Gear Guide '22: Fin Frenzy
The style of fin can really change the way a surfboard feels. I change them out a lot. I ride Futures and FCS II, but I enjoy the way the FCS II's click-in and out and I don't need a fin key. I don't lose fins here in New England waves, but I'll throw a screw in there when I'm in Costa Rica. Here are a few new sets that I rode enough in the past year to be able to comment on. I did not include longboard single fins, that needs its own blog post. But if you're looking for a new quad or thruster set to throw in your wider boards here on the east coast, these are the ones I like the most right now...
NEW FIN SETUPS
AU High Performance Fins - I like these innovative fin designs. Especially on small waves. I've tried the Hybrid and the LRC series as a quad and a thruster. Both fin models perform very well, and excel on cleaner, steeper waves. I find the overall design fast and snappy. Sometimes I forget they're even in there. The unique shape of these fins are eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing. They come in Futures or FCS II "click-in" styles. I'm not going to pretend to say what makes these fins work, but they do in fact work. There's some extra wiggle room there, where the AU fin gives you some freedom. You need to be ready for that when you push on them, or just don't ride them when it's too bumpy. That's my unscientific kook-take. I don't think Costa Rican WSL surfer Carlos Munoz has issues using AU fins, because he rides them full-time. So you should probably try them out for yourself. I just ordered the Kilos, which is a twin keel +1.
FCS II H4 Quad Fins - Super light, made from Swiss-engineered carbon fibre. These fins look like they are from 20 years in the future. They are so sharp they might cut you. I honestly didn't like these fins when I put them in my Lost V3 Shortboard. I tried them multiple times. Maybe it was just the fact that these were quads and I like this board as a thruster. I kept wanting to take the H4 quad's out and put the Mayhem thrusters back in. I tried them in a Lost V3 Round It and not much better in there either. So not liking them in my two favorite performance shortboards wasn't a great start to this relationship. Eventually, I did find the perfect home for these fins... on a VEC high performance quad longboard. These are actually magic fins when installed in VEC's longboard performance model, and I never take them out. This board and fin combo can handle waves well past the medium-size range, but I love it most in long-period head high+ storm surf. Transversely, this is not a good fin when the waves are small, even in the longboard. The H4's, on this longboard, like to performing turns at high speeds. And for such a light fin they do an amazing job of controlling the energy and momentum created by pumping down the line of a bigger wave on a larger board. Laying into a big turn and wrapping it back around, on an overhead face, using the H4 quads, on my 9'2 VEC HP longboard, is an incredibly satisfying feeling... better than any other board and fin combo in my quiver.
FCS Mayhem Split Keels - This is my favorite overall quad fin set. They excel on wide-swallowtail boards, but they work for every quad. I have them permanently installed on my 6'1 Lost Hydra. This board and fin combo is really at home in clean waist to chest high surf. There's so much pivot to this fin setup that I often forget I'm riding a quad, and I don't have to baby the turns to keep from sliding out. I've tried these split keels in my HP Longboard and a couple of HP shortboards and grovelers too. They work well in all of those boards. I highly recommend these quad fins from Lost, especially if you're like me and are more of a thruster guy. If you have a Lost Hydra, these fins are made to be in this board.
FCS II MR Twins +1 - This fin setup could be my favorite when the conditions are right. While I've ridden them in everything, and they've performed quite well, I prefer them in my groveler fish shapes so I can maximize board speed in small waves. The center trailer is just tall enough to give you stability, but there's not really any drag. These fins make your turns feel more buttery and loose. There's also good pivot to the side fins due to the more upright template. Put them in your HP shortboard for smaller playful days too, if you're looking for a loose skateboard feeling. They still hold really nice on medium surf. I take them out all of the time, in chest to head high, on my Lost Puddle Fish and Swordfish models.
FCS Rob Machado Tri Keels - I LOVE THESE FINS. I ride this thruster set in multiple boards and they are always with me when I travel. I ride them in all my boards, big and small, mid-lengths, fish, and high performance shortboards. They excel in smaller playful waves, they go fast, and they have great pivot. I've also taken them out in overhead tropical surf on several occasions, and while I would have preferred a taller fin with longer rake, I was totally fine riding these on a high performance fish made to fit into better waves. They can be a bit loose, but the center fin always bites. The Machado Tri Keels can be a great all-around fin set, for most of the gutless conditions we're faced with in New England. If it's head high and bumpy from the wind, without much thought, I throw these fins into my Puddle Fish or Vec Crowd Control and I go surf!
Futures Controller Alpha Quad Fins - I was not impressed with these Futures quad fins when I first got them. They flex a lot. I recommend the fiberglass versions if you want them to hold up on a bigger day. So why didn't I throw these fins away, and where did these fins eventually find a home? On an oversized Lost Puddle Jumper HP, bought for the dead of winter, when wearing maximum rubber. If the waves are super clean, and head high, this fin set, in my PJHP, is very fast and very fun, with sliding tail turns. I also use these fins in my Pyzel JJF AstroFish and Almond Secret Menu Soft Tops. They're great for the kids in summer because they're basically plastic.
NEXT REVIEW: TRACTION PADS, TRAVEL, & ACCESSORIES...