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Best Surfing Fins 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]

Last Updated February 1, 2018
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Edwin GarrettI’m Willow Edwin Garrett. My friends call me “stone” and it just kind of stuck. After putting in 50+ hours of research and testing, I made a list of the best surfing fins of 2018 and explained their differences and advantages.

Eventually, I found something that would suit my needs but it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one who might be having the same problems I did. In this section we provide our readers with a comparison table of our top picks. Scroll past the table for a closer look at each of the 3 best surfing fins in our review section.

Best Surfing Fins of 2018

After carefully examining the reviews and ratings of the people who have used them earlier this listicle has been made. Many brands have introduced surfing fins on the market. These brands have resulted in a variety for the user. These require that the consumers be well aware of what they are buying so as to make the best choice.

However, after giving you the TOP list, I will also give you some of the benefits you stand to gains for using it. Here we have compiled a detailed list of some of the best surfing fins of the 2018.

Test Results and Ratings

Rank №1 №2 №3
Total 4.8 4.5 4.3
Ease of use
5 points
5 points
4 points
4 points
4 points
4 points
5 points
4 points
5 points
5 points
5 points
4 points
Awards 1
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№1 – UPSURF Surfing 3fins FCS2 surfboard fins k2.1 blue

UPSURF Surfing 3fins FCS2 surfboard fins k2.1 blue

FCS2 fin box compatible.
Perfect for a wide range of conditions from beach breaks to point breaks.
LIGHTWEIGHT:The fiberglass case, which makes the fins strong and flexible, makes it easier to turn around while enjoying the surf.
Everything is OK.

Why did this surfing fins win the first place?

I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The material is stylish, but it smells for the first couple of days.


Ease of use










№2 – UPSURF surfboard fins k2.1 5fins future surfing fins honeycomb choose color

UPSURF surfboard fins k2.1 5fins future surfing fins honeycomb choose color

Perfect for a wide range of conditions from beach breaks to point breaks.
LIGHTWEIGHT:The fiberglass case, which makes the fins strong and flexible, makes it easier to turn around while enjoying the surf.
Fits any surfboard that uses Future fins – whether it’s a short board, fun board, or long board.
Casing feels fragile.
It got crumpled after a couple of months of use..

Why did this surfing fins come in second place?

I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery.


Ease of use










№3 – UPSURF Surfing Fcs Fins G5/G7 size carbon+fiberglass surfboard fins M/L-size

UPSURF Surfing Fcs Fins G5/G7 size carbon+fiberglass surfboard fins M/L-size

Fits any surfboard that uses FCS fins – whether it’s a short board, fun board, or long board.
LIGHTWEIGHT:The fiberglass case, which makes the fins strong and flexible, makes it easier to turn around while enjoying the surf.
Perfect for a wide range of conditions from beach breaks to point breaks.Perfect for a wide range of conditions from beach breaks to point breaks.
Not suited for novices.
It is hard to wash..

Why did this surfing fins take third place?

It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. I hope that the good reputation of the manufacturer will guarantee a long-term work. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new.


Ease of use










Surfing Fins Buyer’s Guide

If you keep the before points in mind, you can easily go out to the market and buy surfing fins, right? No!

NVS Series-II vs Series-III Foils

At NVS we’re constantly working to imporove the performance of the fins we offer. Using research from NACA on the fluid dynamics of differnt types of foils we’ve improved upon the standard foiling available on fins.

Series III foils are based off NACA foils and are designed to increase laminar flow while decreasing turbulent flow (Drag). The SeriesIII foils have a higher range of angle of attack to limit speed loss while turning.

Series II The SeriesII foiling is a more traditional surfboard foil. This foil produces lots of lift at slow speeds but doesn’t hold as much speed through turns when compared to our hydrodynamic SeriesIII foiling.

It’s been said if you don’t like your surfboard; change your fins. – Is the board too stiff? Try changing to a fin with less surface area or less sweep- Is the board too loose? Try a larger or stiffer fin. Increasing sweep will make turns longer and more drawn out- Soft or looser boards will go faster and have better drive when paired with large fins with ample rake- Larger surfers typically need larger fins, smaller surfers -> smaller fins- If you want a more responsive board choose fins that are stiffer- Boards with more rail or with fins closer together typically need less surface area- Boards with a lot of rocker may need fins with larger area sweep or depth- If your board has channels built into the bottom side you can use a smaller fin (the channels act as small fins)- Boards with wide tails typically use fins that have more area- Small boards in larger surf typically use larger fins with greater sweep


The purpose of fins is to help you to get propulsion in order to get into the wave early. They also help you to paddle out through the surf quicker too. Shorter bladed fins give you smaller, quicker and deeper burst kick and are also good for quick release for spins etc. Longer bladed fins offer a bit more control and a re good for long paddle outs. the best thing to look for is somethong in the middle length wise.

At Bodyboard HQ we favour fins that are soft in the fin pocket, stiffer on the blade and have a springy feel to them. This springiness helps to generate more power, maximising your kick to give an earlier entry into the wave. Riders also use the fin like a keel at times to help maintain grip on the face through turns and in steeper sections of the wave.


Comfort is everything in a fin. A good fin is like a good pair of walking boots, buy right and you’ll be comfortable and get all the performance you need. When buying a fin the thing to keep high on your agenda is the fit. You are looking to get a snug fit, not too tight. If your foot is bent up inside the fin you will end up getting cramp. Equally, if your toes are pressed against the end of the fin pocket it can get uncomfortable. Too loose a fin will flap around and cause fin rub and give you less power.

Remember that fins will loosen with use to some degree and the socks always stretch a bit too. Whatever the fit feels like dry will be different in the water.

The length is measured from the nose to the tail.

Choosing the length of the surfboard is dependant on your size (weight, height), board type and waves conditions you wish to use the board for.

The widest point of the surfboard is measured from rail to rail.

Generally the wider the surfboard the more stable the board, while a board with smaller width maintains better speed and performance.


Used to increase the strength of a surfboard, a stringer (normally made from wood) runs down the length of a surfboards (typically in the centre of the board from the tip of the nose to the tail).

Generally heavier surfers require larger fins to hold the waves better.

Although if you prefer to ride a looser (less hold in the waves), smaller fins would be a better option.


Widely recognized as the standard fin configuration, the thruster answers the shortcomings of the single fin and the twin fins configurations.

The thrusters give you stabilization, control and manoeuvrability in all types of surfing conditions.

You may think that having four fins would sacrifice speed by creating more drag, but this is not the case.

The both sets of fins are working together on the rail, which makers believe they creates less drag than a board with a centre fin.


Are great for small waves, being fast and manoeuvrable, but when put into tight spots on larger waves, they become hard to control. Popular with Fish surfboards.

Similar setup to the Twin Fin, although smaller (low profile) fins are generally placed wider (closer to the rails) on the surfboard.


The curved tail with a pinch at the end permits the surfboard to hold well in the pocket of the wave and smooth rail to rail.

The Rounded Pin tail can bog down through flat sections, therefore is great for powerful, medium to larger surf.


The tail is shaped into a point. Pin tails have the minimum amount of area in the water, designed to hold the waves well at higher speeds.

Excellent for large waves where speed needs to be controlled, not generated. Popular with Gun surfboards.

How Fin Materials Can Improve your Surfing

So you’ve decided on the fin template that’s right for you… But what about the fin construction? This video explains the constructions currently used in the FCS fin range so you can make an educated decision going into your next fin purchase.

