Single Fin Guide

Longboard Single Fin Guide

Single fin longboards are a great place to start experimenting with your fins.

In fact, surf fins are what sparked the Wave Arcade project.

First, you don’t even need to go out and buy new fins to start experimenting.

With a single fin, you’ve got the ability to move it forwards or backwards in the fin box – affecting stability/looseness. With just some slight movements of your fin in the box, you can make your longboard feel very different.

Longboard Fin Shapes & Sizes

When you’re ready to buy some different types of singles fins you’ll have a pretty good range of styles to choose from. The best longboard fins for you really comes down to how you want to surf it and the types of waves you’ll be riding.

The range of most longboard fins you’ll find on the walls of surf shops or online find can be best described as a gradient of decreased surface area and increased rake.

On the left you’ll find your classic D-fins and on the right you’ll move into raked out flex templates with skinner profiles.

Before getting into some of the more standard templates, some basic characteristics you’ll notice in different types of longboard fins break down like this:

  • Base Length: A longer base is going to provide you with more drive and speed down the line, while a shorter base will be easier to turn quickly.
  • Rake/Sweep: A more upright fin will feel like a pivot point with a smaller turning radius. Fins with a larger sweep will feel smoother in turns and will be more stable when carving up and down a wave.

If you’re still stuck, I like to try to think of it this way:

  • If I want to try to cross-step, noseride, and trim, I’ll probably go for a bigger, upright fin (D-fin or hatchet).
  • If I want to do some bigger turns and use the rail, I’ll go for a fin with a smaller area and more rake (flex fin).

Single Fin Sizes

When you’re looking for a new single fin, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The best length single fin corresponds more to the width of your board’s tail than to the length of the board.
    • Board length can be a good general rule of thumb to use to pick a single fin (i.e. ~1″ for every foot of board length), but a wider tail is going to work better with a larger fin than a narrow tail would on boards of the same total length.
  • More sweep/rake = better turning and maneuverability.
  • More upright/wider = more stable, slower, pivot point to turn.
  • Wider base = greater drive.
  • Narrower/flexy tip = greater projection out of turns.

Again the best fin for you is going to depend on your board, your style, and the waves you’ve got. Get to experimenting!

Pivot Fin

A Pivot Fin describes a surfboard fin with an upright sweet and a wider profile.

Turning is accomplished by moving toward the tail and using the fin like a pivot point.

Stability and hold are the name of the game with these larger area, upright single fins.

If you want to work on your cross-stepping and noseriding, hatchet fins, D-fins, and pivot fins are great templates to try.


The D-Fin, which tends to look like a big, fat letter D, was one of the earliest fins that surfers were using.

They’re not super performance oriented, but on a classic log or a big longboard, they’re a blast – especially in clean, small, peeling waves.

Hatchet Fins

The Hatchet Fin, which was designed and popularized by Dewey Weber in the ‘60s, is another great choice for your classic longboard and provides a bit more versatility than the D fin.

The wide base and large profile of fins like these really lock your board into your line and keeps it stable as you walk the nose or trim.

Turning with fins like these is typically accomplished by moving towards the back of the board and pivoting from the tail.

These types of fins can really get you into that old-school logging groove. You’ve really got to use the whole board to move around and surf. Super fun if you’re used to more performance oriented fins.

Mid-Sized & Hybrid Longboard Fins

Next up would best be described a mid-or-hybrid single fins. These fins fall somewhere between a classic noserider fin and a flex fin template.

Mid/Hybrid single fins tend to be a pretty good choice for all-around surfing in a variety of conditions.

With some more rake and a smaller surface area, you should find you’re able to drive down the line nicely as well as get into some rail to rail turns that’d be much more difficult with a wider, more upright fin.

Flex Fins

Finally, we get to the Flex Fin template. George Greenough is credited with designing what’s probably one of the most influential and popular fin templates to date. Flex fins are marked by their large sweep, wide base, and narrow tips.

A proper flex fin allows for speed and powerful turns that’d be nearly impossible with a D-fin.

The wide base of these fins provide you with drive, will the narrow tip of varying degrees of flexiness springs you out of and into connecting turns.

If you’re truly unsure of what find of single fin you want for your longboard, you really can’t go wrong with a flex fin.

Experimenting With Single Fins

The beauty of surfing is that it can be something different to everyone. A fin that works for one person or even one board, might not work so great for another. You’ve got to mix it up!

If you’re new to the fin experimentation game, it can be good practice to get into the habit of trying some of the same maneuvers with different fins to get a better feel for how certain design elements are influencing the ride.

And if you’re new to experimenting with fins in general, a single fin is a great place to start. Remove all the extra variables and you’ll be able to really notice the right fin can make on your surfboard.

The best single fin for you is all going to depend on your board, the style of surfing you’re trying to achieve, and the waves you’ve got at hand.

Here’s a quick guide to experimenting with your longboard fins:

  • First, move the fin forward or backwards in the box and surf it. You’ll get a feel for how slight adjustments here can be used to compliment a certain fin.
  • Next, try setting a line and trimming.
  • Try some rail to rail turns. Does it feel smooth and solid through turns? If you’re getting thrown off your board, you might need something closer to a flex fin.
  • Try some cross-stepping. Does the board feels super unstable or squirrely, or does it feel locked into the pocket?

Doing some of the same maneuvers with different fins will help you figure out real quick what works for you on a certain board.

All-Around Longboard Fins

A good all-around fin is going to provide you with the most versatility in surfing your board. These fins will be good for turns, maneuverability, and speed, but will still cater to cross-stepping and noseriding – if that’s your thing.

Greenough’s 4-A template is the classic example of a an all-around single fin.

Many of the single fins you’ll see are variations of this template. It’s the image that comes to mind when many people think of a single fin: full, wide base that sweeps up to a thinner flexible tip.

A fin like this create speedy drive and responses predictably through turns.

Longboard Fins for Noseriding

If you’ve got a classic log and want to work on your cross-stepping and noseriding, a proper single fin can help with that.

A good longboard fin for noseriding is going to be:

  • A larger fin with a wide profile and bigger surface area.
  • A wide/long base.
  • A more upright profile.

A single fin like this kind of works as a big rudder to lock the tail of your board into the wave as you move towards the nose.

Turning and changing direction will typically require a few steps towards the tail and pivoting from there.

1 thought on “Longboard Single Fin Guide”

  1. Helen Highwater

    Don goes a full size down so much I honestly believe his true size is a half size down from what he actually is

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