This type of system is most common in retro, twin-fin boards, but some new boards do still come with glassed-in fins. Aesthetically, having the fins laminated right into the board appears pretty classy, but are there other benefits besides looks alone? If done correctly, glassed-in fins are structurally more sound than removable fins, because the entire base of the fin becomes a part of the board. The laminated fin base also affects the way that the board cuts through the water, so more experienced surfers will notice better performance as well. Now it’s time to get real about the changing face of surfing. Glassed-in fins have become virtually extinct in the shadow of removable fin systems. They are a pain to replace if they break (not to mention expensive, as you’ll need to pay someone to do it for you), they cannot be adjusted in any way, and they make traveling with your surfboard incredibly frustrating. Most shapers have turned their backs on glassed-in fins, instead opting to outfit their boards with newer fin technology. It’s made a big difference. Read on…
Since the 1960s, shapers have toyed with the idea of removable fin systems. The problems posed by traditional glassed-in fins – they’re hard to fix, ship and stock – finally led to revolutionary advances in fin technology on a mainstream scale. The 1990s saw a widespread shift from laminated fins to removable setups, and the surfing industry hasn’t looked back since. Here’s how it works: instead of permanently attaching the fin itself to the board, a fin box is glassed-in instead. Each fin box has a groove that only matches one particular brand of fin, but surfers can change the style, shape and size at their discretion. With very little effort and a fin “key” (a small screwdriver-like device for securing a fin in its box), it’s possible to completely alter the type and/or number of fins on a board to suit varying surf conditions. Altering fin setups is quick and easy, usually taking less than a minute to complete.
While it’s great that adjustments, travel, storage and repair have become easier with the introduction of removable fins, there are still drawbacks to the new equipment. The largest issue is, perhaps, coping with the sheer number of possibilities that this system offers. For newbie surfers especially, having to face the endless options associated with a removable fin setup can be daunting and confusing. Luckily, almost every surfboard comes with a set of fins already chosen for you. The shaper is charged with selecting fins that will best achieve the purpose of each board, taking the type of waves and style of riding into consideration.Removable fin systems are easy, customizable, portable and inexpensive – but they aren’t for everyone. Despite their benefits, some shapers and pro surfers refuse to go down that road, claiming that the simplicity and strength of glassed-in fins makes the surfing better. It’s a choice you’ll need to make for yourself, but at least now you know the whole story.
Here is a glimpse at a few of the major movers and shakers in the fin industry, and the technologies they’ve introduced that make them unique.
FIN CONTROL SYSTEMS (FCS)
Fin Control Systems (better known as FCS) is a leading producer of quality surfboard fins worldwide; in fact, four of the last five surfing world champions were riding FCS fins at the time of their win. They are well made and known for their durability and performance. The key to FCS’s success may be its revolutionary fin-plug design, whereby the fin box is anchored deep into the surfboard, grasping the laminates on both the deck and underside of the board. Most fin plugs are rooted into the foam core alone, then glassed into place using resin. FCS fin plugs are more a part of the surfboard construction, making them far more resilient and less likely to break.The interface between FCS fins and their fin plugs is also unique. Each fin is attached to the board by placing two prongs that stick out of the bottom of the fin into two separate, circular fin plugs. The fins, once screwed into place, are less likely to move laterally (which is a typical complaint regarding fin boxes). The result is a stronger hold back to front and top to bottom. Because their system is completely different from all other fin companies, FCS fins can only be used with FCS fin plugs.
Future fins are another high-quality option for surfers. Unlike FCS’s two-pronged fin plug system, the bases of Future fins are tapered to fit into elongated fin boxes, which are glassed into the board’s bottom. The entire base of the fin is secured in the Future system with an angled screw, meaning that there is a strong hold from back to front. There is still a little wiggle room from side to side, so they need to be secured with a fin key every time you surf for maximum hold. Like FCS fins, Future fins are designed to only work with Future fin boxes. (Future does, however, make replacement fins that are compatible with other companies’ systems, but they are marked as such.)