How Fin Foils Influence Fin Performance

Foils have a major influence on the overall performance of a fin. Foils essentially determine how the water flows across the surface of the fin and directly affect properties such as speed, hold and release. – Symmetrical foil used on centre fins and sometimes quad rears. – Even water flow creates stability and control.

80/20 + 70/30 Foil – Asymmetrical foil typically used for quad rear fins. – Allows for fast turning sensitivity while still providing stability and control.

It’s really all up to experimentation and seeing what works best for your surfing style. Try a few different combinations, see how your board behaves differently during each surf, and most importantly….have fun!


The Inner rear fins GL Template allows the Ho Stevie! quad to generate speed, power, and flow, while also having more balance than the thruster set.

The Perfect Flex’s honeycomb fiberglass provides an excellent amount of flex so you can drive down a fast breaking line, rip through wild turns, or launch into aerials, all while providing an ample amount of flex.

Whether you’re surfing at your local beach break or pumping down powerful lines, you will get excellent performance! The Ho Stevie! Perfect Flex fins are made with a honeycomb fiberglass design hence the name.

They are super lightweight and can fit on to any long board, short board, or fun board.

The best part about purchasing a Ho Stevie! product is that, if the fin breaks within a year, they will replace it for absolutely nothing!


The Captain Fin Co. Quad Fins are a member of the Captain Fin series, which makes fins for all kinds of boards and surfing styles.

The Captain Fin Co. Quad Fins, however, are designed for a very specific feel.

These fins are a twin tab set that offers a surprising amount of flex for a medium flex set.

Perfect for all surfers, though best for larger surfers because of the 80/20 foil, and they also offer an incredible amount of pivot and hold.

If your board is set up for a quad set, these fins will offer you reliable performance in all types of conditions!

The Honeycomb RTM is designed to offer that flexible feel as well. The longer rake provides a solid flick for those times when you need a bit more speed and push.

If you only have the ability to buy one set of quad fins, we definitely recommend these!

FCS FK-Performance Core

These are the one pair of twin fins that we decided to stick on our list and they are amazing for high performance surf!

The medium sized fish keel with less area make this template very unique.

The tested 70/30 foil makes paddling super easy and is great for surfers who are smaller because of the high maneuverability. With the base, depth, and rake put together, these are actually pretty small fins.

They do, however, work with any board that is set up for tab fins.

Like the other FCS fins on our list, these are made with the same Performance Core material that offers the feel of a traditional fiberglass.

The great part is that these aren’t nearly as heavy as your traditional fiberglass fins!   


If you have a longboard or stand-up paddleboard, you’ll definitely want to pick up one of these classic SBS 10” Fins.

Constructed with a glass-filled nylon, the fin is meant to be stiffer than fiberglass, though a lower-grade material closer to a plastic fin.

These fins work on just about any SUP, surfboard, or longboard with an 8.5” or 10.5” fin box so they are pretty universal.

Like most popular single fin products, they come with a free “no tool” fin screw so you can pop in and install your fin without any extra hassle or tools.

The classic foil on this bad boy makes for excellent hold in all kinds of conditions, whether you’re paddling on flat waters, turning fast into big lines, or riding the nose.


The BPS US Box Center Fin is an excellent single fin for all SUPs and longboards that have US Style or Universal fin boxes. In 8in, 9in, and 10in sizes, each fin is an exploration into a new feel for you.

The foil template makes it super easy to paddle and track with so your board stays straight as an arrow. Made with fiberglass-reinforced nylon composite materials, this fin is ultra strong and flexes very similarly to the SBS 10” fin.

It even comes with a free “no-tool” fin screw, a plate, and a wax comb that’s combined with a bottle opener and a hex key.

It’s pretty cool of BPS to throw in some extra little goodies along with their fin at a great price.

Also be aware that they have the same 12-month warranty as the fins from Ho Stevie!

Removable vs Glassed-On

For years and years, glassed-on fins were the only types of fins that you could find on a surfboard. Removable fins are a fairly new concept in the history of surfing, as they only started to come about in the early 1990s. Nowadays, you’ll mostly see removable fins across the board for pros and amateurs alike. As more and more surfers have the desire to try new fins so they can harness new feels on their boards, more and more surfboard manufacturers have stopped glassing their fins on. There are definitely pros and cons of each style that are nice to know before making your decision.

Because glassed-on fins are attached to the board, they’re typically much lighter than having the extra weight of removable fins. Because they are solidified to the board, many surfers will often note that they feel less drag, as well as having smoother rides overall. Lastly, the glassed-on fins have naturally sturdier bases, which allow for some great flex in the tip. Combine those two things and you have excellent flex response on these glassed-on fins. One of the major issues with glassed-on fins is that they are not the most ideal for traveling, especially if you’re rolling in a van with multiple boards stacked up on each other. The other major issue with the glassed-on fins is that, if they snap and break, you’ll have to get your entire board repaired rather than just picking up another set of fins. That can be very costly and time-consuming.

Fin Size Chart

The main thing you’ll want to look at when deciding on the size of you fin is how much you weigh. The chart below can help give you a general sense of what you should be aiming for, though is not totally gospel. Your fin size can also depend on the size of your board or the types of waves that you’ll be riding.

Single Fin

More commonly than anything else, you’ll find a single fin on longboards. This is because they are the most traditional in style, and what better to pay respect to the ancient gods of surf than with the single fin that started it all? They definitely compliment the original style of longboard surfing as well, as they work best for shooting straight down the line without too many turns.

Unfortunately, trying to turn sharply with a single fin is not an easy maneuver. What they lack in turning, however, they do provide in control, stability, and predictability. Most longboard single fin boxes allow you to adjust your fin closer to the front or the back so you have control in how loose the feel is.

Double Fin

If you want your board to have more of a playful and amusing sort of feel, with ease in turning and maneuverability, that is almost completely the opposite of a single fin, the double fin is right for you!

You’ll like these the best if you’re out riding smaller waves rather than the crazy rogue waves, as they’re mostly designed to give you extra speed that is unnecessary in the big game. If you’re a skater, these types of fins will definitely give you the closest feel to shredding on land as well.

The Waves

Something many people don’t think about before buying a set of fins are the kinds of waves that they’ll be surfing the most. Fins that have a leading edge that curves a lot less soon, or are less angled, are much better for turning into tighter spaces and barrels.

If you’re surfing your local beach break where the waves don’t have a ton of surface area, or they are breaking much faster than your standard waves, that sharper leading edge will be much better. Conversely, if you have a fin that has a more prominent rake, it’ll be easier to get into longer and faster turns where a sharp leading edge would feel a bit shakier.


Fiberglass is definitely the most traditional style of surf fin out there. Essentially, manufacturers layer up multiple layers of fiberglass that are held together with a strong resin and then cut into the shape of the fin.

These fins are very strong, and though mostly very stiff, have been made to be a bit more flexible with modern design.

If you’re surfing any regular surfboard or longboard, a fiberglass fin will do you just fine. If you’re riding a shortboard, these types of fins are absolutely perfect!

This is because they are extremely lightweight and they do not flex that much, giving you more control and stability.

One of the main issues with fully fiberglass fins is that they need to be made by hand. This is why we see composite fins more than anything these days.

Composite Fins

Composite fins are exactly what the name states. They are a composite of different materials. If you pick up surfboard from a shop that already comes with a fin attached, you are most likely receiving a composite fin.

Composite fins are so popular because they can be made quickly and easy, factory style, with resin transfer molding. Essentially, fiberglass that is mixed in with a resin is injected into a fin-shaped mold. That fin hardens into a plastic-like material that is fairly lightweight and still very strong.

