How Does A Longer Fin Affect Surfing?

When confronted by the wide array of fins at your local surf shop, you might secretly wonder, how does a longer fin affect surfing?  Fin selection is pretty daunting when you first get into surfing.  The larger fins look like exotic sea mammal parts and have cool names and mesmerizing colors.  But how do they hold up in the water?

The most popular setup for fins today is the three fin design.  In the 1980s, Australian Simon Anderson gave us this gift.  The three fin design is by far the most maneuverable setup for carving and works perfectly for the intermediate to advanced surfer.  Plus, with two short fins and one long fin, you get the best of both worlds.  It’s like aquatic, hermaphroditic porn. 

A longer fin affects surfing in a variety of ways.  The most popular reason people choose a longer fin is stability.  A longer fin gives you a more stable forward momentum.  This is great for both cruising long breaks and riding larger waves.  The trade off is you have to work harder on the turns.  The more contact your fin has with the water, the harder you have to dig in to turn.  Unlike shorter fins though, your turn is more controlled.  It just takes a little longer.

Who needs a longer fin?  Well, bigger surfers appreciate longer fins. A longer fin affects surfing by digging into the wave.  A heavier dude appreciates this because it keeps his ride smooth.  If you have a loose board or a lot of rocker, a longer fin can help you get stabilized.  Generally speaking, long boards and boards with wide tails perform better with longer fins.    

Tips:

  • When you are starting out, stick with the FCS (Fin Control System) fin box setups you find on most surfboards.  The FCS fins are the most widely available and they are easy to install and remove.
  • If you try a longer fin setup, know your break.  Do not surf a shallow reef break at low tide. 
  • If you surf reef breaks, you might have to get used to flipping your board upside down when getting in and out of the water.