f***d up fins on my board - interpretation

Hello Fellow Boardriders

Attached are pictures of my 6’3" polyurethane thruster. Notice how the fins are f***d up.

The FCS fin plugs were not installed symmetrically so one fin points at a goofy angle in

comparison to the other. You can see this by noting that (in the 1st attached picture)

the fin on viewer’s left looks different than the right fin, particularly with respect to

the angle it makes with the rail. The same kind of thing can be said about the 2nd

picture attached.

The reason I started looking into this is because of consistently feeling like my board surfed

better one way than the other. So, I have a few questions:

  1. What is the proper way to angle/set up the fins on a thruster?

  2. How can I quantify the degree to which my fins are messed up and how can I know

which one (if either) is more correct?

  1. What kind of effect on the board’s riding might I expect this error to have?

  2. How common a mistake do you guys think this is?

  3. Which fin system is least likely to result in an error of this kind?

Thanks for your help,


Howzit avants, First, I’ve seen some installs that were way worse than yours. What I have seen also is installers that think it’s more important for the plugs to be exactly in the center of the hole which is important but not if it throws off the fin placement, which might have happened to your board. To set the degree angle of the fin I use a sliding bevel square and a protractor. With FCS I have noticed that the angle will change about 1/2 to 1 degree from the resin going off so I set my fins 1 degree more than what it’s supposed to be and they end up pretty much the degree I want. The flat side of the fins should be right in line with the shapers dots and the installer is supposed to draw a line centered on the dots about 2" past the dots. As far as how it affects the board ride is something only the rider can discern since some mistakes can actually make a magic board. Hopefully it’s not a very common mistake and board manufacturers should make sure their installers aren’t in the habit of making those kind of mistakes. I believe that any fin system can be done wrong so that question is a hard one, but I think that with FCS you have a better chance to correct the mistake before setting the plugs. If the board came from a reputable builder and is still new I’d take it back and show them and see if they will fix it since it’s not that hard to correct. Just take out the old plugs and put in a new set . I also noticed the the trailing tip on one side is right on the dot and the other is not just to the side but also a little further forward of the dot. Must of been a bad hair day for the installer. Hope this helps.Aloha,Kokua

Hi Avants -

I agree with Kokua. Those aren’t too bad at all, you oughta see some of the plugs I’ve installed!

You can trim the front or back of the fin tabs to get some fore and aft adjustment in the plug. There might even be a little bit of adjustment available already - just loosen the screws and try to slide the fins forward or back in the plug. Aside from the bases of the fins not lining up exactly with the dots, those look pretty good as is. I wouldn’t sweat it to the point of removing and reinstalling the plugs unless it’s really bugging you - you could end up worse.

Also - don’t necessarily assume the plugs/fins are off. It could be an optical illusion due to rail or outline asymmetry. Again, usually not a huge deal in the long run.

Michael Jones did quite an experiment with asymmetrical fins (on purpose) and seemed to like the results. Tom Morey has stated publicly that “Symmetry is over rated.”

Howzit John, One thing that amazes me is when the shaper marks the dots and then draws the line, but the line is not right on the dots. That's when I have to call the shaper and ask if he wants me to use the dots or the line to set the plugs on. I also tell them they don't need to do a line since all I need is the dots for the install but it's like they've got to much wax in their ears and they keep drawing the lines, nothing like confusing the glasser. If I can't get in touch with them I just figure the dots are the placement and they just can't draw a line right.Aloha,Kokua

I personally choose to overlook

any discrepancy in the orientation of these fins.

In my book"“.insights for a satisfied mind”"

availiable soon at select bookshops

Perfection is a place where and when you suspend judgement.

with the aid of a microscope my friend the goldsmith was let go because his polished jewelry wasnt shiny enough.

in the case of fin placement,the increase or perhaps decrease of variables.

when increasing the number of fins ,or decreasingthe number.

makes way for dissatisfaction and confoundation.

so I take this oppertunity to congradulate you on a fine surfboard.

the fact that it goes better one way over the other is natural.

make another for the other way.

as far as symetry,

look closely ,one foot is bigger,one hand is more wizened,one leg is shorter,

one eye opens more than the other,on each and every one of us.

them that cared made the venus di milo

perfect…then what happened?

even though she lost a couple apendages

she is loved all the more.

paddle thet board out and ride it till the truth is out ,

that board and the fin placement… is perfect…

…I mean it.

aloha from waipouli…


the next one will be better ,

start it soon…

Howzit Brose, Not sure if he made the board or bought it but I think he bought it and that’s the ypsetting part.Aloha,Kokua

ride the wild

board ,surf, water under the bridge

Hello Wise Men of Kauai and elsewhere,

Your insights are much appreciated. By definition, mistakes (that is, deviation from the shaper’s intent) will work out either better or worse, the likelihood depending on the shaper’s skill. In this case, I think the error is for the worst.

