Traditionally, surfboard shapers glassed a set of fins to your board, and that was that. Though glass-on fins made things simple, interchangeable fin systems make it possible to tune a board’s performance to match the conditions. As a result, fin design has become an area of intensive innovation in surfing, and fins are now available in different templates and materials, including carbon fiber. Some surfers will carry multiple fin sets to the beach and decide which ones to ride when they see the conditions. “I usually stick to two templates for fins,” Nicol says, who rides Futures fins. “One has a wider base which gives the board more hold and you can drive it harder. It’s good in bigger waves.”
Changing the fins on a board requires a small Allen wrench, known among surfers as a fin key. “I’m always forgetting fin keys,” he says. Fortunately, most surfers have them, so they’re an easy thing to borrow at the beach. If you surf a lot, you may also begin to find fin keys in the most unlikely places, though not always at the beach when you need them.
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