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What Are Surfboard Fins Made Of?

   July 31st, 2022   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

The single fin or triple fin system on your surfboard has evolved over the years. In the early days of American surfing, board creators realized that waves were easier to harness and control with a fin attached to the bottom of the board. Like a boat, a fin acts as a keel which helps stabilize the board and make it more maneuverable. When surfers began making attachable fins, they were of lightweight wood.

Right around the 1940s, balsa wood was a popular single fin construction that revolutionized the typical longboard model. Balsa was both durable for water and lightweight. It was surfer Bob Simmons who reshaped surf culture by combining foam with wood and fiberglass and also creating the first double-fin surfboard.

So, what are surfboard fins made of? Let’s find out!

Surfboard Fins

Over the decades, surfboard fins evolved as surfers experimented with new shape designs and materials. So, what are fins on a surfboard made of today? After the wooden fin design, today, the fin materials consist of:

  • Epoxy
  • Fiberglass
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Bamboo
  • Plastic

After the closing of California’s Clark Foam in the 2000s due to the use of environment-harmful products, today’s surfboard fins have been constructed to be environmentally friendly as well as long-lasting and flexible to an extent.

As board fins changed over the years, so have the styles of surfers. Longboards are slower and more sluggish on the wave, and that’s why a single, large fin helps steer such a longboard. The shorter the boards became, the more fins that were attached. There are shortboards today that have three or even four fins.

What Difference Does Surfboard Fin Material Have for Surfing?

Different fin materials offer different levels of flexibility. Certain surfboard fin composites and sizes allow for more drastic maneuvers depending on your surfing style when working down the wave. For the more flow-style surfers on longboards or round-nose boards, a single plastic or wooden-resin fin offers more rigidity which is best for smaller and slower breaking waves. The stiffness of a longer fin makes for wider and slower control of the board and wave.

Luckily for long boarders who love bigger waves and a snappier style, the option for flex fins is available nowadays. This fin style allows for sharper maneuvers and quicker turns on the wave.

Smaller fins for shortboards tend to flex more as they are made for a faster and more angular ride. Since smaller surfboard fins today are made primarily of a combination of resin, fiberglass, or various rubber compounds, the fin flexibility brings your ride to a new level when pumping up and down the wave.

Choosing the Right Fin for your Board

There is no right or wrong fin system, but you want to match the fin size to your board size. A longboard fin can work on a shortboard if it fits, but the maneuverability may seem funky, and depending on your skill level, you may have trouble riding with such an awkward fin setup.

If you ride a longboard, a single thruster fin is the best route to take, and some board styles even allow for triple fin setups on a longboard. For the shortboard, 6’10’ board sizes and smaller, a triple fin system of normal size fins will suffice.

Study up on your fin knowledge before you make a purchase. There are multiple variations designed to enhance your ride style and wave riding capabilities. Learn more about the FCS fin system and fin styles and see which system is best for your board before you paddle out!

Patrick Thomas is a Coast Guard veteran who grew up surfing and fishing in southwest Florida. Having lived in Puerto Rico and the Outer Banks, NC, he now works as a full-time photographer and author in Austin, TX. More of his work and photography is available at pkthomas.com.

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