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Surfboard 101: Fin Setups

A few weeks ago I started a series called Surfboard 101 explaining the various kinds of tails you can spot on surfboards. This week we will launch topic number two talking about a part of the surfboard that is very related to its tail: the fins.

You have probably already been wondering why different kinds of surfboards have a different number of fins. While some boards sport a many as four fins, others only have one. And then you might suddenly find yourself sitting in the line-up with some guy giving a five-fin setup a go and another one saying “What the heck, I’m more into going sideways anyway!” and not riding any fins at all. Leaving these rather exotic variations out of the picture, I will talk you through the differences between setups from one to four fins.


Single Fin

The single fin setup is the most traditional one in surfboard configuration. Today it is mostly used in longboards, it has for its unique riding style survived in short board design, howerver, if only with some enthusiasts. Single fins provide much stability and control, something which makes them perfect for fast, straight-line rides. The increased stability means a sacrifice in performance however, meaning the maneuverability is limited to more sweeping turns instead of fast corner like cuts.


Twin Fin

Twin fins offer much more maneuverability than a single fin setup, but they are much harder to control in bigger wave. This makes them perfect for smaller conditions, where they give the board a more loose and playful feel, while providing more speed than a thruster.



This is the most commonly used fin setup in boards of generally all hapes and sizes. The three fin setup of the thruster combines the control of the single fin with the performance of the twin fin. In addition the two outer fins are often flat on the inside to allow for more speed. This configuration also gives you the options of going single or twin fin and is the most common choice among most shapers.

Quad Fin

Quad Fin

Quad fin setups channel the water towards the end of the board, which allows for more speed than the thruster, because there is no center fin slowing it down. The difference to a twin fin is that the two outer fins on each side are working together, which gives the board more drive in turns and also provides superior grip in large, steep waves.

That’s it with the fins for today! I hope I could give you a good overview and enough stoke to go shred the heck out of every combination possible on your surfboard. Which ones have you tried? Is there any one you would really like to give a go?

Below you can see a short clip of Alex Knost, one of the masters of single fin riding. Can you spot the difference in style to surfers riding a thruster setup?


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