As beginner surfers, fins do not play a critical role because they cannot perform radical maneuvers. However, It’s best to avoid big and stiff fins as they make it more difficult to turn the board.
But, it does not hurt to learn more for your improved self! Let’s dive deep into fin selection
The surfer’s weight, the type of waves, the surfboard, preferred brand and the desired outcome determine the suitable fins.
There are many choices when choosing surfboard fins, with a large variety that almost paralyses beginner surfers from too many options.
Let’s look at individual aspects of those to suit your needs.
It’s simple, your weight determines the size of the fins. However, FCS and Future recommend slightly different sizing. See Below table.
|Under 55Kg / 120 Lbs
|55-70Kg / 10-155 Lbs
|65-80Kg / 145-175 Lbs
|75-90kg / 165-200 Lbs
|Over 85Kg / 190 Lbs
Why do surfers with larger weights need to use bigger fins?
Fins are designed to match the force a surfer generates due to his/her weight. The larger the surface area is, the more resistance against water.
Think of it this way: when a surfer stands on a wave, the surfer’s weight will force him and the board down to the bottom of the wave. A fin will help counterbalance the gravity and make the surfer travel sideways.
Imagine having a very small fin. It will not provide any control against the gravity. On the other hand, if the fins are too big, it will be difficult to maneuver the board. Therefore, optimal balance is what the correct sizing will provide.
For most surfboards, there are only three options: FCS, Futures, and another generic brand that fits into the FCS or Futures fin box.
Choosing a fin brand is quite important in several waves.
Firstly, FCS and Future Fins are not compatible. Once you have committed, your next board will follow the same fin setup because you do not want to change the whole fin collection.
Once you have chosen the board, you cannot change the brand of the fin manufacturer. Changing the fins will mean removing the old fin boxes and replacing them with new ones. You must dig out the fin plugs by breaking the glasswork surrounding it.
If you are unsure which fin brands are better, please read here for my opinion.
Fin cant, the fin’s angle, compared to the board, is usually 6-7 degrees from vertical. Interestingly, future fins have a cant angle built into them, whereas FCS has a fin box that determines the cant ankle.
Thruster vs Quad
A thruster is three fins set up, with equal-sized fins on either side and a centre fin. The side fins are angled in (Toe-in angle), making turning easier. The centre fin helps the surfer to turn, but the centre fin create the drag, slowing down the speed.
Quad set-up involves four fins set up. The forward fins tend to be slightly bigger, and the angle of the fin placement is the same, which reduces drag. Therefore, the quad tends to be faster on the wave but slightly more challenging to turn than the thruster.
If unsure, you can have the best of both worlds: buy a five-fin set-up. You can ride as a quad or thruster. Luckily, most modern surfboards come with this option. A five-fin set can be quite expensive, but this can be a sure way to determine your preference.
However, it’s important to note that some surfboards have pre-determined fins. For example, most traditional fish surfboards come with twin fins. Most longboards come with a single fin or 1+2 ( single fin with small side fins = side bites).
If you want to learn about fins in full detail, read here
Different Fin Materials
Different fin materials affected how the board behaves. For example, stiffer fins tend to be more responsive, meaning the board will move quickly as it does not bend when the force is applied.
For softer types of fins, it can bend once the force is applied, and then as it returns to its original shape, it can generate power. FCS and Future Fins combine different materials to optimise this store and release energy without losing responsivity.
Because the combination of fins is almost limitless, it’s better to try a few different types to find your sweet spot. I recommend trial and error of one area of fin, e.g. Thurster vs Quad, before trialling on other materials.
How many fins should a beginner surfer have?
While it’s fun to have different fins to try on, most beginner surfers will not require more than one set of fins.
If money is not an issue, the number of fins required depends on what the surfer desires.
Before committing to fin sets, consider how long you will be riding the surfboard you are currently riding. Beginner surfers often change the surfboard quickly as they progress, and your preference may change.
As long as you are not changing the fin system, you can continue to use the same fin for your new boards.
If you want to learn about how the fins work in full detail, read here
Should you store a surfboard with fins on?
Storing with fins on is recommended to minimise unnecessary damage to the fin box with repetitive taking them on and off. This is especially true for FCS 2 fins because descent force is required to remove and put the fins in.
When storing the surfboard, you must first consider whether you will keep it vertical or horizontal. Storing the board with the fins facing up is essential if you are laying it horizontally.
If you are keeping the board vertical, keeping a reasonable distance between the board or a wall is essential so it does not come in contact unnecessarily.