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Fin System Guide

Removable Fins Guide — FCS Fins, Future Fins, and more

Are Future fins better than FCS? Are O’Fish’l fins any good?

There are so many different fin manufacturers these days that it can be very difficult to figure out which one is right for you.

Once a fin system is in place on a board it’s nearly impossible to change it, and people don’t buy new surfboards every week. At best, surfers are at the mercy of word of mouth and advertising.

Here I have broken down several fin companies into potential pros and cons. Remember: everyone has their own priorities about fin systems and what they want out of them. Take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of all the fin systems here, and then check out each company’s website for more information.

Happy fin hunting!

FCS

Currently the world leader in surfboard fins, FCS has led the charge with a strong push towards hydrodynamic testing.
Pros:
Most new surfboards are manufactured with FCS plugs.
They have the widest selection of templates.
Cons:
Arguably one of the weakest connection systems.

Future Fins


Future fins is one of the leading contenders in the market. Their company uses a combination of an improved connection system with a number of different materials and designs.
Pros:
Strong connection.
Excellent selection of materials and designs.
Same hex key as used with FCS.
Cons:
Tend to be rare.

Red X


Red X markets their technology based on the fact that they have the strongest base system of all the removable systems. A stronger base yields a better ride and more drive. They also allow you to adjust the fins forward and backward, increasing the range of customization.
Pros:
Strongest connection.
Ability to move fins forward and backward.
Common flathead screwdriver is all that is needed to tighten screw connection.
Several cutting edge materials.
Cons:
Tend to be rare.
Not the biggest selection of templates.

O’Fish’l


O’fish’l is one of the most innovative in terms of connection. Instead of a metal screw (that can become stripped, ripped out, or corroded), O’fish’l fins are connected via a plastic “Z Clip” that is designed to protect your fins and boards by falling out before your board or fin does.
Pros:
Tool-free connection system.
No metal parts.
Several templates.
Fins come in 4,6, and 8 degrees.
Cons:
The connection system is not the strongest.
Z Clips easy to lose.
Tend to be rare.

Shaper Ted Kearns (http://www.tkshapes.com) uses O’Fish’l fins in all his boards. Here’s what he has to say:

Nice site. I would like to add to your comments on O’fish’l. I have been building boards for over 20 years and just in the last few years have had unreal success with O’fish’l. I have tried all systems, and ofish is by far the easiest to install during manufacturing, the lightest and strongest. My customers love the snap-in.

For the most part, it outsmarts most people and they get frustrated. That is why people think the system “sucks”. All the parts are manufactured with virgin medical grade plastic and the tolerances are unreal. The fins fit tighter than any other system even w/ out the clip in. Losing z-clips excuse is kind of a cop out. You can lose those keys also.The clip will not come out of the box unless you remove it. At least the clip is replacable when it wears. If a screw strips, you must rout out and replace the plug or box. Also the fit of the boxes in the board makes the tail weight lighter than any other. Less resin = lighter tails.Sorry I blabbed on, but I feel like usual, the majority of surfers are brainwashed by magazine hype.

I noticed in you description of O’fish’l that you stated the Z-clip is designed to break. It is not designed to break, but when the fin hits you while surfing, it is bumped out, causing less injury and damage to the box. Other than that your description is good. Fins also come in 4,6,and 8 degrees. This option has been a godsend for me, so I can really dial my fins with different bottom contours. Thanks again for your time. Ted.

Thanks for the feedback Ted! I’ve corrected my description about the Z-Clip.

Lok Box


Lok Box promotes the fact that their base connection is easy to install for manufacturers and shapers, has the ability to move the fin forward and back, and also has the ability to protect a surfboard from injury when the skeg strikes a solid object. The connection system features a tapered insert to ensure base stability, and a metal finlock that will bend on heavy impact and release the fin.
Pros:
Protection from hard collision.
Ease of installation.
Fin adjustment ¼” forward and backward.
Ample fin selection available, including keels.
Cons:
Not commonly installed.
Held in by one screw only.