The issue with these is that they typically don’t have the proper flex that is necessary for a great fin, resulting in a washy and loose sort of feel that is far from ideal.


If you’re looking into another cheap alternative to pro fins, that Gmaterial fins are a type of composite that works a little better than standard composite fins. Many large fin manufacturers are starting to make these fins, as they’re fairly easy to mass-produce with a mix of epoxy and fiberglass in a fin mold.

They’re definitely a lot more durable and flexible than your standard composite fin as well. Manufacturers also wanted to take away the washy feel of standard composite fins, so they made these to have more flex. This results in better pop, drive, control, and stability.

Performance Core Fins

For a long time, people were just molding the fins into a material that was the same throughout.

As time went on, manufacturers realized that they could instead fill the cores of their fins with different high-grade materials than the outsides of the fins to give them different characteristics.

You may remember a lot of the honeycomb fins from our list of fins.

These fins are injected with a carbon, Kevlar, or something of the like that is strong and lightweight, and molded in a honeycomb shape to add a distinctive flex property throughout the fin without making it too heavy.

This mold is made, and then using resin transfer molding, a fiberglass outer core is wrapped around it. In our opinion, this is the ultimate modern day fin that combines the best characteristics for the ultimate surf experience.

PC Materials and Fin Flex

You would think that fin manufacturers would stop exploring after creating such an incredibly well rounded fin such as the honeycomb. That is not the case at all. Manufacturers have begun combining materials such as Carbon, Kevlar, Texalium, and more, into different mixtures and combinations with various ratios. When you begin to mess with different ratios of these components, you start to see different flex patterns.

Every single combination of these components offers it’s own unique flex, release, drive, etc. when riding. The possibilities are pretty much endless. You will most likely see pro surfers riding these types of fins as they are very high-end and take close attention to detail. The beauty is that you can truly make the fin that is perfect for you if you so choose to.

Orienting Your Fins

If you have multiple fins in your set, you’ll need to figure out which fins go into which boxes. For thruster fins, all the fins will be the same size, though the center fin will be rounded on both edges.

If you’re working with a quad set, the larger side fins will go closer to the center of your board while the smaller fins will be set close to the tail.

If you have a + set, the center fin will be the largest fin and will be typically be made of fiberglass while the smaller fins will be set towards the sides.


If you’re setting up Futures, you’ll be able to tell because they have one long slot rather than two slots like the FCS fins. That one slot will line up with the one plug on your fin. You’ll want to loosen your screw and line up the slot with the small nub in the back of the fin box, push it in securely, and then snap the front end down so it’s snug inside the box. Makes sure the fin is flushed before tightening your screw.

With a longboard fin or single fin, each fin will typically come with a screw or nut. First start by taking the nut off and placing it in the center of the fin box and slide it in until it is flat at the bottom of the fin box. When it’s down in there, you can choose how far back or forward you want to put it.  Remember earlier we talked about the further forward your fin, the looser your board will feel. Put the front of the fin into the box until it hinges and line up the hole in the back of the fin with the nut. Screw it in and your set.

Always make sure to give your fins a little wiggle before actually getting out in the water to make sure that they are completely secure. Nothing worse than a lost fin!

Surfer Weight

The smaller the surfer, the smaller fin surface area needed for water to push against to create thrust. The larger the surfer, the broader the surface needed for thrust. The size of the fin needs to be able to push back against the force of the surfer. Think of your fins as if they’re a bird’s wings. The bigger the bird, the more lift needed to get the bird off the ground and soaring quickly. Here’s another thing, when it comes to bigger boards, you’re going to need a larger rudder to steer that ship. Not only that, you’re going to need a strong enough captain to work that rudder. In the longboard fin realm, board size is just as important as body weight when picking out a fin. *Have a look at FCS’s size chart to the right to dial in the right size fin for you.

Ideal Volume: 

Ideal volume is an in-depth figure generated by each surfer’s individual weight, ability, age, fitness & personal preference. Ideal volume is a very powerful tool as it considers multiple factors unique to each surfer & puts it into a simple figure that can be applied to the buying process.

How to use your Ideal Volume: 

Once you have worked out your Ideal Volume (Process below) you can then use it as a reference when selecting a new board. Example: If your Ideal Volume range is 2to 2ltrs you would then search for boards that are within that volume range. 

Why is Ideal Volume Important: 

Your Ideal Volume is a guide to buying the right size surfboard no matter if the board is 7’0” or 5’0”. Knowing your Ideal Volume increases the chances of you buying a great board, positively affecting the following performance characteristics to your needs:

If your riding a surfboard that isn’t in your ideal volume range than these important characteristics are negatively effected.   

Ronix Honey Comb Powertail

New for this year, we took our best selling shape and added more feel and communication-Honeycomb. The Powertail shape combines the ctable aspects of a Longboard, the bottom turn drive of a thruster, and the ability to air out like no other board you have ever ridden. There has never been a board with this much surface area in the tail for bigger airs off the top deck, but still has a quick rail to rail slayshyness (not really sure what that means) to it. Surfers looking for a stable shape that has the speed needed even with smaller boat wakes, and a must in the quiver for high en riders. Another reason to chase the endless summer.

Liquid Force Machine

Race down the line with all day on this MACHINE! With a double wing squaretail shape, THE MACHINE is able to project and pivot on a dime giving you one very playful surfer. sets of fins are included to give you maximum versatility and performance. Ride it as a quad for solid drive and thrust out of the wake, as a tri-fin for tight and positive control, or as a twin fin for that loose, easy going feel.

Some Basics

What are your fins doing? How do they do it and why should you care?

The very first thing you want from your fin is a bit of direction, something to keep the nose of the board pointing towards the beach or down the line, rather than spinning round under you. To achieve this the shortboard fin works exactly like the feather flights on the back of an arrow, providing drag to keep the back of the board running slower and particularly to massively increase that drag if the board starts slipping sideways. To do this you really only need one big old keel fin slapped in the middle of your board.

The second purpose of the fin is to give you ‘drive’. This terms gets shrouded in mystery and described in reverent tones but basically it’s the simple business of changing your slip slide down the face straight towards the beach into down the line energy that can put you where you want to be on a wave and keep your board travelling forward. Generated during and out of a turn and in even the most basic situation, as you sit in trim heading straight down the line, water isn’t just rushing under your board straight along it’s length, it’s also flowing up the face of the wave. Allowing you to tap into this energy and translate it to forward motion is a vital part of the fins role.

As well as keeping the board running straight your fins give something to pivot against on your back foot during a turn. The subtleties of rake and cant (see below) can change this experience, alter the ease with which the board can be moved from rail to rail and alter the speed and projection that can be generated out of a turn. The size of the fins and their setup also alters the moment of release that allows a powerful turn to break the back of the board out and slide it sideways when that’s what you want, or keep them locked in when you don’t.

Grab your shortboard now and check out the fins. The centre fin in the back should be curved slightly on both sides. This fin is ‘symmetrical’, now check out one of the outer fins and you’ll see one curved side and one almost flat. The third purpose of your shortboard fins is to use these ‘asymmetrical’ outer fins to create ‘lift’. Lift kind of implies something floating the tail of the board up out of the water, it’ll make more sense when you realise that these rear fins, curved on one side, are working exactly like an aeroplanes wing. The ‘lift’ here isn’t up in the air, it’s pulling the board towards the rail, locking the rail in and ensuring that the faster the board is travelling the stronger the bond. In practise this means your thruster should be able to take a higher, more critical line in steeper sections of the wave.

