Longboard Surfboard Fins, Explained

Longboard Surfboard FinsLongboard Surfboard Fins, in this post I will cover:

  • The history of longboard fin.
  • The purpose of the longboard fin.
  • Biggests fin changes to longboard.
  • Areas/Parts of the longboard fin.
  • Longboard fins – shapes, sizes and colors.

In The Beginning

The first surfboards were board from 10 – 14 feet in length, they were long hence the term longboard.  The original longboard did not have fins.  Tom Blake is credited with inventing the first surfboard fin, which he placed on his board in the early 1930s.  The first fin was placed on a longboard, because it wasn’t until the late 60s to early 70s that the shortboard came onto the surf scene.

The longboard fins were attached semi-permanently to the surfboard, this was done so that they could be replaced, rather difficultly, in the event that they broke.  The first longboard fins were also made from wood, and were treated with the same materials that covered the surfboard.

Longboard fins, like the surfboards they are made for, are generally long, between 6.5 – 10.5 inches in length.

Steer and Control

Longboard fins help steer and control a surfboard.  If you were to ride your board without a fin and then applied hard pressure to the tail section of the board, your board would try to slip out from under you.  The reason your board would try to slip out from under you, it’s because there is nothing in the water that can counteract or redirect the applied pressure, hence one of the purposes of the fin.

The Longboard fin will also help you maintain your position on the face of a wave.  Without the fin, your board would want to slide down the face of the wave.


Longboard Surfboard Fins

Center fin box.

On February 23, 1971, William L. Bahne Jr., was issued a patent for the center fin box, this is important, because this now allowed for a removable longboard fin.  The longboard fin no longer had to be glassed on or attached semi-permanently to a surfboard.  To this day, the center fin box system is being used on most longboards.

With the center fin box, surfers could move their fins forward or rearward in the box.  Moving the fin forward or rearward will affect how your longboard will feel and move in a wave.

Longboard Surfboard Fins

Click image to enlarge.

In the early days, longboards only had one fin and this would remain the case until, in 1980, Simon Anderson invented the tri-fin aka thruster system for the shortboard.

Simon Anderson’s thruster system allowed harder turns and sharper maneuvers than any other fin system available at that time.  With the invention of the Simon Anderson’s fin system, longboard makers wanted to take advantage of this breakthrough and started incorporating this fin system into their boards.

Parts or Areas

This information is provided by theinertia.com:

Fin Cant is the degree of outward angle a fin has in relation to the bottom of your surfboard. If a fin has zero cant, its position is straight up and down at a right angle to the board. This is going to be fast in a straight line, but it won’t give as much responsiveness through turns.

If the cant of the fin is larger, you’re going to gain a little more of that responsiveness through turns. It means you can maintain some more drive when your board is tilted on the rail.

Fin Base is the part of the fin that is actually attached to the board. A wider fin base is going to help with your drive. This translates into drawn out turns. Compare this with a narrow, or short fin base that is going to let you turn a little easier and sharper but without as much of that drive.

Fin depth or fin height refers to just how far the fin extends away for the bottom of the board. A deeper fin in the water is going to have more hold and stability than a shallow fin.

Fin rake is the arc of the fin and how far back it tilts or sweeps. The larger the degree of rake, the more drawn out turns will be. Less fin rake and a more upright fin template, means more pivot.

The fin foil is an aerodynamic shape from front to back of the fin. Much like the wings on a plane, this foil generates lift under the board.”

Many Shapes and Colors

Longboard Surfboard Fins

Longboard fins of various shapes, sizes and colors.

The longboard fin comes in many shapes, sizes and colors and the makers will claim these different shapes will allow you perform and do everything but replace the surfer.  The colors and

Longboard Surfboard Fins

Turbo Tunnel Fin

patterns on a longboard fin will not affect the performance of the fin but is only there for ascetics.

The shape and size of a longboard fin will definitely affect the performance of your surfboard.  A short, thinned based fin will offer more maneuverability but will not be as stable as your taller, wide based fin.  The taller, wide based fin is supposedly good for noseriding.  The taller, wide based fins are good for single fin longboards.

The “Turbo Tunnel” surfboard fins, a fin with a tunnel like opening in the center of the fin, claims to help with noseriding.  Some surfers swear by this fin and other, like myself, has not experienced any benefits.

Choosing the right fin for you will be based on not only trial and error but what you wish to do on a wave (e.g. shorter, thinned based fin for maneuverability, taller, wider based fin for more stability and noseriding).  Longboard fins that I love to use and I swear by are the Donald Takayama Halo fins.  In my experience, these fins make your longboard looser and allows for more vertical surfing, hitting the lip.

Longboard Surfboard Fins

Takayama halo fins

In Conclusion

The longboard fin was the first surfboard fin used.  Longboard fins help to control and steer surfboards.  Choose a longboard fin based on what you wish to do on a wave.  Color or pattern designs will have no effect on the performance of the fins and surfboards.  Click here to read my review of the FCS Fluid Foils Hatchet Longboard Fin.

Thanks for dropping in and should you have any questions or comments, please post it in the comments section of this page.

8 thoughts on “Longboard Surfboard Fins, Explained

  1. Great article very informative, looking for a gift and had very little knowledge on how to select a board. Great site, I’ll bookmark it for future info.


  2. Hi Stuart!

    Really interesting article. I love learning about the history of inventions – I always have this dream that I will one day invent something!

    My kids are looking to start surfing. What board would you recommend for a child who is starting out?



    • Hi Brian, For kids who are starting out, I would recommend buying those foam boards you can purchase at Costco or maybe purchase something cheap on Craigslist (read my post “How to buy a used surfboard?” before purchasing a used board). The foam boards are relatively inexpensive (in the event that your kids don’t like surfing), and not hard like your conventional surfboard, so if they are struck by the surfboard the damage will be minimal.

      Thanks for the comments and dropping in!

  3. So Ironic, I watched a doc on Netflix a few hours ago titled “Happy” and surfing was one of the categories in it, lol. Nice work on this post, ty Stuart.

    • Hi Robert, I have to say that surfing definitely makes me happy :).

      Thanks for the comments and dropping in!

  4. Hello Stuart,
    I never realized all of the terms associated with longboarding, as well as how great the impact of the design is. Thanks for informing me on this

    • Hi Cameron, Yes, there are a lot of terms associated with longboard and fin design can have a great impact on surfboard control.

      Thanks for the comments and dropping in!

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