Pro Box


A lesser known company, Pro Box markets its fins based on the fact that you can change the position of the fins, as well as the cant angle. (Cant is how much the fin is angled away from a directly perpendicular 90 degree angle to the base of the board). This type of customization seems to be wasted on most surfers who simply don’t want to bother. Pro Box also allows you to use FCS -fins with their connection system.
Pros:
Very customizable.
Ability to use FCS and Future Fins.
Cons:
Rare.
Several pieces to deal with.

My Recommendations

Overall I would recommend either FCS or Future Fins, however Ted Kearns recent feedback has me looking more favorably at O’Fish’l. Obviously FCS is much more common–almost every off the rack surfboard comes with the FCS system.

FCS has also come out with their new FCS H-2 model which work extremely well. Unfortunately, you can’t get this model for Future fins.

Futures definitely have the stronger connection system of the two since the entire base of the fin is connected to the board as opposed to the FCS two tab locking system. Even so, I prefer the fact that FCS is constantly on the cutting edge of fin technology.

Comments (30)

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  1. I have an O’fish’l setup and I broke the leading plastic base of the LB side bite while trying to ‘snap’ it in this morning. I’m new at taking these in & out, but the website instructions make it look easy enough, somehow I failed & still have yet to find a replacement 4″ proteck o’fish’l 75A that is the same white color as the other. Overall I like the idea of easy ‘snap in’ / ‘snap out’, I was surprised the fin broke, and bummed… but I’ll try again and see how it goes.

  2. Harry Hoffman says:

    Futures are definitly the best fin because the fin box isnt connected to the deck of the board like FCS’s are. FCS fin plugs tend to crack the fiberglass deck over time and you may not notice this if you have a traction pad over you fin plugs. Future fins also create the least drag because the base of the fin is sunk into the fin box so the board to fin transition is almost smooth. FCS tabs make a small gap between board and fin, creating the drag in water.I have no problem getting boards with Future fin boxes because i order my boards built custom with Futures…why not have a board built just for my if it cost the same price? Almost all shapers give the option for FCS or Future…pick Future!

  3. Eddy says:

    Well said Harry, i totaly agree!
    I never use FCS anymore. Future fins are the best. Definately the closest system to fixed fins.

  4. pierre says:

    i had a 7’8 board with fcs and after 1 year there are big circle cracks on the deck of the board over the fins…and they have more drags… i now have a 6’4 rusty quad fish with future fins and its amazing but i have one big problem…HOW THE HELL DO YOU REMOVE FUTURE FINS? they are so hard to take out when i want to run my quad fish as a twinfin!!

  5. admin says:

    Sometimes they can be very tight. Just make sure you unscrew the screw enough. Before you put them back in make sure there are no sand particles on the fins or in the mounts.

  6. pierre says:

    i figured out how to remove them, thanks, but on my quad i have two bigger front fins with two smaller back fins, which two would i remove to make it a twinfin, or do i need different kinds of fins?

  7. Vil says:

    I’ve had futures on my last board and they are doing well. i persisted with fcs for years as i travel a lot but i just kept ripping fins out of boards bottom turning. i went back to fixed fins before i got my hands on some futures. fcs was the pioneer of a good idea but they have been surpassed. just ask your loacl shaper

  8. christian says:

    how the hell do u get these future fins out????

  9. Jamaican Rob says:

    I have used FCS fins without any of the issues noted here. I have had them on 4 Tuflite boards and have done some traveling with each of them a few times – Costa Rica, Hawaii mainly. If these had proven to me they had weaknesses I wouldn’t be giving my positive opinion here and still using them on my new board. Although I surf mainly in Huntington Beach and Newport I feel as if they are well tested by me – been surfing 25 years, 6’1″ 210lbs, and surf 3 times a week on average – “it’s good to be a poolman”. I just ordered an EPS custom Rusty 6’6″ Pirahna (5 fin) so this will be a new material/board to have FCS’s on. I have been very impressed with the FCS tech video that proves the strength of the FCS system against a Future fin set-up, also I have never liked that Future fins can be grabbed at the tip and rocked side to side in their mounted slot as this changes the intended design camber – I know this is splitting hairs but it’s also just plain sloppy. As for how Future of FCS fins reach their own breaking point check out the FCS web site; then click on “Truth about fin systems” it’s a big red dot you click on from their homepage. Best of luck in your decision making. P.S. the FCS H2 fins are incredible!!!

