The first Surfboards the OLO and ALAIA did not have surfboard fins.
Before the advent of the fin Hawaiians were going straight,sliding or using their foot to turn
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that surfboards started to use a fin.
Tom Blake is credited with first using a skeg on the bottom of a surfboard.
As Blake told it, in 1935, he tore a fixed keel off a washed-up speedboat and reattached it onto the bottom of a surfboard.
It took a little while but the idea of putting a fin on the bottom of a surfboard literally took hold.
The addition of a fin is considered one of the most influential and critical design inventions of the surfboard. He literally changed the way waves were ridden.
Some refinements were made to the surfboard fin for the next few decades or so.
But the fin took a huge leap forward when George Greenough started messing about with fins and wound up developing a fin inspired after the Fin of the Blue tuna.
From that point forward surfboard fins continued to evolve with design concepts and materials.
With the advent of the removable fin, the design concepts have blown up, they are as complicated as a surfboards design.
It was only up until just a few years ago that glass on fins were your only option; While fin boxes and removable fins were not a new concept and surfers were making boards with removable fins many years prior to the FCS/ Future Fin boom, for the everyday surfer getting a board of the rack meant glassed on fins and once they were glassed and that was that,they either worked or they didn’t.
Unless you had some pretty good glassing skills you couldn’t change a thing.
I know I didn’t give surfboard fin design much thought when I was getting my first boards, now I pay a bit more attention to it and actually have a number of different fin sets and will change them out depending on the waves and the board I’m riding.
Gone are the days of limited choices, we are in the age of limitless choices. We have so many choices in fact that it can be confusing to know what type of fins to buy for your surfboard, you need to know about terms like sweep, cant, and toe of a fin as well as the depth and base of a surfboard fin to get the most out of your board.
Here is a rundown on Fin Design and terms
Surfboard Fins – Different Setups
The classic set up. Single fins have been around for a long time and will continue to be.
Even though they aren’t as popular as they once were (the 80’s just about killed the single fin).
They should be a requirement for all younger surfers to jump on one every now and then. It will even out your surfing, lesson the tail wagging and be a reminder that surfing is not snowboarding and skateboarding.
Things you will find with a single fin surfing: smooth flowing fast lines, good carving bottom turns.
The twin became popular in the late 70’s early eighties. Although many guys had already been riding twins earlier then that.
Originally developed in California, it was Mark Richards and his 4 world titles who really brought the twin fin to prominence.
Twin fins have always been closely associated with the fish and having a “skatey” feel. It is a loose and fast set up. Best in surf up to 6 ft or so…can be ridden in bigger surf, but you got to be on your game.
The three fin setup is by far the most popular setup going today. It’s what I learned on and what I surf on a everyday basis.
Simon Anderson is credited for this set up.
The three fin design took the best features of the single and twin fin systems and made them work harmoniously together, giving the boards even more control in the pocket.
The thruster let surfers go vertical on the lip.
The Twinzer generally have two smaller fins set forward and toed (set on an angle) the larger fins are just inside of the smaller fins creating a very close fin cluster. Like the Quads, Twinzers are much looser than a thruster yet maintains speed. Popular with Hybrid surfboards.
The four fun setup has been around since the 80’s and have recently gained some popularity, probably because some high profile surfers have been riding them lately most notably Kelly Slater.
What to expect from a quad: the speed and looseness of a twin but able to hold in larger surf.
The 5 fin Was popularized by the Campbell Brothers (Duncan and Malcolm) from Oxnard, Ca. who also were working on the three fin surfboards before the time Simon Anderson was.
The 5-fin configuration is similar to the Twinzer but with the addition of a center trailing fin in the back. The two front fins are typically small and oval shaped, designed to direct the water through the larger side fins, allowing more drive from your board.