Glassed-On Vs Removable Surfboard Fin Systems

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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, glass-on fins are no better than a removable fin system.

Both options have their pros and their cons, 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 surf fins that have been laminated into the bottom of the surfboard, which means it is a permanent fixture on the board. The “glass” refers to the fiberglass used to finish the surfboard that secures the surf 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 much less common today than it once was.

Some surfers prefer glass-on fins on their surfboard because:

  • Surfers argue that glassed-on fins offer greater performance and a more natural feel.
  • Surfboards with glassed-on fins are lighter than surfboards with removable fin systems.
  • The flex response is usually much better on surfboards with glassed on fins.

Some of the cons of having glassed-on fins on a surfboard are:

  • Surfboards are harder to transport and more prone to damage during transportation.
  • Surfboards with glassed on fins are more likely to be damaged when surfing shallow waters.
  • Extensive repairs will be needed if the glassed-on fins are damaged or rip off the surfboard.

Surfboards with glassed-on fins are in some amount of circulation, mainly on twin-fin fish shapes and are a great option if you want a twinny set up.

A Removable Surfboard Fin Setup Like FCS or Future Fins

Most surfboards these days come standard with a removable fins system. If you have a surfboard with removable fins you should consider upgrading to a quality set of fins because the stock plastic fins that new surfboards come with detract from the performance of the surfboard.

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.

Surfers can change the fins as needed using these fin systems, 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.

Surfers who prefer a removable surf fin system argue:

  • It’s much easier to transport a surfboard with removable fins, as the fins can be removed before the surfboard is packed away.
  • Removable fin systems allow 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.

Some of the cons of having a removable surf fin system are:

  • 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 Beginner & Experienced Surfers?

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 surfboards, 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.