  10. myrto says:

    maybe sumbody can help me here?
    i have an odd kind of fin system – its just one base, a bit like the future fins system – mine is called EFEX fins system, but i can not find it anywhere in the internet… i lost one fin while surfing in our river here in switzerland… no chance to find it again, this one’s gone… ANYBODY KNOWS WHERE TO FIND EFEX FINS? thx for your help – m

  11. Artie Deschane says:

    I have a Jim Phillips vintage 1969 (Woodstock era) “The Soul Creation”. Looking for a skeg (fin) to fit the system.

  12. aj says:

    i have used two fcs boards and one quad with futures, people say that fcs always rip out and junk, its all a buncha bs, i have one board thats 7’0 and after a year of heavy surfing (twice a day sometimes) and not taking care of it properly, the fin boxes just barely cracked through the deck… on my 5’10 hybrid fish with fcs, iv been using it for a few months and still no problems, and the cool thing about fcs is you can go to any shop and find any design or template for a fin you can emagine…for my future fin quad i had to go to 3 different shops just to find some carbon fiber fins for my quad for my quad.

    stick with fcs

  13. Dave says:

    check the 4 way fins system from africa

  14. Kevin says:

    I understand why everyone likes Futures but I hate them.
    1)The fins constantly get stuck, and are so hard to take in and out that you might as well be riding with glass-ons (which are far and away the best by the way)
    2)The fin templates you can buy suck for the most part. Vectors are shit, the inside foil on the rail in the dumbest thing ever, I feel like it fights to stay straight when I want to turn.

    FCS definitly have thier problems with breaking but if you surf as much as I do you are going to break fins and fin boxes, I would rather have somthing easy to take in and out if im stuck with a fin system.

    Interested in these O’fish’l fins. Sound interesting but I say go with glass on fins, better performance and easier to fix than fin systems.

  15. Kevin says:

    God, btw dont listen to a kook that “heavily” surfs a 7’0″, even though he happens to be right..

    I surf every day theres waves and am very hard on my boards, FCS.

  16. After 40 years of dedicated board building, I’ve seen just about every system you can imagine. I began using FCS Fusion system to replace the round X2 FCS plugs that I always considered labor intensive and a sub standard design. The Fusion system was originally designed by FCS for installation into EPS Epoxy boards, but the application is so far superior to other systems, that I use it standard in all my boards.

    The double tab system breaks when it should, offering affordable and easy replacement, as well as some placement fore and aft. The system is light weight and very strong including a high density foam piece on each cassette that are available in 0, 5, and 8 degree fin cants.

    Fusion is easy to install into shaped blanks, and the system nets a very light strong cosmetically appealing end result in all my custom poly & epoxy surfboards.

  17. Karl says:

    I’ve been riding FCS since their start and have never had the plugs crack my deck. If they are its the glassers fault and not the system. You are supposed to use a rear deck patch in addition to your normal cloth. Many don’t!!Buy a custom board and specify your glassing needs. In todays market of $600 to $800 shortboards you can get a custom for the same and many times less specifcally designed for you!!

  18. Sorry Karl, but I have to respectfully disagree. After being in the industry for decades, I’d have to say that blaming the glassers for a design that has inherent design deficiencies simply isn’t fair.

    A skin to skin connection is theoretically the strongest form of reinforcement for fin systems and fin boxes that experience significant lateral load bearing. After pioneering the method needed to eliminate fin box blowout and failure on windsurfers, we did, indeed find the best method of reinforcement was a skin to skin connection.

    However, the problem with the FCS X2 plugs is the lack of reinforcement around the fin plugs and the “H” pattern hat connects to the deck layer: even with a deck patch. Severe lateral torque or a blow to the leading edge or the fin can (and does) result inthe plug punching down below the bottom surface, the O ring of reinforcement cracking, or the corner of the tab slot cracking where the material is very thin adjacent to the perimeter of the plug wall.

    I maintain, that in theory, it was a good idea, and overall the plugs handle considerable demands, but if you were to ask any number of surfboard repair shops how often they have to replace cracked FCS plugs, they would tell you it’s pretty common.