Fin Terminology

To understand what you’re buying or read more about how fins work you need some basic terminology, the following diagrams run through the terms used to describe the difference from fin to fin and how these effect your ride:

The amount a fin flexes from the straight position. Fins with little flex are more responsive and will have more speed and direct drive. Fins with flex are more forgiving and easier to use. Ideally a fin would have a stiffer base for drive and more flexible tip for release

The angle of the fin leaning out from the bottom surface of the board.

The hydrodynamic section of the fin from front edge to trailing edge. The foil effects the lift and drag properties of the fin..

The angle of the fins in relation to the stringer of the board.

Designing for the Future

If being able to throw together a bit of physics and some terminology and diagrams kind of makes it sound like the scientists have it sown up it’s never that simple. No surfer is interested in just running straight down the line everytime, and we rarely surf perfect, machine like laboratory waves so your fins are doing all the above and more as you turn the board through the wave. It’d be easy to assume in an age where computers control everything that a few facts and figures could be keyed in, a model run and the perfect fin design spat out the other end. In fact the complexities of what’s going on under your board as you put it through a turn are impossible to predict properly. Although water tanks and computer design are increasingly used, fin design, like most surfboard design and like mother nature itself relies principally on an evolutionary approach. From George Greenoughs first inspired designs based losely around a tuna fin to the latest FCS creation the basic principle is make something new, give it to a great surfer, get some feedback, tweak the design and keep going. Modern fins are tested like this time and time again by top surfers to refine their performance.

Difference between glassed-in and swappable fins

Glassed-in fins are built directly into your board which some surfers say gives a smoother response when compared to removable ones. On the other hand, if you break a glassed-in fin, repairing it could be a difficult and expensive endeavor. As far as versatility goes, removable fins are hard to beat.

The Good

Leashes (sometimes referred to as a legrope) are a handy invention that allows you to completely wipe out and not have to swim back to shore to get your board. The leash can also save boards from crashing onto boulders, jetties, or rocky shorelines.

The leash will often save you from a long swim, which is helpful at breaks where the waves are a long way from shore. Sometimes breaks can be a half mile paddle from shore!

Surfboard Leashes also aid somewhat in safety by allowing you to kick the board away from you if you know you’re going to wipe out. You should always try to maintain direct control of your board at all times and not rely on the leash, but if you’re going to go over the falls I wouldn’t recommend trying to hold onto the board.

In addition, surfboard leashes should always be worn at crowded or semi-crowded breaks. There’s nothing worse than seeing an abandoned longboard flying at you at 10000 miles per hour. Some towns even have laws that require the use of leashes.

The Bad

In case the leash does break, don’t panic! Panic makes all situations worse. Just relax, and tell yourself it might take a little while, but the waves are going to help you back in.

It might help to surf a few times without a leash to get used to holding on to your board and swimming after it if you lose it. Make sure you do this at an uncrowded beach!! Do NOT attempt this in a crowd. I’d also do this with a few friends or lifeguards around in case something weird happens.

PS—make sure you can swim! If you don’t have the basics of swimming, I’d recommend taking some swim lessons at your local University or YMCA/Rec Center. You’ll have a lot more confidence in the water, and be a safer surfer.

On occasion surfboard leashes will get tangled around something on the sea floor, such as a reef protrusion. In such situations it’s important to be able to release the leash from your leg. Don’t get a leash that has more than one Velcro flap or something that seems complicated. You don’t want to have an unbreakable connection to your board. You should be able to easily take off your leash with one hand in one motion.

The Ugly

Surfboard leashes do not give you a license to ditch your board all the time. This is a habit I think most surfers are guilty of at least occasionally (including myself), and it’s a bad one. When you let go of your board it is capable of seriously injuring or dinging the boards of anyone in your vicinity. Think about it this way: if you have a 10’ leash and a 10’ longboard, that is a 20’ radius circle of death and destruction for other innocent surfers. That is a big area, and at a crowded break it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll hit someone.

Sometimes—and I mean only sometimes, in the most dire emergencies—it’s ok to ditch your board if the lip of a wave is about to guillotine you. You better check behind you before you do this. I’ll admit to letting my board thrash around at the end of my leash if I can’t get it safely under control when I’m stuck inside after a wave. If nobody is around you, you can take the risk. Just beware that surfboards are heavy, and leashes are elastic. That brings us to our next warning:

Surfboard leashes can and will cause the board to rubber-band back at you, hitting you in the face. If the leash is pulled to its limit, sometimes the board will come shooting back at you fins first. This is not a good situation! When you surface for air, try to get into the habit of shielding your head with your arms.

I would also advise against trying to hold onto the leash with your hands in medium to large waves. This is a good way to hurt your fingers.

If you’re having trouble getting your board through the whitewater and breaking waves, check out our guide to duckdiving and the turtle-roll.


Use a leash length that’s approximately equal to or slightly longer than your board length. If you’re at the 6” mark, I’d round up. If you have a 6’6” board, I’d recommend a 7’ leash. A 7’8” board would use an 8’ leash.

You don’t want your leash too long—it will drag in the water and slow you down. You also don’t want it too short. A 6’ leash on a longboard is a scary proposition! “Comp” leashes:

Comp or competition surfboard leashes are thinner than normal, and are designed for surfing in competitions where leash breakage is not as important as decreasing the drag incurred by the leash.

There are several brands of surfboard leashes out there, but I would invest a couple extra dollars and get a well constructed one. Dakine and FCS make great leashes. Check the leash to see if it is well stitched and the ankle part looks comfy. Also check to make sure the leash has swivel points where the cuff connects to the leash and where the leash connects to the rail saver. This helps reduce tangling. Rail savers are also a necessity, although I haven’t really seen a leash without one. Rail savers are nylon sections designed to protect the rail of your board from being dug into by the leash on a hard wipeout.

This is completely up to you! Black leashes can get wax on them and start to look gunky, so you might want a clear leash.

Key Pocket

Some surfboard leashes come with a key pocket. This isn’t really a dire need, so if it has one great, but I wouldn’t sweat it if it doesn’t. Often wetsuits and boardshorts have key pockets. If you really must have it, check to make sure there the leash has one before you buy since they don’t come standard.


These programs allow you to shape the outline, rocker, and even rails and bottom contours of your board and view the board in 3D. Another great feature of these programs is that they calculate the volume of your surfboard, which is very important to determine how well the board will float and paddle. 

On these programs, you can also print out the rocker profile in full size. This can be helpful when you are choosing blanks to make sure your desired rocker can be carved from the blank that you choose. You can even trace this rocker on the side of your blank (if it’s a rectangular blank) to give you exact guidelines when planing/sanding down the black to the proper thickness and rocker profile.

The full-sized paper templates can be used to make a permanent template on Masonite or another hard, flexible material. More details on this process are described in the Making a Template section.


Before computer CAD programs, most shapers made templates using thin, flexible, long battens which were temporarily secured along a Masonite board to create a guideline to cut a suitable curve. Many shapers still use this method, as it is simple and effective.


Once you have chosen your design, print out all of the template components and cut the sections out. Tape them together using the markings that are printed on each sheet for proper alignment. Once the curve pieces are taped together, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 7spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace.


Transferring your CAD-designed template to Masonite is exactly the same as making them with the Greenlight Templates. From the software, you print the template in full size on multiple sheets of ½” x 11”paper. Set your printer margins as small as possible so that you use the least amount of paper as you can. Then you tape all of the sections together and cut out the curve on the full sized paper template. It is better to cut OUTSIDE the line than INSIDE. Try to get as close to the line as possible. Once the curve is cut out, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 7spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace. 


