How to Put Surf Fins in

Fins are a crucial component for catching waves and maintaining control on your surfboard. Learning how to properly install and adjust your fins is important for surfing performance and safety. This guide will walk you through the basic process of putting surf fins in a standard fin setup.

Understanding Fin Systems

Most boards today use a three-fin setup – two smaller side fins paired with a larger center fin in the middle. Fins fit into boxes located on the bottom of the board. The most common types of boxes are:

Box TypeDescription
Flex-Plug BoxUses flexible rubber plugs that fins squeeze into
FCS II BoxFeatures metal clips that secure fins in slots

Knowing your board’s box system is essential for selecting the right fins and installing them correctly.

Gathering Supplies

To replace or install new fins, you’ll need: fins, a fin key (allen wrench type tool), a damp cloth, wax and possibly fin inserts for certain box types.

Removing Old Fins

Loosen any screws or clips securing fins in place using a fin key. Wiggle fins back and forth to break the seal in the box. Pull straight out to remove.

Cleaning the Fin Boxes

Wipe out any residue or debris in boxes with a damp cloth. This prepares a smooth surface for new fins. Dry thoroughly before reinstallation.

Installing New Fins

With boxes cleaned, position fins at a 90 degree angle to the box opening. Gently push fins straight down into place, rotating them flush as they enter.

Securing the Fins

For plug boxes, no securing is needed as the rubber grip holds fins. For others, tighten any screws or clips included with the fins. Be careful not to overtighten.

Waxing the Fins

Apply a thin layer of wax to the sides and back edges of each fin using a wax comb or fingernail. This reduces friction in the water for smoother turns.

Final Inspection

Check that fins are fully inserted straight and at consistent depths in their boxes. Test side-to-side rocker motion ensuring nothing feels loose or restricted.


Q: How often should fins be changed?

A: For recreational surfing, fins can typically last 6-12 months if waxed regularly. Professionals changing lineups may swap more frequently.

Q: What if my board uses a different fin system?

A: The principles remain similar but technique may vary. Refer to your board/fin manufacturer for specs if unsure.

Q: How do I know which fins are right for my surf style/conditions?

A: Consult with local surf shops – they can assess your ability level and local breaks to recommend ideal fins.


With the basic process explained here, you now have the skills needed to properly set up your surfboard’s fins. Be sure to inspect and maintain them regularly for optimal riding performance and safety. Smooth, consistent fin installation is an important routine maintenance task for any surfer.

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