The 3 Main Surfboard Fin Types

The different surfboard fin types determine the type of ride you can expect from your surfboard. Surf fins keep your surfboard going straight as well as help with turning, so having the right type of surf fins is critical.

There are several types of surfboard fins you will hear about with the 3 main ones being: glass on fins, removable fins and soft fins.

Unless you are having a board custom made, the surfboard shaper at the surfboard manufacturer will decide which sort of surf fins go on to the bottom of your surfboard.

Your job as a surfer is to learn the pros and cons of each type of surfboard fin so you can make an educated decision about what fits your needs when you are buying a surfboard.

Glass On Surfboard Fins

Glass on surf fins are permanently mounted to the surfboard bottom using resin or epoxy, then laminated in place.

Glass on fins are very sound and secure when properly mounted, providing exceptional strength and stability. These surf fins are glassed smoothly into the board and provide an elegant look and smooth ride.

Glass on fins were used on traditional surfboards and longboards for many years, and are preferred by many experienced and professionals surfers, and those who ride traditional longboards.

The superior strength, handling and beauty of glass on fins are unquestioned. Many of these surfers argue that glass on fins provide the better response and feel than other surfboard fin types.

However they are not commonly used these days due to the emergence of removable fin systems, but are still available for traditionalists.

There are disadvantages to glass on fins though, which are directly related to their strengths.

For one glass on fins are not adjustable, so the rider is stuck with whatever the surfboard shaper glasses on to the surfboard.

These boards can also be tough to travel with, since they do not stack well and with the fins also being very rigid, they snap off easily, both during travel and when you are riding the surfboard.

Depending on the type of break and how cleanly the fins shear off, broken glass on fins can be tough to repair.

The quality of any surfboard fin repair job of glass on fins depends on the skill of the repairer as they take a high level of skill to repair correctly.  The odds of messing up a repair job are fairly high with repairs always being visible and repaired fins never being as strong as the original fins.

Removable Surfboard Fins

Removable fins are widely used on boards of all lengths today. Boards with removable surf fins are made with a surfboard fin box or surfboard fin plugs for mounting these fins to the bottom of the surfboard.  These are laminated in place.

Surf fin boxes are proprietary, so they only fit one brand of surf fin, but these fins can be changed out quickly and easily. Most removable fin systems come equipped with a tool called a surfboard fin key that is like a small hex screwdriver and is used to remove and mount these fins.

The main advantage of removable surfboard fins is that they allow surfers to change fins and fin templates, so that their boards can be altered to suit various surf conditions or to create a surfboard with a different type of feel.

Boards with removable fins are also very easy to travel with since, with the surf fins removed, boards can be stacked together.

These surfboard fin systems are also less likely to get damaged as they are made to “snap” or break off on severe impact without damaging the surfboard fin box or surf fin plug.  This makes it easy to repair, since broken fins can be removed and new ones quickly installed.

Though the pros of removable fins are compelling, there are some cons.

Novice surfers may find the huge variety and wide range of templates and fins to choose from quite overwhelming, not knowing which they need.

The mounting systems for removable fins often include metal screws, which can also rust with exposure to salt water if not maintained properly.

Another common complaint is that screw holes get stripped and must be repaired before the user can change or adjust the fins.

Experienced surfers sometimes complain that removable fins do not fit tightly and the resulting drag affects the board's handling and performance.

None the less more surfers to date, both amateurs and pros, are riding removable fins systems with shapers also becoming heavily involved in surfboard fin design, creating signature removable fin models.

Soft Surfboard Fins

Soft surfboard fins are fairly new. These surf fins are intended for beginning surfers and children and feature flexible and padded tips.

If a soft surf fin hits a novice surfer, they will not be injured as they would if hit by a harder fin.

The soft fins still do provide enough rigidity to allow the rider to steer their surfboard, but can be replaced with more rigid fins as the rider's skill level increases.

Most advanced surfers stay away from soft surfboard fins as the performance of standard removable surfboard fins, such as FCS and Future Fins, is far superior.

So these are the many different types of surfboard fins available for sale. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons so you get the fins that best suit your needs.

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