We offer a variety of kite specific surfboards here at Big Winds, some that run with three fins, some with four and some now with the choice of either, in a 5-fin box configuration. Over the years we have found some aftermarket fins working better than others for kitesurfing. With Futures Fins and FCS dominating the surf fin market, all of the kitesurf boards we sell accept one or the other. Fins are like the “tires on your car” (thanks Ben Skaggs for the analogy) and you can feel the difference in performance immediately. Understanding the nuances of fins can be complicated, so I’m hoping to simplify your choice to better your kitesurfing experience.
With terms such as templates, foils, flex etc., there is a lot to consider when purchasing your next set of surf fins. Fortunately, enough surfboards have been utilizing fins since the mid 1930s (thanks Tom Blake) and evolved to the current three-fin “Thruster” design (thanks Simon Anderson) and four-fin “Quad” design. Although the debate on thruster versus quad has valid points on each side, we try to iron out the differences with a few common characteristics.
Quads offer more speed as the thruster’s center fin creates drag. A surfer on a thruster must generate his or her own speed, whereas a quad will naturally scream down the line. Thrusters, however, can pivot on the tail making for tight arcing turns. This allows for multiple bottom turns, face climbing and lip smacking, turn after turn after turn. Although both thrusters and quads will crank up wind better than any twin-tip, the quad may have a slight advantage due to two fins engaging on the rail, versus just one. We talk about a quad feeling looser or skatier due to the lack of the back fin, but the back fin allows for better tracking on the thruster. It comes down to personal preference, whether you want the speed and long arcing turn of the quad, or the control and tight pivot of the thruster (or the versatility of choosing either in the 5-fin box boards).
North Pacific, North, Cabrinha and Firewire (recently added to the Big Winds lineup) utilize Futures Fin boxes. There are many choices Futures Fins offer, but here are our favorites starting with the thrusters, then the quads, then the 5-fin:
John John Signature Thruster Fins: The John John fins are based on the best selling F4 Techflexfins and new for Big Winds this season. I’ve been riding the John Johns for five months now and love them. With added base, the new John Johns have more drive, helping maintain speed through the turn. A reduced tip area provides a quicker release, allowing the board to easily break free from the wave during turns. Plus, they look awesome with a blue side when viewed from the starboard side and yellow side when viewed from the port side.
F4 Techflex Thruster Fins: This is our best selling thruster fin from Futures. They provide a comfortable feel in a variety of conditions. The F4 template has a medium base providing less drive in a tighter turning radius and a generous tip helping you stay on rail. The carbon base and carbon tip provide stiffness and prevent the board from sliding through the turn. This is great for kiters who put a lot of force on the fin.
V2 Rasta Quad: Don’t get me wrong, these are my favorite quads from Futures and not just due to the looks and name. These V2 quads have been made with renewable bamboo and look awesome, but the thing I’ve noticed is they generate more drive, providing forward acceleration and helping maintain speed through the turn. Plus, when you purchase the V2 Rasta Quad set, a portion of the proceeds go to Dave Rastovich’s non-profit, “Surfers for Cetaceans.” I love whales and dolphins!
F4 Quad Fins: Again, the F4 template is the most popular and available also as a quad setup. This fin is for the medium size riders looking for a fin that is a little looser that easily breaks free from the wave during turns. These fins release really well for a fun, skatier feel.
Josh Mulcoy 5-Fin: Josh has been kitesurfing for over eight years and has helped put legitimacy into the kitesurfing world with his pure strapless style. He has worked in conjunction with Futures to design a fin that works great for him both with a kite and without. Josh’s 5-fin set-up is fast and turns a tight arc due to the sweep angle or “rake” of the fin being more upright then swept back. Riding the rear quads will add more hold preventing the board from sliding through turns and add more drive helping maintain speed through the turn.
All Naish kitesurf boards have been built with a proprietary fin box known as DFS. The DFS fin box accepts FCS fins and we carry FCS fins at Big Winds in case you want to upgrade your stock Naish fins. The FCS fins we stock and have ridden over the years are categorized by size. This allows you to make a choice based on your weight range, with sizes extra-small, small, medium and large. Here is a list of FCS fins we recommend:
K2.1 Grom (XS) Thruster: The Kelley Slater Pro Model Grom works great for the smaller individuals, those weighing 145 pounds or less. For someone looking for characteristics of a looser, tighter turning fin, the KS.1 Grom is an excellent choice.
PC-3 (S) Thruster: We stock and sell more PC-3 fins than any other for kitesurfing due to the versatile nature of the size and feel. For riders weighing 150-175 pounds, the PC-3 is a great choice. It delivers a longer arcing turn through which it holds tight. The bamboo construction version is lightweight and provides a natural flex enhancing the directional flex of the fin. The carbon base on the bamboo version is perfect for the kiters who like to ride lit up.
PC-5 (M) Thruster: For the heavier riders, 175 pounds and up, the PC-5 will be the choice. This fin handles the power and force exerted when fully powered. There is no need to go much bigger than the PC-5s, as this fin is deep enough to handle choppy bouncy conditions. Again, offered in the bamboo construction, the carbon base creates a stiff platform with a naturally flex in the tip. This is a great choice for the big boys.
SA-1 Quad: Simon’s medium size quads are great for the medium sized kitesurfers looking for a quad set to give a little added drive and speed to their shorter boards. For the boards in the smaller (5′-5’8″) range, these fins will help maintain acceleration through the turns.