I bought this board off the rack one day when my previous board snapped - the swell was good, getting better, and I was amped to continue surfing. It was new around $350, so the price was right, and I didnt look closely at the deck 'cause i was trying to get back in the H20. Had a great time on it when I did, my previous board felt rubbery and unresponsive in comparison, probably due to age.

The board’s tail is narrow and the glass is sturdy - it’s a great tube rider and useful for pretty much any size that we’ll get in jersey. It has held up to some incredible beatings. The only major ding was when a beginner pulled a no-look drop in at Doolin Pt. Ireland and skegged my rail pretty good. I wasnt too bummed cause the tide was killing it anyway.

It’s an AJFinan Cannibal deck from about 3 years ago. He uses s-glass and has some special techniques, apparently,

that increase strength. I’ve definitely noticed the durability of this board.

However, the main problem is lack of maneuverability. The board has significant drive (when there’s juice) and holding power. However, in comparison to other boards I’ve ridden, it doesnt take well to trying to

push it vertical, up and down, making looping turns and such. It much prefers to go straight and fast.

Also feels like it rides better backside than frontside.

My 6’ patterson roundtail with glass-ons has no such problem. Seems just as snappy and maneuverable going left or right … same can be said of a weiner shape that i rode, also a 6’3".

It’s my understanding that setting the fins back makes a board stiffer, less maneuverable and that would be consistent with my experience on this board. However, I’m not sure how to interpret the effect of “errors” in the angle at which fins are set.

In the right lighting, the fins looking highly asym, but regardless, I’m just curious about what one would expect from various possiblities – e.g. if one has a ‘well-placed’ fin and a over-angled one, what would the effect be? Or is it just too complicated (board + rider + waves = complex) to make a call?

A final comment - and 2nd motivation for asking this question - is that I’m trying to gear up to shape/build a board. And I’m trying to develop an intuition for what shapes/fins do to how a board rides … been riding a fish, a couple thrusters and a small wave ‘modern’ fish trying to figure this stuff out.

Thanks for your help …


I’ve seen some really horrid fin sets from small and big lables alike. A lot more than with which I am comfortable.

The way I see it, I do not spend $400-600 for a board with crooked fins, regardless if symmetry is overrated or not. I spend plenty of time eying up the angles, feeling the rails, and whatnot before buying the board. When I bring it home, I measure more. If I find something I do not like, I bring it back.

I’ve experienced everything (both from the shops and board companies) from “too bad” to “ride it while we shape you a new one free of charge and we’ll swap them out when it when it arrives”.

The former never get my business again and bad lip-service;the latter get my business and positive lip service via spoken word and message board.

This is also why I rarely bother with custom orders anymore since you are often stuck with what you get and it puts an additional financial burden on the shop owner for them to have to deal with the disaster.

Since you mentioned NJ, I’ll let you know that Tony G at Ocean Hut Surf Shop in Lavallette NJ took care of a custom board that came in with a really crooked back fin. He brokered a deal with the company that allowed me to ride the board until the new one came in, then took the old one back to sell as used. I consider that very good customer service and reflective of Tony’s character.

I wound up opting to not ride the board so that it was in pristine condition for when he eventually yanked the plugs and replaced them so that he could recover fair (or better than fair) $ for the inconvenience.

Hackeysaky - Yeah, I learned my lesson : regardless of how amped you are, make sure you do the eyeing up, the research, before you drop half a g on a deck… had the same kind of problem with a quiksilver wetsuit. thankfully, those things disappeared (at least from around here) cause they were junk. kiwi friend of mine had the same experience with quiksilver wetties.

with respect to squaring up the fins, etc, the shop did offer to reset the fins free of charge and Finan was cooperative too. he’s really trying to make a good product and (at that time) was still figuring out his production process. i’m sure it’s improved now.

overall, though, experiences like yours and mine are not good for the hand shaping industry. pop-outs and related ‘exact copy’/‘perfected’ manufacturing have some distinct advantages, in particular in quality control.

the hand of the artist can’t be replaced for experimentation, innovation and aesthetic touches, leading to magic, etc. but it does look like the manual shaping process is already gone from large companies (lost, merrick, rusty etc), replaced by their machines and their time limits. it seems to me that those guys are only incrementally less soulful than surftech but still have quality control issues and limited ability to customize (you’ll never speak to one of their shapers) …

exciting times in the surf industry - will surfburger take over?