The MOST important upgrade for any surfboard. EVER.

March 06, 2014

Most surfboards in your local shop don’t come with a set of fins included in the price of the board. Surf shops love this because now you’re going to have to hover over the fin wall and pick out a set that’s going to ding ya at least $40 minimum. I rode stock fins for YEARS before I realized I’d been basically riding on junk the WHOLE time. There were so many aspects to fins that I really hadn’t even figured in. These days, there are countless fin systems for an endless array of applications. Combine that with the uniqueness of every surfer out there and we’re talking millions of different combinations that are possible.
We do you justice by providing you with a set of fins to get you started and in the water straight from our shop at no extra cost. They work plenty well… but… if you want to truly unleash the beast under your feet, you’re going to need a set of fins that are designed to HAUL.
Think of it like this:
You just purchased a sports car… if you knew that a computer chip would take you from economy to racetrack ready at the fraction of the cost and the push of a button, would you really just continue to drive it as is? Neither would I.
The trick to finding the right fin for you doesn’t need to be difficult. In fact, it’s very very simple. Picking out the proper fin comes down to these two simple concepts:
  • Fin cluster (single /twin / 2+1/tri/quad/ 5-fin combo)
  • Surfer weight
Keep in mind, these are just the basics! There are other factors such as fin cant, toe, flex, material, etc. But for our purposes, those things don’t really matter in light of the big picture.  Let’s look into how each of these primary aspects affect the process of choosing the right fin.

Fin Cluster

The fin cluster you choose is directly related to:

  • The type of wave you’re looking to shred…. and…
  • the style of shredding you’re looking to do.

As you choose your board, you’ll need to assess what you want to use your surfboard for. Don’t just pull the board off the rack because it’s the model you want. Make sure it’s the right fin cluster for the right wave. You may find that the model you want may also come in a variety of fin clusters.
No two waves are ever the same, sometimes alike, but never the same. That said, your local spot my go from flat to double overhead in a manner of just a few days. You’re going to need at least a couple of boards to handle surfing in different conditions.

No two surfers are alike. You can use two entirely different styles of surfboards on the same wave depending on how you like to surf. To add, you can get the same surfboard to behave differently depending on it’s fin cluster.

Here’s an example of board adjustments from 2-8 feet:
  • When it’s 2 foot perfection, you’re probably going to use a single fin and work on footwork and noseriding.
  • As it builds to 2-3 occ. 4ft, a short wide fish(quad or twin) or full figured shortboard (thruster or quad) can be a blast!
  • As the waves approach 5-6 feet, longboarders tend to add small side fins to their setup (2+1) or go with a thruster fin cluster, both adding more hold in the wave. Shortboarders put away the fish and break out small high performance shortboards.
  • Once the waves push towards 8 feet, longboarders swap out for larger step-ups that are typically 7-8ft long or longer and shortboarders gravitate towards a shortboard that’s 4-8 inches longer than their standard shorty. At this point, thruster fins, meant for pivot, give way to quad fin clusters; the benefit sought after in this case, more hold and down the line thrust. Tails become narrower, nose rocker gets lifted.

One thing is for sure, be mindful when looking over a board, especially if you’re ordering one online. Buying a set of thruster fins won’t do you any good if you pull the trigger on a surfboard that’s got a quad fin cluster.


Surfer Weight

The smaller the surfer, the smaller fin surface area needed for water to push against to create thrust. The larger the surfer, the broader the surface needed for thrust. The size of the fin needs to be able to push back against the force of the surfer. Think of your fins as if they’re a bird’s wings. The bigger the bird, the more lift needed to get the bird off the ground and soaring quickly.
Here’s another thing, when it comes to bigger boards, you’re going to need a larger rudder to steer that ship. Not only that, you’re going to need a strong enough captain to work that rudder. In the longboard fin realm, board size is just as important as body weight when picking out a fin.



When it comes to smaller boards, many companies have their fin sets sized accordingly. In my case, I’m 210lbs, so technically I’m an XL, however, since I like quads, there’s plenty of fin to go around so I size down to a set of larges.
*Have a look at FCS’s size chart to the right to dial in the right size fin for you.

A note about quad fin setups...

A Final Thought
Fin companies do extensive testing with their pro riders. So much testing, that any given pro surfer, longboard or short, has a variety of fin sets to fit an array of conditions and fin clusters. A trend in thrusters and quads is to just create a convertible cluster of 5 fin boxes so that any given surfboard can be ridden either way depending on the wave or surfer. You don’t have to be a pro to take advantage of testing your equipment… here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way…

  • A stiff single fin with a lot of surface area creates heaps of stability… think noseriding.
  • Longboards with a more flexible, lower surface area fin, are incredibly nimble.
  • Downsizing your back fins in both quads and thrusters allows the board to pivot within a tighter arc.
  • Upsizing your back fins in a quad lengthens your turning arc and provides better hold.
  • Twin fin clusters are just the untamed, faster, yet more unpredictable brother to quad fin clusters.
  • Changing the foil (leading edge) of your fins can change the shape of your turning arc.
  • Removable fins are SO much more fun to play with than glass-ins!
FCS just restocked on a bunch of their most popular fins, so have a look, do your research and let us know what you need. Get out there, try switching things up on your trusty steed, and above all, play safe!
*Stay tuned through 2014 for a highly likely chance to be a part of our fin subscription program. Plans are under away.

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