March 11, 2022 6 min read
When it comes to choosing fins for your surfboard, it can be a very overwhelming task, especially with so many designs now available in the market.
With a lifetime of knowledge and personal experience in fin experimentation and development, we thought who better to ask about fins and their performance, than Katin surfer Devon Howard.
Words By Devon Howard
Some say your fins contribute to 50% of the performance of your board. For me, it’s a lot more than that. How much exactly, I don’t know—but I can’t imagine riding any of my boards right now without a fin! I’ll leave that to Derek Hynd—my knees just aren’t that flexible.
Fin knowledge is critical to understanding your equipment and vice versa. In the shortboard realm, there are countless options of templates, materials, and surface contours. By and large, you'll generally do well grabbing most fin sets off your local surf shop’s wall. The biggest factor perhaps being size S, M, or L, and making that call is relatively intuitive.
Longboarders and midlengthers, on the other hand, arguably have a broader range of considerations when it comes to matching the perfect fin/s with their board. And for this reason, I’m not surprised that most DMs I get are questions about what fins I like to ride.
Like all things in surfing, fins are quite personal and thus subjective, but over the years I have found some universal performance characteristics that work for most surfers.
The following list features a selection of fins that works for me and that I’ve previously shared via my DMs. Whilst I don’t have a fin sponsor, these are the fins I prefer for the boards I ride. Some of the designs I have helped develop and others are by my friends that I have enjoyed using over the years. There’s no doubt there will be other designs you prefer that would suit your surfing better, but hopefully this helps you narrow down the countless options next time you’re on the search for a new fin.
- LONGBOARD FINS -
Wayne Rich Harmonic 67 -For straight-up noseriding, you may need more hold and lift than what the Greenough 4A can provide. In that case, I turn to the master, Wayne Rich. His Harmonic 67 is the perfect blend of both pivot and drive for the classic style noserider. With its raked back profile, it provides additional drive when setting up off the bottom and has superior hold while walking to the tip and hanging out on the front end. If you can’t locate one of these beauties, the Bing Noserider Fin would be a close second.
10.5” & 11” Thomas Bowl Cut - A few years back, I was thinking maybe the Greenough 4A was too swept back, and perhaps something more upright would help me turn quicker in smaller, shorter, punchier waves. I also felt a fin with a more upright outline would increase my nose riding hang time, as the Greenough 4A sometimes felt like it was lacking a bit in that category. Thomas Bexon of Thomas surfboards has made a lot of my favorite logs to date (click here to watch Devon on his Thomas log), so I backed his vision for a better longboard fin. I think this fin is a great compromise between a full-on upright noserider and a swept-back Greenough.
D Fin - When I want to go pre Involvement era vibes, I love the feeling of a D Fin. It’s like going on a Sunday cruise in an old early 60s Chevy. The larger area on these styles of fins allows for harder turning and easier nose riding. These work best on pig-style logs; wide hip outlines with super narrow noses. I would not recommend for a noserider.
- Midlength Fins -
CI Mid 2 + 1 (4”) - I’ve ridden a lot of different templates and set-ups and this is the culmination of all that I’ve learned. In the past, I had to mix and match center fins templates with whatever sides I could get my hands on. This set has matching outlines. The outline features a full base and moderate rake that was hand foiled for medium flex, making for a very responsive ride with just the right amount of hold and lift that helps you accelerate through turns. The 6.5” center box fin is available with either 4” FCS two-tab side bites for medium to bigger-sized surfers, or 3.6” for lighter weight riders around 160lbs and under.
Wayne Rich Power Fin (2 + 1) - Before making the CI Mid-set, my go-to center fin was the Wayne Rich Power fin, that is designed to come hard off the bottom, build speed, and harness it for increased projection out of turns. My favorite was 6.5” center with 3.7” sides, or for a looser feel I’d go with a 7” center and 3.25” sides. Keep in mind I am 190 lbs, so you may need to scale down accordingly depending on your weight.
BMT - Britt Merrick Twin - For a long time, I was all about 2 + 1 set-ups for mid-lengths, but in recent years I am spending more time on twins and singles. For twins, I prefer a fuller fin, closer to a keel design. When I don’t want a full feel, I go with Britt Merrick’s Twin template that is somewhere between a traditional upright and keel fin. While conceived to maximize the performance and flow of his new Channel Islands Twin Pin, the setup works great in any twin fin board if you’re looking for the perfect combination of drive, hold and release.
AMK - Al Merrick Twin - Make no mistake, this fin ain't retro. Although inspired by classic keel outlines, the all-new AMK template boasts a modern rake shape, graduated tip flex, and flat inside foils finely tuned for fast, high-performance surfing. This keel-fin set is built to rip but is also ideal for those that just want to groove. I find myself grabbing this more than any other twin fin option. Being a heavy back foot surfer, I love the feel of this fin on the mids I’ve been riding of late.
CI Single - A classic upright style single fin that has been tuned for a performance style setup for a single-fin egg or most any midlength design. I developed this fin with Channel Islands to perform with a loose and pivotal style for a springy feeling due to the flex in the tip, without compromising hold through a solid turn. I find that single midlength/egg type fins that have a lot of rake, don’t allow for the “performance” feel I am seeking. In short, I find the rakey, swept-back fins feel sluggish in comparison. Having spent a lot of time using the Greenough 4A and the Liddle L Flex, this fin combines some of my favorite design attributes of both. If you can’t find this fin over at True Ames, then I would say the Liddle L Flex is my second choice, or Joel Tudor’s Wave Skate by DRD4. The Greenough 4A would be my last choice, mostly because it has extra base and rake, which I find gets in the way of the type of surfing I’m trying to do on eggs or most single-fin mids.
Liddle L Flex - Designed by Greg Liddle, the L Flex was originally designed and intended to be paired with his modified displacement hull surfboards that he became well known for pioneering. Precise foils and a fine-tuned amount of flex were, and still are, integral components of the functionality in the fin’s design. I found them to work really well on the planning hulls that I ride and this fin definitely influenced where I landed on the CI Single, making it a bit more upright with a fuller tip. If I was on the road and lost my CI Single, the next best option for me would be this fin or DRD4’s Water Skate they made with Joel Tudor.
Greenough 4A - Minus the noseride piece of what I said earlier about Greenough 4A for longboarding, I do really like the all-around nature of this fin for a single egg/midlength design at around 8.5 or even 8” — and also for two plus one option due to its wide base (drive) with around 7” size. This was what I ran for a while, but in more recent times I’m preferring the spicy feeling I get from the CI Single.
To keep up with Devon's happenings, follow him on Instagram @devon_howard