To make a template using a batten (long, flexible, thin piece of wood or other hard material), you first need to mark points along the straight edge of your Masonite:

Once you have marked these points, you need to measure and mark the proper widths of your design at each of these points. Use a Versa-square to mark each point and hammer a nail into the Masonite slightly inside each of these points. Hammer two nails at the nose/tail marks to hold the batten in place. The nails act as guide-points for the batten. When you place the batten around the nails (secured by the double nails at the nose/tail), you now have a curve as a starting point. From here, you can place additional nails wherever you want to nudge the batten around and modify the curve to your liking. Once the batten is curved the way you like it, trace the outline with a Sharpie (or pencil) and remove the batten and nails to prepare for cutting the outline.


It is possible to shape a surfboard on a pair of saw horses in a pinch. However, your results will be better and you’ll have an easier time if you take the time to build some functional shaping and glassing racks. Material costs are low, and decent racks will greatly improve your chances of getting good results.

Greenlight has developed simple, free plans for both shaping racks and glassing stands that allow you to make functional, simple racks with 2x4s, basic fasteners, plastic buckets, sand or Quickcrete, and masking tape. We understand that most of you don’t have a permanent shaping space, so our racks are designed to be portable and move into storage when not in use. We strongly suggest you print out our free shaping rack and glassing stand plans and build your own. Feel free to improvise on these designs if you think you can do a better job, just make sure you cover the basic requirements for both type of racks:


Padding is also critical to the shaping rack, both to protect the board, and to keep it from slipping on the rack while you shape. Greenlight offers inexpensive, pre-cut shaping rack padding to eliminate the guesswork/sourcing. It is important to tape the padding onto your racks with clean masking tape. Use the minimal amount of masking tape to keep the foam on, and try to avoid wrinkles in the tape. This is because you want as much exposed foam as possible for “traction”, and wrinkles in the tape can leave dents in your foam blank when you press the blank down hard while shaping.

The width of the top of your rack is also important for stability of the blank as you are shaping. The “wings” on the top of the rack should be about 12” across, from end to end. This provides a nice stable platform for the blank to rest on, but not so wide that you are bumping into the rack as you move around it.


All shaping racks also have a “saddle” in the center that allows you to put the blank at an angle into the rack to shape the rails. This “saddle” should be 4”-6” wide and 6”-8” deep and fully padded to allow the blank to sit comfortably and safely in the saddle.


Experienced shapers use what is called “side lighting,” which are fluorescent tube lights running on each side of the board lengthwise, parallel to the board at a few inches above the height of the board. These side lights have been proven to cast helpful shadows along the rail of the board, making it easy to see imperfections or high/low spots that need to be worked on.

It is possible to make side-lighting without having to invest in a permanent shaping room. You can buy 8-foot fluorescent tube light fixtures and hang them on temporary supports. We suggest you do a web- search and you will find some ingenious/affordable methods of creating temporary side lights.

If you don’t want to spend the time/money on side lights, the next best thing is to get a hand-held fluorescent work light. You can carry this light and shine it around the rails of the board (with the rest of the room lights off) to identify what areas of the board need additional work.


You are going to make a little mess when you are shaping a surfboard. Dust and foam will be flying when you are planing and sanding your blank. If you are shaping in a garage or basement with other stuff in the immediate vicinity, youshould cover all of these things with tarps, or better yet, hang four tarps from the ceiling to create a temporary shaping room that contains all of the blank debris.

Get a shop-vac and suck up all of the debris at the end of each shaping or sanding session. This will minimize the amount of dust floating around the room. This becomes very important when you are glassing, because you don’t want airborne dust/foam particles fouling up your glass job.

You also need to consider what you are wearing while shaping and glassing. We suggest using the same ratty old t-shirt/jeans/sneakers over and over again because they will get covered in dust. Another tip is to take off your dusty shaping clothes in your shaping space and leave them there when you are done shaping. If you wear them inside, you will get dust EVERYWHERE. This has led to tensions in many a relationship and should be avoided at all costs.


EPS foam blanks have been used in surfboard construction since the early 1980’s but is quickly gaining popularity since advancements in foam technology has made EPS easier to work with and producing lighter, stronger boards. Surfboards shaped with EPS and glassed with Epoxy Resin have proven to have superior strength/weight ratios to PU/Polyester boards (about 3X stronger). EPS boards have been particularly popular for small-wave boards, where light-weight is important, and also are gaining popularity in big-wave guns, and performance longboards, and high performance shortboards, where strength/weight ratio is important. EPS foam is very durable and much more impact resistant than PU foam which means less dings and your board will keep it’s lively flex and rebound feel for many years.

EPS blanks have a consistent density throughout the blank, so there is no worry of over-shaping the blank and exposing a weaker inner core. Most beginner shapers choose EPS blanks, as they are easiest to shape and produce a durable but still lightweight board. Greenlight’s Engineered EPS blanks are the best quality and most consistent foam on the market. We recommend shaping EPS with our Greenlight Tool pack which we designed to be the most effective and easiest way to shape surfboards.

For The Local Hotdogging Pro

Ariels, backflips, carves, crazy off-the-top snaps, and speed. Odds are if witness a progressive maneuver in the world of surfing it has taken place on a shortboard. They’re the most lightweight, high-performance, and ridden boards today. From your local break to the North Shore, they’re everywhere and constantly evolving.

Pyzel Bastard

A favorite among many of the pros, this versatile board gets the job done in conditions as small as 2ft but comes alive in overhead juicy surf. It’s all thanks to a single concave throughout that adds speed and lift to the board, continuous rocker for a loose feel, and a pulled-in tail for extra bite on those harsh turns. Pepper the fact that Michel Bourez won the 201Billabong Pipe Masters on the Firewire version of this board and it practically sells itself.

Soul Surfing

Whether you’re an old guy or an OG, or perhaps interested in a little Malibu cruise control from time-to-time, the longboard is a reliable option for those looking for relaxation over high-performance. And in all fairness, they were here first, so respect is in order here, as it should be paid out in the water as well.

FCD Noseglider

What’s longboarding without a bit of nose riding? Well, if toes-on-the-nose is your forte, here’s an option that will get you there. Featuring a full curvy outline, a classic V bottom through the tail, rounded pin, and a single concave bottom, both beginners and advanced riders can have a blast on this sleekly-designed board built to last through many a season.

Buoyancy With Performance

Functioning as a cross between a more buoyant, bigger board but with the performance value of a shortboard, hybrids can be used in all sorts of conditions (though they’re typically reserved for your more laid-back summer breaks).

SuperBrand Fling

Complete with a more retro shape paired with a modern rocker, the ultra-fun Fling is a proper throwback style board without all the unnecessary flair. The complete shape is a wide and fish-like outline, with a single to double concave concluding with a V off the diamond tail, and rides crazy fast down the line with plenty of lift. All while remaining smooth through each and every turn.

Lost Puddle Jumper

Outfitted specifically for those looking to take full advantage of those smaller summer waves, the Puddle Jumper positions itself in a way that makes any form of high octane carves and gouges to above-the-lip surfing a breeze. It’s all thanks to a wide outline, a concave bottom that transitions to a V in the tail, and a Hexzylon Fiber Foam Skin that’s even ding resistant.

Fin Configuration

The fin configuration of your SUP is important when considering whether you want to use your SUP in the surf.

Three fin ‘thruster’ configuration = more manoeuvrable and versatile in surf conditions.

Single centre fin = suitable for cruising in calmer conditions.

Racing = Look for interchangeable fins which can be switched out to accommodate high-performance and water conditions.

