Raking The Surface – Surf Simply

On the first steps to experimenting with fins…

You can dive deep into all the design aspects if you’ve been surfing for a while and want some new experiences, but when people are just learning fins and ask me there’s a general step-by-step process you can follow.

The first thing to start with is material. This is pretty easy to get right and it all comes down to flex. Your standard plastic fins give you more flex and makes surfing more forgiving. This is really important for people starting out because it will make your board more stable. But, once you start learning different turns you need to move to a stiffer fibreglass fin as quickly as you can. Stiffer fins will give you more speed through turns and make your transitions quicker.

If you are at the point where you want to start looking at different fin templates, but you’re not sure if you will feel the difference, I would recommend trailing a different number of fins first focusing on your back foot, and the amount of force it takes to feel sliding (or not). If your board has a five fin set up, then great, change from three fins to four, you’ll definitely feel the change. If you’ve only got the one board and it’s got three fin boxes then take out the middle fin. You’ll probably look like a bit of a goose walking down to the beach and fall a lot more. But it’s the price you’ve got to pay.

Now you know you want a fibreglass set, the next thing is which template to get. It’s not the best to bring in a new material type and a new template to learn, so see if your current fins model has a stronger material. If not start off with a neutral set, there are plenty of options here in either FCS or Future bases.

These neutral templates will normally give you comparable options in a low rake and a high rake template to try (similar to our research). This is where you start learning templates. Rake is definitely the first template aspect to consider because, as our research backs up rake definitely has the most influence out of the aspects. This is where you need to start considering the waves you surf and the type of surfing you prefer. A general rule of thumb is more rake will give holding (higher stall angles) but it will feel slower (higher drag).

This is why fin companies release these comparable fin sets. It helps to give surfers a starting point to learn performance changes. The issue is that buying three sets is really costly and not something most people want to do. Hopefully, our research helps to explain the performance differences in more detail, so you don’t have to buy three sets. I know in shops the people selling fins can be a little all over the place. But, if you can tell them where you normally surf or the types of waves/surfing you want the fins for and the board/fins you currently have, then hopefully they should be able to pull out a few sets that will fit well. It never hurts to ask.




The author and Surf Simply would like to thank Sam Crameri for his assistance with the article.


Reference: Crameri, S.; Collins, P.K.; Gharaie, S. Numerical Investigation of the Hydrodynamic Characteristics of 3-Fin Surfboard Configurations. Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 3297.

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