Fins - they are crucial for our surfing, but often people just throw any old fin in their board and hope for the best. Whilst this is fine, if you are wanting to ride your board to its highest potential (of your ability) then understanding the dynamics of fins is an important piece of knowledge you need to have.
Just like different shaped boards, fins can also completely change your surfing experience. Not only are there different materials, sizes and shapes of fins, there are also different ways to arrange fins on your board.
Fins are so important because they allow your board to drive through the water with force, stability and direction. Without them, you would be aimlessly spinning (also fun, but only on certain occasions.)
This article will cover both the different set ups of fins (single, fin, thruster, quad etc) as well as how the shape of a fin will influence your performance
So - lets get into it!
The Single Fin
This is an old school type of set up, but still loved by many. Usually the single fin is found on a longboard, and will bring a cruisey kind of look to riding. The fin will usually be quite long and wide to give some sort of stability.
The good thing about single fins is that they create nice slow-mo and smoothly drawn out turns which can look really stylish. They are also pretty quick as there isn’t much drag with just the one fin. If you are wanting to do sharper, quicker turns however, this set up may not be for you.
If you go from riding a thruster to a single fin, it will probably feel a little wobbly too, as they don’t provide much stability for the surfer when up and riding.
The Twin Fin
In my opinion, twin fins are super fun, but also quite strange boards to surf. Often the twin fin set up is on shorter, kind of stubby boards. Recently they seem to have become popular again, and I see why.
Twinny’s are generally better surfed in small to medium surf as they can feel very loose, making deep bottom turns difficult to accomplish. The are quick and skatey, but also take some time to get used to after surfing the standard thruster set up.
This is the most standard and popular type of fin set up, where three identical sized fins are placed in the board. Compared to the twin fin, the extra fin placed in the board at the back gives the board more manoeuvrability and stability at once. Because of this, surfers are able to do high performance manoeuvres, and push what it possible for surfing nowadays.
The good thing about the thruster setup is that it works well with most level of surfers, providing a good balance between stability and responsiveness. The one downfall is that thruster set ups can cause the surfer to go slightly slower than the twin fin due to drag, however a good surfer should have enough knowledge and techniques to create their own speed and not just rely on their board.
Finally, the quad fin set up.
I love the quad fin setup as they can be really whippy, and slidey, which isn’t for everyone, but I personally enjoy the feeling. Due to the slideyness, this fin set up is typically surfed in smaller waves. Quad’s are faster than thrusters, as with no centre fin there is less drag, and they are very manoeuvrable. The downside to this, is that quads can feel a little too loose sometimes, especially if you are not used to surfing them.
There are other set ups, such as having small trailer fins on a single fin, but these are the main configurations that you will come across
The set up is not the only thing you need to know about fins.
As mentioned before, fins will vary in shape, size and material, and these factors will change how your board reacts to the wave. The bigger the fin, the more hold it has. By hold, I mean the ability to really stick into the water and hold your board on a lean, without you face planting and sliding out. This is because they simply have more surface area that is in contract with the water.
The base of the fin is the part in which the fin meets the board. The shorter base will generate less drive through turns, but will allow the surfer to do faster, shorter turn arcs. The bigger the base, you guessed it, provides more drive. By drive, I mean the ability to accelerate through turns.
How flexible the fin is will determine how responsive the fin will be. Stiff fins respond fast, which is good, but on the flip side, are less forgiving. Flexi fins - the opposite.
The sweep/rake in a fin refers to how far the fin reaches backwards. The more rake (sweeping backwards,) the slower it will be to pivot, making for more drawn out turns. The less rake, the more pivotey and sharp the turn will be. A fin with a lot of rake will go well in big, rolling walls, and fins with less rake are better for shorter, punchier waves, where rapid change in direction is necessary.
Ultimately, these are technical considerations for your board. The most important thing about learning to surf well is focussing first on developing strong foundations before worrying too much about controlling all of these technical elements. Once you feel like you have the foundations of surfing, start playing around with different fins.
Swap out your fins with a mate one session and see how it changes your boards performance. If you are feeling stale with your current board, mix up your fins, as you will be surprised in how much the board you thought you knew, can change.
Salt Gypsy Boards
My mates at Salt Gypsy just launched a board range specific to female surfers. Rad!
There are single fins, twin fins, and thruster boards in this range, so if you are thinking of purchasing a new beloved board - then check them out here.
Peace out! Happy surfing team.