Before paddling out

When I learned to surf as a teenager in the mid-1980s, there was no such thing as a “surf instructor.” If you succumbed to the addiction of sliding down waves on a fiberglass spear, you had to endure plenty of pain, or to quote Hawaiians, “Take your lickins.” For me, those lickins’ included a fiberglass surfboard clear through the lip, a lacerated scalp, dislocated knee and shoulder, a stingray barb to the foot, and verbal sticks and stones courtesy of locals from Surfside, South Carolina, to Lake Worth, Florida—where territorial pier rats once hogtied visitors to parking meters with their ankle leashes or dropped the motors in their air-cooled VWs to the pavement.

Complete Surfing and countless YouTube entries cover basics from waxing a board to wipeouts to “the pop up.” As a result, more people are trying surfing out. According to a 201survey by Surfer Magazine and the Surfrider Foundation, surfing’s most influential conservation organization, around million people identify themselves as surfers in the United States alone. A 201story by Bloomberg estimates that surfer numbers are growing by 1.percent a year.

Wirecutter writer Owen James Burke testing out rashguards at Folly Beach, South Carolina. Photo: Chris Dixon

Still, despite so much info becoming available, surfing remains one of the most difficult sports to learn, both in terms of skill and etiquette. Unlike skateboarding or snowboarding, surfing’s medium is constant motion—a baffling and intimidating confluence of wave, wind, and current. And unwritten laws and protocol are still as important as when I was a wave-starved young kook (surfer slang for “clueless beginner”). Just because equipment is safer doesn’t mean you won’t be chewed out, or punched by a pissed-off local, or have your head nearly taken off because you don’t know to look over your shoulder to see if another surfer is coming down the line. In short, you’re still gonna take some lickins’.

To save you from as many of those lickins’ as possible, we talked to a trio of seasoned surf instructors. The first is former world longboard surfing champ Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz. Raised by his father, legendary surf instructor Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, Izzy was a star of the documentary

Surfwise. Today, he is director of Surfer’s Healing, an organization dedicated to providing immersive surf therapy to children with autism, and San Diego’s Paskowitz Surf Camp. Tim Sherer runs Goofy Foot Surf School in Lahaina, Hawaii. He’s personally instructed more than 30,000 people—from Iowa farmers to LA inner-city kids to movie stars and musicians, including Everclear and Jimmy Buffett. Charleston’s Jenny Brown is a former women’s East Coast surf champ. She runs Folly Beach’s Shaka Surf School with husband Chris, captain of the NOAA research vessel Palmetto.

We asked them about the beginner mistakes they see again and again, and what advice they could offer to help new surfers avoid them.

Take a lesson.

Pull Quote “We look at teaching beginners how to manage risk in the ocean rather than creating risk.” —Tim Sherer, Goofy Foot Surf School

The most important thing everyone agreed on was this: For your first foray into the surf, for God’s sake, take a lesson from a qualified instructor. “One, it’s a safety thing,” Paskowitz said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could die. Two: With surfing you’re doing something with a long lineage of history. There is so much information a good instructor can give you in an hour and a half lesson to make you better—techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation.” “We look at teaching beginners how to manage risk in the ocean rather than creating risk,” Sherer said. “Keeping in mind not just the small, beginner day, but for the strong day when there’s a lot of whitewater, current, or a big crowd. If you just paddle out without any knowledge, the risk is so much greater. There are just so many variables. You could be surfing in the wrong area—the shallow zone where reef and creatures are prolific.”

When Sherer started teaching 20 years ago, there were no guru instructors to learn from. So he relied on his training in yoga and martial arts. “Those two systems are built, theoretically, on thousands of years of technical refinement,” he said. “A great surf teacher breaks down the sport and rebuilds it using fundamentals. It’ll take two to six months to a year to develop a consistent form.”

Just because you’re fit, doesn’t mean you can surf. “Don’t assume because you can do one thing, you can do another,” Paskowitz said. “I’m surfing this spot in front of the Cabo Surf Hotel. The waves are pumping; 10, occasional 20-foot sets. I see a group of very fit, very focused surfers. Turns out they’re from Colorado. Hikers, rock climbers, and snowboarders—to percent body fat.”

After checking their surf leashes, Paskowitz watches in disbelief as the group’s surf instructor paddles right out, leaving his students on their own. “He basically leaves them to die,” Paskowitz said. “I asked one of them, ‘It’s gigantic out there, do you have any experience?’ She says, ‘Oh yeah, we spent two full weeks in Costa Rica with a guy who teaches surfing and dehydrates bananas for a living.’ Within five minutes, her leash is broken, she hasn’t made it outside and is lying on the sand like she needs CPR.”

Pull Quote

Always take some time before you paddle out to size up your surf spot.

And what about the caliber of other surfers? If you paddle out amid a group of experienced people and don’t have much experience yourself, you’re a potential hazard to everyone. An excellent overview on etiquette can be found at Surfline’s Bill of Lefts and Rights. Study it. There’s also a pretty decent write-up over here from GQ.

The right equipment.

This is where we come in. Over our many years of surfing, we’ve come to know what works and what doesn’t, but just to make sure, we tested our favorites against promising competition to find reliable, affordable, and accessible equipment that will get you paddling out and won’t hold you back as you progress.

The truth is, however, for your first time out, you don’t need any of the stuff we recommend here. All necessary rental equipment is generally included in the cost of a lesson. And once you’re ready to go out on your own, a lot of this stuff can be bought used for cents on the dollar. But if you know surfing is something you’re going to want to do for years to come, having gear that won’t hold you back will make your life much easier down the road. Just remember: The ultimate goal is the surf, not the stuff.

For teens and adults

Regardless of its affordability, our recommendation for the Wavestorm is lukewarm at best. If you want something of higher quality that will last longer and resell for more when you’re ready for a real board, consider Liquid Shredder.

The Liquid Shredder Element looks and performs like a real surfboard but is designed to be beginner friendly and easy to learn on. Photo: Quinn Dixon

The Liquid Shredder Element 9-foot model is an amazing piece of foam. Here, Chris Dixon tests it out. Photo: Quinn Dixon

The Liquid Shredder Element and HD boards are incredibly stiff because they’re embedded with an aluminum stringer not found on any of their competitors. The extruded polyethylene foam in the core is also nearly impermeable to water, and they’re as lightweight as any beginner board you’ll find—the recently redesigned 9-footer weighs just 1pounds—about what my high-performance 9-foot Stewart fiberglass board weighs. To prevent delamination, builder Scott McClain uses a proprietary manufacturing process that basically “shrink wraps” a tough plastic skin to these boards, so there’s no glue to separate. If the board gets very hot, the wrap will expand, but when the board cools—or is taken into the water, the wrap will shrink right back into place. If it gets really hot, a pressure-release valve will let the board off-gas before the skin stretches too much.

Liquid Shredders come with a detailed instruction manual and care kit and a one-year warranty, which you probably won’t need it. I’ve owned a 10-foot Liquid Shredder HD model since 2006, and though the technology has improved, the board’s still going strong. They’re very tough, but if you use an Element or HD in places where the bottom is sharp, or where you think its skin might get scraped and punctured, you should have a repair kit on hand.

The Browns, Josh Wilson, and Quinn and I are all parents of small rippers who started surfing before first grade. We first launched them in on 8-footers, but really, they could have started on something smaller. For kindergartners and first- and even second-grade kids who are agile—and maybe already know how to skateboard—we suggest an alternate board like the yellow-decked 6-foot Liquid Shredder FSE. They’ll get several years of use out of it, and as they improve, will be able to actually catch their own waves, turn, and surf—very well.

