The Battle of Fins: FCS vs. Futures

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You’ve armed yourself with one of the classic board designs, what’s next? Now, it’s time for the fins. Fins are critical in surfboard performance. They have a huge impact on the stability, drive, and maneuverability – basically the overall feel you’ll experience while in the water. And while donning the best gear won’t automatically make you a great surfer, it will definitely up your surfing game.

Currently, there are two brands battling out who gets to be the best in the surf fins market. Between FCS and Futures, who is the real winner?

FCS Fins

Originally designed in the early 1990s, FCS or Fin Control System pioneered the removable surfboard fin systems which forever revolutionized the surf industry. Enabling surfers to change out the fins to match conditions was one of the reasons it became so popular.

FCS II Fins | Photo Credit: FCS

FCS fins have two tabs and are secured to the board with a set of screws. Unlike other fin-plug designs, the FCS’ plugs were made to be more part of the board construction as opposed to being rooted in the foam core alone. Once the fins are screwed into place, they are less likely to move laterally or break. The main problem you may encounter is when they do break, it may cause minor damage to the board.

Always losing your fin key? FCS came out with the solution and launched the FCS II. With this new tech, you simply clip in (or out) the fins to the board without the need for any tools. An added bonus is that the new fins also reduce drag and improve the streamline of your board.

The best part is it’s compatible with the old system, meaning you can use your old dual tab FCS fins with the new FCS II setup. You may need a compatibility kit, though, which will cost you around $10, but being able to use your old fins with the new system definitely justifies the spend.

Not convinced about the versatility and performance the FCS offers? Maybe the list of pros that swear by them will. World Champ Mick Fanning, Jeremy Flores, Julian Wilson, Kolohe Andino, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Laura Enever are just some of the big names in surfing that have these fins in their arsenal.

Mick Fanning | Photo Credit: FCS

With its huge following, it’s easy to see why FCS has become hugely popular in the surfing community.

Futures Fins

Another brand that is well-liked by a lot of surfers is Futures. Unlike FCS, Futures use a single-tab system for their fins. The bases are shaped to fit the fin boxes that are glassed into the bottom of the board, and each fin is secured with an angled screw.

Futures Blackstix | Photo Credit: Futures

Because the fins have a single base, they are more connected to the board, which results in less flex, making it stronger and unlikely to break. The solid connection between the board and the fin also gives you more responsiveness every time you’re in the water.

Similar to FCS, the Futures fins will only work with Futures fin boxes. However, you can purchase replacement fins from Futures which are pretty much compatible with other fin systems in the market.

John John Florence rides with Futures | Photo Credit: Futures

Futures are designed with performance and durability in mind. If you want to use what surfing elites like John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Jack Freestone, Dave “Rasta” Rastovich, Rob Machado and Shane Dorian are using, then go for Futures.

FCS or Futures – Which is better?

When you are looking for a fin system that is widely used across the globe, FCS is your best bet. It is used by a good number of shapers and board companies, and are readily available worldwide – perfect for anyone traveling.

However, some surfers are complaining that their FCS II fins fall out. Fins are expensive and you don’t want to lose them, especially when you’re about to head out for a surf. Moreover, snapping them on the board is not as user-friendly as advertised. You will need a lot of force to put them in and if you don’t do it on a soft surface, you may end up damaging your board in the process.

Futures, on the other hand, are more user-friendly. They are easier to install and are found to be stronger by a lot of surf enthusiasts. When you bash your Futures, only the fins break; but when you break your FCS, you also end up with a broken board. Compared to repairing a board, replacing a fin (or two) is a whole lot cheaper.

The downside is the Futures fin system is not as popular with shapers as FCS is, meaning your board options are a bit limited. You also can’t use your FCS fins (if you have any) on boards with Futures fin boxes, and vice versa.

If you still can’t decide between the two, here’s another option for you.

Captain Fin – An Awesome, Quirky Alternative

Captain Fin x Dane Reynolds | Photo Credit: Zak Surfboards

Mitch Asbhere founded Captain Fin back in 2007 in hopes of adding a bit of humor to the surfing community. By working with talented surfers and artists like Dane Reynolds, Joel Tudor, Alex Knost, Tyler Warren, and Thomas Campbell, the team has created fun, quirky, and creative designs that are sure to add personality to any surfboard. Can you just imagine sporting watermelon-colored fins on your watercraft?

Watermelon popsicle-like fins | Photo Credit: Stab

Aside from the awesome design selections, Captain fins are compatible with both FCS and Futures systems, which means more (and cheaper!) fin options for you.

Both FCS and Futures fins (and Captain Fin) have their pros and cons. Hence, your choice will ultimately rely on your preference, need or skill level.

Which do you think is the better fin system? Comment on it below!

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