How To Choose Surfboard Fins

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So you’re surfing well, and it’s time to choose some new fins! Why? Because colourful fins make you faster! That’s why! Just kidding. Well, sort of – sometimes better fins do look cooler. Anyway, better fins mean you can surf in a way that’s more suited to yourself. In other words, you’ll be able to surf better. There's so much choice when it comes to surfboard fins though, it's easy to get the wrong ones. Use this guide to make sure you get it right!
There are three main factors to consider when you are choosing a set of fins. These things are you, your board and the waves.

You

How do you surf? Powerful surfers use larger, stiffer fins, which provide more drive and speed, and hold better during turns. However, if you aren’t a strong enough surfer, these kinds of fins will make the board too stiff and it will become harder to turn fluidly. On the other end of the spectrum, a fin that’s too small for you won’t provide enough drive, speed and hold. Without these, it becomes harder to do turns.

Your weight also plays a role in choosing whether to use small, medium or large fins. Here’s a table to give you a bit of a guideline:

Fin size Optimum Surfer Weight
XS Under 55kg
S 55kg - 75kg
M 65kg - 80kg
L 75kg - 90kg
XL Over 85kg

 

Your Board

All surfboards are different. Some fins, therefore, will work with some, and not with others. More so, the right fin can potentially make even a not so good surfboard fly down the line, while the wrong fin could leave your brand new Kelly Slater Pro model sitting in the dust. Here are some hints:

• Boards with more concave and boards with wider tails (eg. a fish tail) tend to work best with fins that have a greater surface area, and more depth and/or sweep (also known as rake).
• Boards with less concave and boards with narrower tails (eg. a gun) tend to work best with an average to smaller size fins, relative to your weight.

 

The waves

This is a bit of a tricky one, because most of us surf a huge variety of waves. But think of the waves you surf most of the time.

For example, while I love point-breaks and reef waves, I actually spend about 80% of my time surfing weaker beach breaks. When buying a fin, choose one that will give you the most fun, most of the time. There is no perfect, all-encompassing fin. At least, not that I know of – feel free to let me know if there is! Here are some rules of thumb:

• For long point breaks, you tend to want longer turns with a wider, less tight arch. For this you want fins with more sweep.
• For faster, more hollow waves (think of that magical/dream
day when you rock up to your local beach to find perfect sandbars and barrels… or just that day when it’s a little more powerful), you want the opposite. You want fins with less sweep and a wider base, which will make your turning arch tighter and more pivotal.

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Of course, sometimes point breaks are faster and more powerful, and sometimes beach breaks are fatter and weaker- these are only guidelines. At the end of the day, the only way to really figure out what kind of fin suits you is to experiment as much as you can, though if you follow this guide you’ll be well on the way to getting it right. The best way to experiment is to find your local FCS Test Drive Centre, where you can try different fins to your heart’s content.

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