Rake, foil, flex, height, sweep? It can feel overwhelming figuring out what fin is the best for your surfing when there’s so many different variables that go into any one set of fins.
You don’t want to blow that perfect set waves because your tail slipped out when having the right fins would’ve let you finish your turn.
Fortunately for you, we have an easy to understand guide to help you make the most informed and best purchase for your surfboard fins. We know there’s a ton of options out there, but we want to help you find the best surfboard fins.
We’ll help you understand some of the more esoteric fin terminology and put it so that you know exactly how your new fins will help you shred.
So, we’ll jump right into our breakdown of some of our favorite surfboard fins out there today.
Our Favorite Picks
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#1 Futures John John Florence
#2 FCS Mick Fanning
#3 FCS Julian Wilson
The Top 5
#1 Futures John John Florence
When he’s not hindered by injury, John John Florence is the most exciting surfer to watch in the world. We may not be able to rip quite as hard as he does, but we can ride the same fins as him and elevate our surfing that much more.
Futures John John Florence fins have a flat foil and more rake, or sweep, than other fins. We’ll get into how this design will affect your surfing in a bit.
These fins were designed by John John Florence to fit his surfing, which is suited to any conditions thrives in large open-faced surf.These fins will help your performance in any type of waves, but you’ll notice even more benefit as the waves get better.
The flat foil, or outline of the fin base, gives more stability and connection to the wave. This means that you will be able to easily control your speed in any size surf. You won’t have to worry about outrunning sections on accident or barrels clamping on you anymore with this level of control.
If you’ve seen any footage of John John Florence surfing, you’ve probably seen the cutback that we all imagine ourselves doing. With the added rake on his, you’ll have more control in all kinds of surf that will help you on your longer cutbacks. More control on the wave face means that you’ll be able to dictate how you’ll surf your waves and not lose traction on any turn.
This fin is suited to any condition you would want to surf. It falls under the all-around category for fins, but leans towards the edge of the spectrum for controlling your speed.
The Futures John John Florence fin goes great in all conditions for all styles of surfing, but excels at controlled turns. Even as the conditions get better, you’ll find yourself having no problems with your John John Florence fins.
#2 FCS Mick Fanning
Mick Fanning’s surfing is synonymous with speed and powerful turns. His signature fins are part of the recipe for this kind of surfing and can help you improve surfing fast and snapping hard off the top.
These fins have an elongated sweep, or rake, to give added control on your turns. This is a good thing since it will help you stay on your feet through all the speed that your FCS Mick Fanning fins will help you generate.
As far as fins go, these are about as stiff as they come. The Performance Core construction keeps these fins light yet stiff. This makes them incredibly responsive so that even as you generate speed, you’ll find you have the ability to turn whenever you want.
With its beveled foil, you’ll notice that you’ll be able to release on turns a little bit. The shape will help you generate speed and keep your turns a little loose to add a little more zip to your surfing.
If you’re worried that you’re a little bigger than Mick Fanning, no worries. These fins come in every size so that you’ll be able to find a size that fits you.
This fin is designed for performance. One down side of this fin is that it is best suited to more advanced surfers. If you are just getting started, it may not be the best for you. If you’re looking to take the next step in your surfing though, this fin could be perfect for you.
Overall, the FCS Mick Fanning fin excels in its drive. You’ll feel like your generating speed because you will be. But, you’ll still be able to crank any roundhouse cutbacks or aggressive snaps that you try.
It will work best with your high performance shortboard with high rocker on any open faced wave that you surf.
#3 FCS Julian Wilson
Surfing the open face of the wave is great, but pulling an air sometimes looks way cooler. Fortunately for you, the FCS Julian Wilson fin can do it all.
With its high sweep and flat foil, you’ll notice right away how much control you’ll have on the open face. Whether turning or pumping down the line, you’ll be able to predict how your board will respond.
One interesting aspect of these fins is that they have a smaller trailing fin. This will help you release your tail more easily and make your board feel overall whippier.
The added level of control you’ll feel from this set of fins will help you as you try and probably succeed in reaching the air. You’ll be able to choose a line and build speed so that you can more easily release from the lip and project from the wave.
These fins are very responsive. So besides being whippier than many other fins, you’ll find that you’re able to easily pivot. This will help you link more turns in a wave and use the speed you’ll be generating.
Overall, the FCS Julian Wilson fins give you a good level of predictability so you can comfortably push your limits. You’ll be able to predict how your board will react in different situations.
#4 Futures Jordy Smith
If you’re a larger surfer, Jordy Smith is the ideal inspiration. Though he has far more mass than other pros, he finds a way to still have sharp turns and fast and loose surfing.
The Futures Jordy Smith Fin is an ideal option for the larger surfer. The larger you are, the more your fin needs to be able to hold in the water so your tail doesn’t slip out on more aggressive maneuvers. This set of fins will help hold any surfer where they want to be on the wave.
