Removable Surfboard Fins
Removable surfboard fins were around as early as 1954, however they weren’t interchangeable and there weren’t scores of different designs available at the local shop.
Tom Morey was a key figure in introducing removable fin systems with several types of fins in the 1960’s.
In the early 1990’s a number of new removable fin systems sprang up in conjunction with the burgeoning popularity of the thruster design. FCS, Future, Red X, O’Fish’l and Lok Box were among the early industry leaders.
Removable fins surged in popularity due to the ease of use—especially for shapers and surf shops. The danger of snapping off a glass-on and ruining the board was no longer an issue. Manufacturers and retailers were able to ship and store more boards with less risk.
FCS also built its marketing strategy around the fact that removable fins made surf travel much easier. Having professional sponsors like Kelly Slater didn’t hurt either. Slater’s blue and white signature fin has become an icon for FCS and the innovations it was ushering in.
The ability to manufacture precise molded shapes with computers has also pushed removable fins to the next level. Glass-on fins must be shaped by hand during the sanding process, and no two are ever the same. FCS even tests their new designs in Tasmania, where one of the world’s two hydrodynamic chambers is located.
Advances have also been made in the realm of the material the fins are made out of. Lighter fins are now possible, and several fin companies have introduced some exotic materials such as fiberglass resin, carbon composite, and ultra light epoxy.
Unfortunately, there is no universal fin system. You must find fins that work with the base connection built into your board. If you want a particular style of fin that is made by FCS, but you have Future connections on your board, you’re out of luck.
One of the basic problems with removable surfboard fins is the fact that they can be vulnerable to falling out and snapping off at the base. FCS fins are particularly guilty, as the way they connect to the plugs is rather weak in comparison to a system like Future. Some would argue, however, that it’s better to snap a $15 fin than break a glass fin.
Most removable fin systems, with the exception of companies like O’Fish’l, use metal screws to hold the fins in place. Unfortunately, this metal can strip, rust, or corrode, and replacement is difficult. You can prolong the life of your screws by rinsing them with fresh water after your session.
Despite a few drawbacks, it’s probably safe to say that more advances have been made in surfboard fins over the last 15 years than in board design itself.