Fin Systems 101: Understanding Your Choices

What’s the least understood and most overlooked piece of surfing equipment? That’s correct, genius—fins. Fins are the only part of the board that are removable (except those that are glassed in), and fins are nearly always in contact with the wave. Changing fin setups is like riding a whole new board; it can make a total dog come to life, bringing joy and happiness to its appreciative rider. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to know more about these protruding objects than we do. What’s the major difference between all the different removable-fin companies? Most of them have a complete array of different fins for different conditions, and there are several materials fins are constructed out of. The five companies we checked out all have varying ways to attach the fin to the board, which is the main difference.

As for the materials, these can get a bit confusing. Composite air-lite carbon aircell with a high-density foam core? Huh? Let’s make it simple. Composite is a fancy word for plastic mixed with fiberglass and resin. Composite fins are cheaper and weigh more than the foam core, carbon, and fiberglass fins. You won’t see a lot of pros with these setups, unless they started buying their boards at Costco. They also don’t look as cool as the high-tech, foam-in-the-middle, wrapped in carbon and fiberglass models. The fancy fins cost more, but the level of performance is worth the extra dough. Good luck, and remember, if this is all too confusing, just get glass-on fins and hope they work.—J.C.



Method Of Mounting A two-screw system where the screws go into two separate circular plugs that are routed into the bottom of the board.

Templates Over 30 different templates to choose from, including the Sunny, Occy, and Kelly Slater models.

Materials Composite and carbon lite.

Web Site

Price Range $39—95

Extra The original modern-day removable-fin company.


Method Of Mounting Mounted in an elliptical-shaped box with one screw on the side of the box. Screwed in with a flathead screwdriver.

Templates Thirteen different templates for guns, twin fins, shortboards, and longboards.

Materials Composite and fiberglass.

Web Site

Price Range $35—60

Extra Lokbox sells an adapter to fit FCS fins, and fins can be adjusted half an inch forward and backward. (farther up=looser, farther back=tighter)

Red X Fin Systems

Method Of Mounting Unique in that the fins are mounted from the deck with a flathead screwdriver driving in a single bolt.

Templates Ten different templates for all types of surf, including tow-board fins.

Materials Composite, carbon lite, fiberglass, aircell, and air carbon.

Web Site

Price Range $35—95

Extra Fins can be adjusted forward and backward up to three quarters of an inch.

Futures Fin Systems

Method Of Mounting Mounted in a single box with one screw in front.

Templates Over fifteen including tow-board fins and vector fins.

Materials Composite, fiberglass, and foam core carbon wrapped.

Web Site

Price Range $23—66

Extra No gap between board and fins because entire base of fin rests in box. Futures accepts custom orders.

On A Mission

Method Of Mounting OAM fins will be mounted with a spring-loaded, twin T-bolt (skateboard style) screwing into notched-out positions.

Templates Five different templates, including the Taylor Knox model with more teamriders models to follow.

Materials Composite, fiberglass, and foam core.

Web Site

Price Range $32—70

Extra The latest company to join the competitive market. Notched-out positions will allow fins to move forward up to three-quarters of an inch. Includes an anti-kelp drag feature—i.e., no gap between board and fins.