These fins have a more balanced all around approach to wave riding. You’ll feel in control of your longer cutbacks, but also still be able to turn your boards with drivey pivots.
These fins will provide you a strong, solid base to push off with your back foot. The size and rake of the fin will give you hold through any turn.
Instead of worrying about pushing your tail through the water or slipping out on a radical turn, feel confident in your fins’ ability to help keep you in control.
If you’re still trying to figure out your ideal surfing style, these fins are a great option for you. Unlike many other fins, they are not hyper focused on any one kind of surfing. They are a great all around fin that will allow you to push your surfing in any direction you choose.
#5 FCS Kolohe Andino
The FCS Kolohe Andino fins are best suited to for performance surfing in good to excellent conditions. This is another fin set that is designed for more of an all-around approach to riding a wave that can do a little bit of everything.
Unlike some of the other fins we’ve looked at, the FCS Kolohe Andino fin has a less sweep, or rake. This will help you feel more in control as you surf, but you also won’t feel the same sort of power that you might be looking for.
Even though this fin is meant for any kind of surfing, due to its outline, you’ll notice a little bit of help on your longer roundhouse turns. Whether it’s off the top or off the bottom, the fin will give you a little bit of hold on your long turns.
The Kolohe Andino fins are a little bit less rigid than some of the other options and a little heavier. The added flex and weight will help you push through the water and release your tail more easily as you go for steeper, more critical turns.
With the size and weight of these fins, your board will want to go faster. You’ll feel like you have the speed to do the turns that you envision. Together with their flexibility, you may even feel that your air game is taking a step up.
Overall, these fins are suited towards any type of high performance surfing. The main drawback is that, since they are suited for high performance surfing, they work best with a high-rockered, high performance board in better than average conditions.
Choosing The Fin Style That Is Right For You
You’ve seen the options and your torn between Futures and FCS fins. The good news for you is that your board will probably dictate what fin you’ll need. Check your fin boxes, if each is one long box, you’ll need Futures, if you have two inlets for a fin, you’ll want FCS fins.
If you have the option of choosing between the two, we’ll break down the biggest difference between the two. Futures fins keep are more similar to glass on fins, but give you more options. They keep the tail of your board more rigid. FCS fins allow your board to flex even more since there is more foam space between the fin studs. Though the new FCS II system is even more like the Futures system.
Other than that, there’s three main things that you need to take into account before you go out and buy your next set of fins if you don’t want to get skunked: your size, what kinds of waves you surf, and whether you need to generate speed or control it. Be honest with yourself and you’ll find that you’ll be stoked on your new fins and ripping harder than ever.
With that information in your head, it’ll be easy for you to understand how the main features of fin design affect your surfing.
Rake, or sweep, is the angle of the fin and how much of the fin’s area is behind the base. The more rake, the more control you’ll have. The less sweep, the tighter you’ll be able to turn. Basically, less sweep can be better for short, punchy beach breaks and more sweep is best for longer point breaks.
Flex determines how whippy the board feels under your feet. More flex will help you generate speed and help you release your fins more easily. Less flex means more control.
How To Install Surfboard Fins
To install your FCS fins, you’ll want to slide the front of the fin into the front of the fin box before clicking down with the back. If you are using the FCS II fin system, this is all you need to do. Otherwise, you’ll need a hexagonal wrench, or fin key, to screw the fin screw in, which can usually be found in the back of the fin box.
For Futures fins, slide the back of the fin in first, then press the front in. You will have to screw your Futures fins into place with a fin screw.
We recommend always using the fin screw to keep your fin in place. Doing so will help your fins stay in place so that you won’t have to end a session early because one fin fell out.
What is the difference between Futures and FCS fins?
Futures fins have a single base that slides into the fin box. FCS fins have two prongs that you can put into the fin box before locking it into place.
My fin box is two small round holes, what fin system can I use?
It sounds like you have the original FCS fin system on your board. In that case, you can only use original FCS fins.
How do I take my fins out when I want to swap them?
Unscrew any fin screws first, then apply pressure up and to the back for FCS II or from for Futures fins. Careful not to push too hard or you could damage your board.
Final Verdict - Which Should I Buy?
Whatever your style, whatever waves your home break offers or you travel to, you’ll be stoked riding the Futures John John Florence fins. They’re an all-around fin template that can do it all in any condition.
The foil, flexibility, and rake of this fin have all been designed to help you shred. Whether you want to generate speed or harness your speed through huge hacks or turns, you’ll find the grip you’re looking for with these fins to do it all.
The overall feeling of this fin is balanced with enough drive to help you push through your turns. Though it is balanced, many of the fin’s design elements will help you feel in control as you surf whatever conditions you’re comfortable in.
OUR #1 PICK - Futures John John Florence