
Garek Hurt

Author



10 Comments

john n
john n

May 07, 2014

i think fin design and placement are a personal choice. yes you have given the text book explanation of them but what about those of us who dare to think outside of the book or box. i ride classic long boards (9’ and above) with a 2+1 configuration. i leave the center fin out riding with only the side bits. this works well in all surf from double over toe to triple over head. it is fast and loose a real wild ride. my brother is riding one of your 10’ ultimate lone boards this way and consentingly puts himself in the barrel. i think for fin choice there really is no better way then to just ride and see what feels best for you.

mark a
mark a

May 07, 2014

very cool and informative,i thought there were not that many,keep em comin!

Tony C
Tony C

May 07, 2014

The single fin I had on a semi-gun, 10’ in Hawaii was real good on pipe waves most size up to 15’, but after that it buzzed and vibrated like all get out on an 20’ Sunset Beach wave and I will never forget that feeling during the drop which was the fastest I think I ever went in any size wave. I rode an 8’ split tail board with twin fin at a fun pipe day 8-10’ and that board ripped so easy, concave bottom and was by far my best fun day ever on any board, I can remember. I really like twin fin boards for speed, rip lip manuevers, etc. I would probably use the tri-thruster, all same size fins on my next board, be it short or long board.

bob baxter
bob baxter

May 07, 2014

I see the Tri Thruster/all Rounder…. but not the same but with two smaller fins on the sides withe the larger fin in the center.
Thanks – My board I got from you all rocks (and has the fin set up as I just described.

James
James

May 07, 2014

Very nice explanation of the various fin configurations. I want to reference it on my wakesurf board blog.

jedprimm
jedprimm

May 07, 2014

That was very informative. Will help with my next board set up thanks for the info. You guys are always so helpful

Luc Stokes
Luc Stokes

May 07, 2014

Crugs- Thanks for the feedback. Everybody has their go to setup. I am not the end-all expert and this was just my opinion.

crugs
crugs

May 07, 2014

Nice info but I have to dissagree with the C-5 comment about only working in certain conditions. I have two C-5’s made by Stu Kenson and they work insane in everything from ankle snappers to DOH, mushy, hollow, dosen’t matter these boards go. Super fast, hold on the rail but slide when you want em’ to, I’ll never ride a thruster again. Maybe it has to do with the shaper?

Ron Cooper
Ron Cooper

May 07, 2014

This is a great description of the different fin set ups and there use. It’s amazing how going from a single fin to a thruster/tri fin set up can change your world.
Here in Oregon we are using 6 foot boards with quad and tri fin set ups. There are a couple of twinzer set ups but the classics are really common.
Kiting with a surfboard is where it all started and now kiters are moving away from twin tisp(wake board type board specific to kiting) and into surfboards.
Great information Luc,
Ron Cooper

brian bowron
brian bowron

May 07, 2014

Thanks very good info I have aways used a single now I would like to try other set up. thank

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