Our pick for women

The women’s version is also great, though with shorter legs.

With that in mind, Chris Dixon and I—Kate Barattini a lifelong wave slider, swimmer, and kayak and standup paddle guide—spent a combined 1hours in 201researching the best brands around, trying on a dozen candidates, and extensively testing seven top-rated spring suits for both men and women off the shores of Charleston, South Carolina. In the end, we determined that Patagonia’s Rline of wetsuits (for men and women) is the best for most surfers, regardless of gender. A year later, with many more waves under our belts in these suits, we stand by our picks.

Kate Barattini heading to the beach to test the R1. Photo: Quinn Dixon

Throughout the past year, Chris and I wore our Patagonia suits in 6to 70˚F water temps in chilly and warm air, through clouds, sunshine, and torrential tropical storm rains. Until the water temps dropped into the lower sixties, the Patagonias kept us toasty. That’s because while most spring suits are 2-mm thick throughout, Patagonia uses 2.5-mm material in the torso, with mm in the arms to maintain flexibility. This kept my core noticeably warmer and more protected from the wind compared with the 2-mm-thick Xcel and the Body Glove suits we also tested.

The Patagonia suit uses an across-the-chest zipper that allows surprisingly easy entry—this came as a surprise because many suits with chest zips we’ve used in the past were difficult to get on. It offered unrestricted arm movement, stayed in place even after big wipeouts, and didn’t bunch at the neck. Most important, there wasn’t any Velcro in the back to snag long hair. This can be a nuisance with most back-zip suits, including the Xcel and Body Glove models we tested.

Patagonia’s build and material quality are legendary among the surfing community. Wirecutter founder Brian Lam has owned suits made by Xcel, Rip Curl, Patagonia, and O’Neill, and the Patagonia has lasted three times as long as the next best one. The Rspring suits are no exception. Patagonia uses top-tier neoprene on the exterior for warmth and flexibility, and lines the interior with 100 percent recycled polyester jersey material. The inside is soft and feels like a hug, while the exterior neoprene is snug and water-resistant. Each seam is triple glued, blindstitched, and internally taped for additional strength—as Chris noted, the solid construction simply kept out the water and the cold a little better than any other suit. And like the rest of the suits we tested, there’s a sturdy, hidden key loop built into the inside of the chest.

Last—but certainly not least—this spring suit is absolutely beautiful, with a fit that flatters many body types. I tested it on my roommates who range from tall and slender to voluptuous, and we all looked great. Of the men’s suit, Chris simply said, “The damn thing fits like a second skin.”

Upgrade pick for men

This has a hood with a visor for protecting your neck and head. Unlike similar models, it has a pocket on the back and thumb loops to keep it securely in place.

Chris Dixon drops in with the Patagonia RØ hood in effect. Photo: Owen James Burke

The hood has a stiff visor built in, which offers enough shade to give your eyes an appreciable break from the sun’s glare, holds steady during “duck dives” (that is when you’re diving underneath a breaking wave with your surfboard), and stays out of your way, even when you have it pushed back around your neck (at which point it offers excellent sun protection for your neck). There’s also a zippered pouch on the back, which is sizable enough to store wax, sunscreen, reef booties, or even a small hydration pack—perfect for surf spots that require long paddles. Even with all these bells and whistles, the RØ is skintight and fits snuggly, with a board short connector that loops into the tie string on your board shorts and thumb loops to keep your shirttail and sleeves from riding up. It’s little touches like this that set it apart from O’Neill’s similar model (although we do very much like the waist-level drawstring on the O’Neill model, too). —OJB and CD

Upgrade pick for women

This will stay in place no matter what and has a flattering fit that made testers feel feminine and protected.

No matter where you stand in surf experience, the part rashguard, part one-piece Seea Suit is a surfing accessory that will make your life in the water much easier. Where a separate rashguard/bikini bottom combo might come apart or ride up uncomfortably in rough conditions, the Seea stays put. This one-piece rashguard/bikini bottom combo is made of polyester/spandex fabric that moves with you, protecting you from chafe and sun no matter what your position is. While I was paddling out to overhead beachbreak waves wearing Seea’s Zuma surf suit, I never had to stop for a suit adjustment. I could duck dive uninhibited, which created an even greater surf experience.

These suits come in many styles, and depending on your body type you should be able to find one that fits you. There is no better way to boost your confidence in and out of the water than to wear something that makes you feel feminine and, above all, protected. —KB

Our pick

These shorts are built tougher than any of the others I tried and are the perfect length for protecting your thighs from chafe and sun without being baggy. A touch of stretch makes them super comfortable, too.

To find the best board shorts for men, we spent hours last year researching the latest and greatest shorts around, considered the labor practices of the major brands here and here (PDF), tried on more than 30 pairs at local surf shops, and broke down the basics of what makes great shorts with Bates Hagood, general manager of Folly Beach, South Carolina’s Ocean Surf Shop. After that, my neighbors and I spent the ensuing year torture testing the shorts we had obtained for the review and about four more hours making sure we weren’t overlooking anything new and vital. After all was said and done, we’re recommending Patagonia’s Wavefarer series for the second year running.

The Wavefarer board shorts are cut to a perfect length, ending right above the knee. Photo: Quinn Dixon

Specifically, the Wavefarer Stretch Board Shorts are for the surfer who wants more protection from the sun and the chafing that a longer short made from slightly thicker fabric provides, while the more tailored Stretch

Planing Short is for those who want a shorter, lighter design. They’re pricey, but nothing cheaper performed better, and anything comparable cost more. We also have a pick for “hybrid” shorts that can go straight from the beach to the bar with no change in between. This is a relatively new category that’s still evolving quickly, but for now, O’Neill Men’s Heather Hybrid Freak Short is tops.

We’ve torture tested a lot of board shorts over the course of a year. Photo: Quinn Dixon

I fell in love with Patagonia’s 21” Stretch Wavefarer Board Shorts because they fit me perfectly, and they arguably have the best overall set of qualities for most surfers. The Wavefarers hang just above the knee. As a surfer of 30 years, I feel this outseam length—between 20 and 2inches—is perfect for most wave riders, an opinion echoed by Hagood, who has bought and sold thousands of pairs of board shorts. At this length, they provide good coverage from the sun—important because lying and sitting on a surfboard quickly rubs sunscreen off your thighs—and keep your thighs from chafing against your board or picking up wax (think 40-Year-Old Virgin ). But they’re not so long that they’ll hang up on your knees when you stand up. While the seams on the Stretch Wavefarers aren’t welded—as is the trend among high-end board shorts these days—they are super soft and low profile. I felt no chafing, even when they were wet—and this hasn’t been an issue in the year I’ve been testing these shorts. The percent spandex, 9percent nylon blend fabric has just enough stretch to keep everything comfortable without becoming a distraction—like the overly engineered Volcom apex Mod Tech Pros. The added flexibility makes it a better short than the non-stretch “classic” Wavefarers we also tested.

Patagonia’s Stretch Wavefarer shorts. Photo: Quinn Dixon / Art: Jenny Brown

Lighter and slimmer

These shorts are ultra lightweight and have a slimmer, slightly shorter cut. They’re very comfortable, but shorter shorts means less protection.

