Buying the best surfboard fins for your needs is a central part of any surfboard setup. Choosing the best fit for you and your board depends on your riding style, your size and your surfboard’s fin box. Surfboard fins come in many sizes, shapes and materials and have the option of being either glassed-in or swappable (removable).

Difference between glassed-in and swappable fins

Glassed-in fins are built directly into your board which some surfers say gives a smoother response when compared to removable ones. On the other hand, if you break a glassed-in fin, repairing it could be a difficult and expensive endeavor. As far as versatility goes, removable fins are hard to beat.

Unlike glassed-in fins, removable ones can be screwed directly into the surfboard’s fin box. This can be easily done by using a fin key or just adjusting the small screws. While setting up, you need to remember to have the fins point to the right direction and not over-tighten the screws. Another critical factor is to to put the right fin in the right place as the center and outside fins have different shapes. But don’t worry, this should all be pretty familiar after a swap or two.

Dual tab versus single tab fin boxes

In order to save you a lot of grief and money, be sure that your fins are compatible with the fin boxes. Nearly all surfboards are equipped with either dual tab for single tab fin boxes. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Dual tab fin boxes

Fin Control System or FCS is the most famous and widely used surfboard system on the market today. It uses two plugs that hold the fins tightly to the board by using a set of screws. However, there is also a more contemporary mechanism called FCS II keyless standard which makes changing fins a lot faster and easier. The new system also works with the old style fins but requires a compatibility kit.

Futures fins have come up with their own solution on how to connect their fins to different surfboards, called single fin boxes. They use a truss base along the fin box, which creates a strong, responsive and lightweight construction. Futures fins also use screws for effortless use.

Dual tab and single tab fins are not compatible with each other, so be sure you get the ones that match your board.

How to find the perfect fin?

Choosing the best surfboard fin for your board starts with a few basic steps.
First, you should start with your own weight and get ones that suit you the best. The bigger the rider the bigger the fins. Next up, take a look at your boards fin configuration and get a set that matches it. Your board can have anywhere from 1-5 fans installed.

A general rule for fin sizes is:

  • Kids: <100lbs
  • XS: >120lbs
  • S: 105 – 155lbs
  • M: 145 – 195lbs
  • L: 165+lbs
  • XL: 190+lbs

Different types of fin configurations

In addition to size, the fin configuration also has a crucial effect on the way your surfboard behaves under your feet. To know what configuration your board needs just turn your surfboard over and take a look at the bottom side of your tail. While the fin configuration can range anywhere from one to five, the most common set ups are single twin, thruster and quad. A common configuration nowadays is a hybrid of these call the 2+1 configuration which has a longboard single fin in the middle with regular side ones near the rails.

Single fin configuration

The tried and true traditional – a single fin is most commonly used on longboards and are ideal for stable and controlled surfing where quick turns are not needed. Single fins are usually longer and can be moved forward for a nice loose feel or back for more response.

Twin fins configuration

Twin fins or dual fins offer a fun and responsive ride for smaller waves. They are mostly used in shortboards and fish boards for longer turns and increased speed.

Thruster/three fin configuration

Thruster or three fin configuration is the most widely used combination on the market today and it offers great versatility for beginners and pros alike. Stability, speed and control are the key elements here and the best part is that thruster fins can also be used as twin fins. Normally, the outer fins are angled towards the center of the board (toed-in) and may be asymmetrical for more speed (foil) and easier turns whereas the center fin is symmetrical for more stability.

Quad fin configuration

Quad fins are built for speed in smaller surf conditions while still providing enough power and grip through turns even for bigger waves.

5-fin configuration

If you are facing a number of different conditions, or just want to try out new things, a five-fin system is the way to go! It allows you to mix-and-match any setup you want for your board. Single, twin or thruster – it’s all up to you. These are the best surfboard fins for riders that want to test out different fin configurations.

2+1 configuration

The 2+1 configuration offers two normal fins on the sides but with a longboard one in the center. Additionally, the center fin can be moved forward for a looser feel or further back for more control. This configuration is becoming more and more common in boards such as logs, eggs and SUPs that require more stability.

Stiffer fins are a lot more forgiving and stable, making them great for beginners.


The toe or splay means the angle of the fins in relation to the stringer in the center of the board. Generally these fins are toed-in which means that they are angled towards the center of the board. This makes the board more responsive due to creating more pressure to the outside of the fins.


The cant refers to the angle of your fins in relation to the bottom of your board. A straight fin with no angle (or no cant) is at a 90° angle and performs well when going in a straight line. Thus, making it faster. However, canted fins provide more response throughout turns. The higher the cant-the better the response.


The foil means the inside and outside surfaces of the fin. Usually the middle part of the fin is the thickest and outer edges being the thinnest. The foils help direct the water flow under your surfboard and have a substantial effect on the way the board performs. Some fins (usually ones closer to the rails) are asymmetrically foiled, meaning that one side is flat and one side is foiled. A curved inside face minimises drag and provides plenty of lift for enhanced maneuverability in different wave conditions. On the other hand, a very pronounced foil can also slow down a board due to increased drag.


The rake, or sweep, determines how far the fin’s edge curves back. The rake angle, on the other hand, means the fin’s backward arc in relation to the board. A small rake propels the board faster with good stability but might not be the best option for sharp turns. Fins with a larger rake tighten the turning radius and offer a more playful ride. Be advised that they do not offer the same amount of stability.


One of the most crucial factor is in their surfboards performance is the stiffness or flex of the fins. A great rule of thumb is that the stiffer the fin the more stable the ride is. This is due to the fact that the lack of flex makes sharp turns more challenging. For a more playful and skatey feel you might want to opt for a more flexible fin. This will give you a better control and response in turns.

Best surfboard fins are the ones that suit the rider.

Base length and height/depth

Base length measures exactly what you would think – the length of the fin’s base. It affects the way your board turns and how much drive it creates. A longer base has more surface area which increases the drive in turns but also making them less sharp. Therefore, if you wants sharper turns we will suggest to get a fin with a shorter a base length.

The height or depth of the fin is measured from its’ tallest point to its’ bottom. Taller fins offer better  stability and grip while shorter ones have a looser, skatier feel that a lot of surfers love. For beginners or riders that enjoy a more mellow and relaxed style of surfing, a stiffer fin is usually the way to go.

Did our surf fin buyer’s guide teach you anything new? Let us know in the comments. 

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