In more modern (surfing) times, the surfboard fin concept has expanded to include multiple surfboard fin setups, each with a very distinct, different purpose, ride and feel. This is surfboard fin setups compared.
Surfboards as a concept were around long time before we began to ride them for fun. It could be argued that it was the introduction of the surfboard fin in the 1930s that revolutionised surfing in an extraordinary way, paving the way for surfing as a recreational pursuit.
Clearly, there is more to the design of a surfboard than meets the eye. When you take the time to consider it, there is vast knowledge of the ocean, waves and fluid dynamics inherent in surfboard design. The modern surfboard has come a long way from the simple wooden planks that the ancient Pacific islanders used to negotiate the ocean and, in particular, the surfboard fin and surfboard fin setups are the single most important design aspect apart from the board itself.
What are surfboard fins for, anyway?
They’re added to the board to provide lateral lift which improves directional stability as well as to better control the board through foot steering. A key consideration when shopping for a surfboard, surfboard fin setups are one of the features – some would argue the most important – you need to consider in choosing the right board. There is quite a range of surfboard fins and surfboard fin setups to choose from, each with a different character and purpose.
- Single Fin Setup – Surfboard fins all started with this setup. More common on longboards in modern times (although they’re making a comeback as I write this), single fins designs are generally longer and wider to make its solitary setup sufficient to control the board. Some surfers find single fins obsolete, but those who’ve gotten used to the modern single fin swear they have more fun with it [Read this article by CS family member, Rob D…]; they find themselves riding faster down the line, executing more elegant pivots, and, of course, have an easier time noseriding. Many surfers will find the feeling of the single fin ride unusual after riding modern thruster and quad fins setups, however, that those persist may find a whole new appreciation for their surfing. Another advantage of riding single fins is that they have a reputation to not spin out in the barrel.
- Twin Fin Setup – Some time later, the twin fin setup was introduced. The design had two shorter side fins set higher on the tail block. This setup is more common on retro shortboard and fish surfboard designs. As a rule, twin fins or ‘twinnys’ are quicker, livelier, and allow a tighter pivot than the single fin, but they have the tendency to slide out in the barrel as well as to lose traction in bigger, more powerful waves during a bottom turn.
- Thruster Fin Setup – the 3-fin thruster is the most popular fin setup in the world. The rise in popularity of this setup is credited to Simon Anderson of Australia and has been the most popular setup since the early 1980s when it was first introduced. The three fins are roughly the same size, with two semi-parallel mounted near the rails with the middle centred on the middle of the board, further back towards the tail. It has the looseness and manoeuvrability of the twin fin while boasting the line-holding capabilities of the single fins. Considering its popularity, this is the setup of choice for most shapers and the vast majority of competitive surfers.
- Quad Fin Setup – Take a twin and then add two smaller ‘trailer’ fins behind each of them and you have a quad fin setup. If you have a need for speed, go for a quad setup. In a word, it is F A S T…and a little bit loose relative to a thruster. The quad fin setup is known for maintaining a critical arc while allowing a bit of flare in the lip. Power surfers can execute manouvres with power and grace on the quad setup.Interestingly, a new design trend has emerged where the trailer fins are pulled closer to the center of the board to act more like a thruster while still maintaining the speed and feel of a quad. Haydenshapes Surfboards and Eye Symmetry Surfboards are two examples of shapers utilising this cross thruster / quad fin setup.
- Bonzer – the Bonzer can have three fins or five fins. Although the term is Australian, California’s Campbell Brothers came up with this concept back in the ‘70s. The setup was designed with the aim of organising water flow more efficiently. A larger centre fin (like a single fins) at the back with and two or four delta-shaped fins near the rails. The rail fins have a lower aspect and are canted outward. The setup reduces drag and allows easier rail-to-rail transition. In effect, the Bonzer setup is intended to make for effortless surfing in a variety of conditions.
Depending on the ride you are looking for and, importanly, the waves in which you intend to ride the board, there is an ideal surfboard fin setup for you. In summary:
- Single fin setups ride fast down the line, executing more elegant pivots, are great for noseriding and have good hold in the barrel
- Twin fin setups or ‘twinnys’ are generally quicker, livelier, looser and allow a tighter pivot than the single fin but they can be hard to control, especially in difficult conditions
- 3 Fin Thruster fin setups are, by far, the most popular fin setup in the world today for their versatility; combining speed, precision and control to perform critical manouvres
- Quad fin setups are super fast and great for powerful, arcing turns
- Bonzer fin setups are intended to optimise water flow, making them smooth through rail to rail transitions and effortless to control on the wave face
These are just some of the surfboard fin setups available these days. Variety is the spice of life, if you’re stuck on one setup, why not try another?