However, if you have more resilient and sun-hardy skin and shorter thighs that don’t have as much hair to get waxy, Patagonia’s Stretch Planing Shorts are your call. Instead of the Wavefarers’ nylon-spandex blend, they’re made of an ultralight and comparably stretchy 100 percent recycled polyester fabric. This means they dry faster and are 3percent lighter at any given size. And while the Wavefarers have low-profile seams, the Stretch Planing shorts forgo the inseam altogether. The shorts were too wispy for my taste, but they definitely feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. I should warn that the claimed 20-inch outseam seemed to run a bit short—they fit more like 19-inchers (but measured out at 19¾). Regardless, they have the qualities that Wirecutter founder Brian Lam swears by. In the past, he wrote that he was concerned about long-term durability due to the material’s stretchiness and lightness, but that fear proved unfounded. They’re still going strong. He said, “I’ve never had a better-fitting pair of board shorts, or a pair that I’ve liked so much. They’ve faded a bit in the sun over the course of a few months, but that’s normal for the amount of sun I’ve been exposing them to.”

Both Patagonia shorts feature class-leading build quality and carry Patagonia’s lifetime warranty, which means they’ll last far longer than a season or two. They also both have DWR coating to help them dry more quickly—that can mean less chafing. They each have a pocket on the side that’s big enough to hold your keys while surfing or a small wallet on land, and is sealed by a corrosion-proof plastic side zipper.

There were, of course, many shorts we didn’t test. Most were excluded because no one in our wide circle of surfers recommended them in particular, or they were too darn flashy and trendy looking. But we also passed on Quiksilver, Billabong, and subsidiaries like RVCA. Quik got a miserable D+ overall grade in the Australian Fashion Report’s labor practices inquiry (PDF), while Billabong only scored an overall C, with a D- for workers rights. —CD

The Hurley Phantom Beachrider has a secure drawstring and a nice stretchiness. Photo: Nicole Grodesky

The downside to the Phantom Beachrider shorts is that Hurley left out a zippered back pocket for storing car keys. The otherwise comfy Body Glove Akela Pulse shorts also lack this feature. This is especially frustrating because both of last year’s picks (which are no longer available) had this feature and none of the men’s shorts my colleagues tested overlooked this crucial detail. This puts a damper on otherwise great shorts. Hurley does offer these shorts with a drawstring front and a zippered pocket in the 9-inch length, but while the 5-inch version comes in many colors, the 9-inch version comes only in black and is not as flattering of a length. But they do work well for surfing.

The Patagonia Wavefarer shorts have a zippered back pocket, which is lacking from the Hurley shorts. Photo: Nicole Grodesky

Organic without compromise

This organic wax went on just as easily and was just as grippy as its petroleum counterparts. It smells nicer and is just as cheap, too. (5-pack)

If you want a good starting point, after testing three popular brands, our favorite surf wax is Matunas Organic Surf Wax. It’s among both the cheapest and most environmentally friendly waxes available in the US, made from jasmine and leftover plant-based material from the company’s farm in Santa Cruz, California. A handful of us—including Charleston Women’s Longboard Champion Kate Barattini, Chris Dixon, his son Fritz, and I—tried Matunas’s tropical wax while surfing juicy waves at Folly Beach in South Carolina. We all agreed that it applied just as evenly and solidly as artificial waxes we’ve used in the past and smelled great. And none of us had any trouble staying atop our boards (at least—speaking for myself—no more than usual).

As much as we like Matunas, it unfortunately isn’t yet widely distributed at local shops nationwide. So if you find yourself in a surf shop looking for wax, reach for Sticky Bumps’s Original Wax, which I found to be the most temperature-stable and the easiest to apply, but still uses petroleum-based paraffin and costs just as much as the Matunas.

Most surflike simulator

It’s longer and taller than most boards and has better side-to-side training ability, which makes it the most surflike experience.

If you’re looking to train your balance specifically for surfing, buy a GoofBoard Classic. Unlike other balance boards, the GoofBoard is a long 4inches and sits perpendicularly atop a 4-inch-high roller that concentrates your balance between your toes and your heels as opposed to your right foot and your left. It actually feels like you’re riding a surfboard, and using and controlling the same muscles you use when you’re surfing.

It came recommended by legendary California longboard wizard and

Endless Summer II star Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, and we were sold. The oblong shape of the board and the 4-inch-tall roller, which lies parallel to the length of the board, allow you to focus on getting your feet in the right place and fine-tune your side-to-side balance and your stepping, which is something essential to surfing that most balance boards don’t offer. While both the Rolo Board (which has gone in and out of stock) and the Revolution Swell also lie parallel atop their rollers and simulate the same toe-to-heel exercises, they were considerably shorter and less accommodating to the surfer—and specifically the longboarder—practicing both their stepping and stance.

Another great advantage to the GoofBoard for novice and experienced surfers alike is the function of its “pop-up” exercise, which simulates standing up on a surfboard as well as anything out of the water could. This simple motion is one of the hardest surfing skills to master.

Read the instructions and watch the tutorial videos above for general instructions on use, but be sure to consider the surface you place the GoofBoard on before you get going. “Start with it on carpet,” said Wingnut, “and then get it on a harder surface—start on a shag carpet, even.”

I tried the GoofBoard on a number of different surfaces including a thin carpet, a thicker carpet (though not shag), a yoga mat, a wooden floor and cardboard. The latter two surfaces were terrible; the roller spun out underneath the board and me, sending us both flying. I found the carpets and the yoga mat to be the safest and most forgiving, but the roller was extremely grippy on the poured concrete, which helped keep it from spinning out underneath the board; it was also fast and responsive, demanding more acute balance. Listen to Wingnut and stay on the carpet, at first.

The Indo Board is wonderful for your general balance and fitness—I’ve owned one for a over decade—but its front-to-back rocking doesn’t exactly build up the balance that’s involved with riding—let alone catching—a wave. What we do like about the Indo Board is that it’s wider, and perhaps more forgiving of beginners. That said, it bears its own perils. Because the Indo Board rolls front to back, losing your balance and sliding out can send you flying one way and the board the other, maybe through the television set. (Tip: Whether you decide to purchase an Indo Board or a GoofBoard, make sure to calculate for such risks by giving yourself plenty of leeway in all directions—and as with the GoofBoard, start out atop carpet.)

If you decide to buy the Indo Board and want to train for surfing, be sure to buy the package with both the roller and the IndoFLO Balance Stimulator. It’s an inflatable rubber cushion that offsets your balance just enough to keep you on your toes, which helps fine-tune your muscles similarly to the way the GoofBoard does. —OJB

Cheap waterproof watch

Most of us don’t need a watch except for fashion purposes on land, but in the ocean, a cheap waterproof watch is a must-have. They’re useful for knowing how much time you have before your next rendezvous on land, whether for social or safety reasons (“if we get separated, meet me at the lifeguard station at pm”). I’ve used them living in Hawaii like this for years.

Why did I choose those over the other watches? The Casio W213, W96H, and W20(all around the same price as our pick) are only rated to 50 meters, which doesn’t really matter, but you’re always better off having something more waterproof than less. The F-Eand F105-1A are only rated for “water resistance” without a depth rating; the same goes for the cult classic Casio F91, which has hundreds of reviews. The Timex T5K08(currently unavailable) is kind of overbuilt and is only resistant to 50 meters as well.

Force fins

There are a variety of Force Fins that are readily available for body surfing such as Force Fin Pro, Force Fin Rip Force and Force Fin Original. Force Fins Original is among the best because they are comfortable and propel the surfer faster. Force Fins Pro aid easy movement and are very effective for all kinds of water surfaces.

Duck Fins

These types of fins are weighty, long and assist in more effective thrusts while surfing. Duck Fins were among the first type of fins to be made. They are very balanced in design, which makes them very popular among top swimmers on the globe.





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Final Word

First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.

Most important, have fun and choose your Surfing Fins wisely! Good luck!

So, TOP3 of Surfing Fins



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