To put it simply, the best surf fins for any particular day should allow you to surf the board you’ve chosen as you want to on the waves you’ve got to work with.
In other words, you’re going to what to choose a fin setup that not only compliments the design of your board, but also allows you to work within the limits of the waves on a particular day.
Best Fins for Small Waves
If the surf is really small, slow, or mushy a fin setup that minimizes drag will be your friend.
Boards with a more volume will help you in smaller surf.
If you’re surfing a single fin in small surf, a fin design and position that allows for looser surfing (forward position, pivot turn control) can be useful on waves with short sections.
For smaller waves that are holding up, a fin that allows you to hold a line and trim down the line can be a good choice. Set your fin further back, get to the nose, and settle in.
A twin fin set up is good for small waves as well. Twinnies minimize drag and allow for total control over quick turns.
Best Fins for Medium Waves
Almost any fin set up can work well in medium-sized surf depending on the sections you have to work with and the type of surfing you’re doing.
On a single fin, a flex fin with a higher sweep angle will allow for smooth carves up and down the face, while a pivot fin will allow for drive and control down the line.
A tri-fin or thruster setup will allow you to generate speed to get past sections and utilize the lip more. If the sections are closing out fast, a thruster with fins that have a more upright profile that allows for quick snaps and pivots can be a good option.
Quads will allow you to generate speed and allow for smoother, connecting carves in medium surf.
Medium surf certainly allows for a broader board choice and is a great time to experiment with new boards and different fin setups.
Best Fins for Big Waves
For larger surf, you’ll probably want to fin and a board combination that allows for good drive and hold. This will allow you to surf a speed with a larger turning radius to perform solid carve up and down the face and in the barrel.
Too small a fin or too loose a fin set up in big surf will feel really squirely and skittish at speed and in turns.
Thrusters, quads, bonzers, and single fin big wave guns are some good options that come to mind.
Best Fins for Your Surfing Style
Choosing the right fin setup and surfboard also comes down to how you want to be surfing. Obviously, a skilled surfer can push a given setup beyond its limits, but some general surfing styles and fin setups to get you started thinking about which to choose are as follows:
- Single fins – Noseriding, trimming, cross-stepping.
- Single fins, twins, quads – Great for moving with the waves with a smooth, controlled style.
- Twins – drifty turns and slides
- Twins, quads – Naturally fast, maneuverable, loose surfing
- Quads – Smooth, fast carves, powerful turns, solid in critical sections
- Thrusters/Tri-fin – Rail to rail pumping, off the lip and above the lip surfing, quick maneuvers