Tails & Fin Design


Surfboard tail designs have become more complex as surfboard designs have evolved.  The surfboard tail needs to work together with the shape of the board and this influences the hold and release on the surface of the wave.

Over the years with new designs of surfboards new tail shapes have been added to the norm, we have listed the main tails and their performance design below.

Pin tails

Pin tails are usually used on big wave boards as they are designed for down the line speed with trimming in mind; mainly used in freight train waves.

Boards suited for this tail – guns (big wave boards).

Rounded pin tails

The Rounded pin is looser than a pin tail allowing the surfboard to do smooth transitions though still keeping the speed of the pin tail for bigger waves. This also makes the board quite stable.

Boards suited for this tail – short boards suited for bigger waves, fun boards (mini mals and some Malibu surfboards.


Round tails

An ‘all round’ performance shape used in most surf conditions. This tail design gives a smooth transition with tighter turning arcs.

Boards suited for this tail – performance short boards, fun boards, retro boards, and small wave boards.


Square tails or squash tails

The most common modern surfboard tail, it’s quite responsive in turning but helps keep the speed through the fat sections of the wave.

Board suited for this tail – performance short boards, fun boards, Malibu’s, hybrids, small wave boards.


Rounded square tails

A Rounded Square tail combines the performance of a round tail and a square tail, great all round performance for most types of waves.

Board suited for this tail – performance short boards, fun boards, Malibu’s, hybrids, small wave boards.


Swallow tails

Swallow tails are excellent for controlling sharp turning arcs because of the wider tail area and larger planning surface.

 Board suited for this tail – performance short boards, and fish style small wave boards.


Fish tails

Designed with the small wave in mind, with the less push in the wave the fish will keep planning longer helping you do turns.

Board suited for this tail – retro boards and fish style small wave boards.


Fins and Fin Systems

Ask a sander and they will tell you that they will prefer finishing a board with fin systems everytime!  Much less time is spent sanding so more boards are finished quicker. 

Which gives you the best performance? The main consensus is that glassed on fins give you better performance…. Though if you are travelling and you pull your board out after a flight and find that a fin has been snapped off… you might beg to differ.

There are a few fin systems on the market, the decision of which one, when you are making a board should be decided on these few important points.

Performance of the system, availability of fins to fit the system, strongest in the materials you are using and the ease of repair if damaged.

Types of fin systems  


Fin Plugs

FCS originally designed and patented these, though now with their patent finishing there are few options starting to appear in the market place. They are made to be routered and glued in after lamination just before hot /finish coat is applied to the surfboard, usually designed to be used with a dual tab fin and is held in with “grub screws”, easy to install and replace.

The fin box

This is the original fin box that was designed for the fin to fit and adjust to the board and conditions. Usually comes in an 8” or a 10” inch box and is mainly used these days in long boards or the new retro boards. The fin can be moved forward or back for the conditions and usually the fin is tightened in place with a “screw and plate” system.  

Futures Fin Boxes

Was the one of first of the “new” finboxes designed to go under the skin of the surfboard, thus making it stronger system and closer feeling to “glassed in fins”. Once laminated the box opening has a flange that is easy to sand down and remove the skin that covers the opening. The boxes are a flat angle and the side fins is designed to give the angle needed. The fin is held in with a single longer “grub screw” at the front of the fin.  

Fusion/ Surfinz/ Soar fins and other dual tab fin boxes  

After the success of the Future style box a lot of the fin systems came up with an “under the skin” box that would fit dual tab fins. Works similar to the fin plug style but easier to install and stronger as its under lamination.   Surfinz are different as they have a little area of movement so you can adjust your fins forward and back if needed to suit the conditions. The Surfinz side fin boxes have the can't angle built in so most styles of dual tab fins will be compatible.    Soar fins is an Australian company who has a great selection of fins and a good box as well, another dual tab system which is laminated under the skin of the surfboard to create a strong and sturdy system.   Fusion is FCS version of the dual tab system for laminating under glass, still after the FCS2 system has come out this is most shapers dual tab fin box of choice.

FCS2 system

FCS wanted to stay the leaders in fins, so with most companies using a version of the dual tab system they wanted to design a system that could still use the old fins but could also advance on their fin systems. FCS2 was born! A fin system that was laminated under the skin and also could be used with no screws, keyless click in system.  Easy to install but hard to repair with the titanium tension rod making routering out an issue.

Set up of Fins

Single Fin

A single fin these days are mainly used in Malibu’s and retro boards. A single fin will make you understand how to ride the surfboard to the wave as it relies on the power of the wave to drive from. Generally it’s a longer smoother turning arc.

Twin Fins

Generally used in retro and fish style boards – very loose but can make a surfboard slide and loose power in the turning arc.

Thruster/Tri Fins

Thanks to Simon Anderson and the legendary Rip Curl 81 comp at Bells, the thruster is the most common setup on a modern surfboard at present.  That’s because it has been shown to hold on well and in general makes the surfboard more stable. The Thruster setup has been proven to be able to drive hard without losing speed and also be loose at the same time.

Quad Fins

Quad fins are excellent on small wave surfboards, it has the characteristics of thruster and twin fins being that they are relatively stable (though do lose drive in choppy conditions) and easy to maneuver.

Five Fin Set Up

Five fin set ups are back in a big way in the new small wave boards. Using a fin system gives you the freedom of using all the setups above to change the performance of the board.  Would only suggest doing this set up in a fin system situation.

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