Should you opt for a "glassed-on" or removable fin system? It's a simple question and one that many surfers ask themselves at one point.
The truth is, there is no "better" solution.
Both options have their benefits and their disadvantages, and the answer, like so many answers relating to surfboard design, is entirely a matter of personal preference.
To help you make the right choice, let's see how these two options differ by taking a deep dive into the pros and cons of glass-on fins vs removable fins.
A Glass-On Surfboard Fin Setup
The term "glass-on" or "glassed-on" refers to fins that have been laminated into the board, which means it is a permanent fixture on the board.
The "glass" refers to the fiberglass used to finish the board and secure the fins in place.
It's how all surfboards were made until just a few decades ago and while it's still considered the best option by some surfers, it's becoming increasingly less common.
- Many surfers argue that glassed-on fins offer greater performance and a more natural feel.
- They are lighter than boards with removable fin systems.
- The flex response is usually much better on these boards.
- Much harder to transport and more prone to damage during transportation.
- More likely to be damaged when surfing shallow waters.
- Extensive repairs will be needed if the fins are damaged.
A Removable Surfboard Fin Setup
Removable fin systems became common during the 1990s.
They were initially created to make life easier for manufacturers, as they include fin boxes that allow fins to be removed and installed with minimum fuss, thus limiting transportation damage.
You can change the fins as needed, switching from a single fin to a twin fin, tri fin, and quad fin, and all of this can be done yourself with minimum preparation and basic knowledge.
- Much easier to transport, as the fins can be removed before the surfboard is packed away.
- Allows for the use of many different fins, including different makes and fin setups.
- If the fin boxes allow, you can experiment with multiple different fin configurations.
- Although broken fins are easy to replace, broken fin boxes are more problematic and may need extensive work.
- Heavier than glassed-on fins.
Which Option is Best for Beginners?
If you're an experienced surfer looking for every edge that you can get, it's worth experimenting with glassed-on fins to see if they provide you with any benefits.
You'll probably have a quiver packed with many different boards, so it doesn't hurt to have the odd glassed-on option in there.
As a beginner, however, you're unlikely to benefit from any minor improvements provided by a glassed-on setup but the convenience of removable fins is hugely beneficial.
They'll be easier to travel with and it'll also be easier to find your perfect system.
Search for a longboard or funboard that suits your budget and your weight, take a look at some of our guides on fin set ups (including thrusters, quads, singles, and the 2+1, where a large center fin sits between two smaller side fins) and start experimenting!