    How can I make these statments? How do I qualify?

    I have spent 40 years in the industry building high performance surfboards and sailboards including operating the busiest repair shop in Santa Barbara throughout the 80′s decade. I also designed and built the 2nd fastest sailboard in the world as clocked by radar.

    See this retrospective:

    http://www.goletasurfing.com/fowler.html

  19. zack the hack says:

    whatever.

    I would recommend the people not use fins at all. Side slip more. The Hobgods think its cool.

  20. Forlorn Surfer (colt) says:

    i got a o fishl system but i can’t find any longboard fins for it like ANYWHERE!!! and if it’s a 10.5″ box, does it matter what size fin i get?

  21. Doug South says:

    I am having trouble taking out the Future Fins from their fin box. Anyone got any tips?

  22. john says:

    yeah worst things about futures fins leave them in for couple of months and they seize in there need to get a screw drive to wedge it out, and the future screws face forward doubt thats much good for drag

  23. Dave says:

    Hi would someone suggest a fin for my 6’1′ with future fin system (first time with this system) to loosen the board up?

    I got a replica shaped up of my usual board but this time opted to a future system setup opposed to my usual fcs. Problem is by old 6’1 (all beat up and water logged) Is easier to generate speed and much more Manoeuvrable and loose compared with my brand new board. I’m sort’ve regretting the change to future fins at this stage cause as far as I can tell it’s the only major difference in my two boards therefore must be the reason for the lack of performance in small pus waves, which I unfortuanately ride alot.

    So any suggestions to loosen my board up?

  24. Dave says:

    Over the past 12 years, I’ve used FCS plugs almost exclusively.

    Pros: Simple and easy to switch fins in and out; Wide variety of fins to choose; I’ve never had a plug rip out on me (though I’ve bottomed out on reef several times and had the fin tabs rip out once).

    Cons: Deck cracking and pressure dimples around the plugs over time (the fastest that ever happened was the second time I ever used my quad-2 front fin plugs dimpled my deck); I had a hairline crack on the bottom left plug from wear; Fastening screw sometimes loosens over time (check every so often).

    Overall, I’m pretty happy with how FCS treated me. No major performance issues noticed even with cracking or dimpling.

    With that said, I just changed over to Futures with my latest boards. Main reason: Cracking and dimpling of the x-2 plug. I’ve never tried Fusions but I’m more than willing (seems like a better structural design). I chose futures because I was impressed with the way my 7’2 JC1′s handled this past year. Solid box and fins. Only thing I’m concerned about is a fatal blow to the Future fin box-I hear that’s a death blow to a board. But anyways, I’m cool with pretty much any fin system. FCS and Futures are the most accessable for me at this time.

    Peace.

  25. chris owen says:

    check out some carbon fibre fins!unique flex pattern, good in the turns, strong and good looking.

  26. cody cecil says:

    Are O’fish’l box systems interchangeable w/ FCS or FUTURES. my question is, can i put FCS or FUTURE FINS in an O’fish’l box or do i have to modify my board?

  27. Matt says:

    I’m looking for fins for my first shortboard, a 6’0 Superbrand. What’s the best FCS fin for somebody’s first performance shortboard?

  28. John says:

    Go on preference and try to surf everything you get your hands on. Ignoring the connection and drag issues, and focusing on the fin alone, I personally believe fcs makes a better fin than futures. Dollar for dollar the fcs fins I’ve used have handled more abuse than the futures.

  29. Brother Moses says:

    Can anyone tell me how to determing which cant to choose in the FCS fin box system? Have a choice of 5 or 8 degree. Installing in old 6′ Stewart fish style board. Found it under a porch and looks bad as hell!!!! Lacking a couple of fins.

  30. Chris W. says:

    Howzit,

    Whichever fin system you prefer, please PLEASE consider the Pro Teck fins with softer urethane fin edges. They fit most all box systems, FSC, Futures, Red X, O’fish’l, etc., perform as well as most fins and MOST IMPORTANTLY protect you and your customer from nasty fin gashes.

    Give these fins strong consideration and save yourself the experience of seeing what hard fins can do to a young person’s face.

    Thanks.

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