The world's two finest surfers ride divergent fin systems. Safe to say they both work. Photo: WSL
Which Fin System Do You Prefer?
Stab staffers state their alliance between Futures and FCS.
In surfing, there are two fin "systems" that matter: Futures and FCS.
Glass-ons are bygone*, single-fins are solitary, and all those other plugs are for plugs. Let's forget about them, shall we?
With these lines clearly defined, every rational surfer must decide whether they prefer a solid base with a loose screw (Futures) or two holes and another in your hand (FCS).
The (alleged) pros and cons of each are well documented.
Futures boxes are allegedly more secure but cumbersome to use, requiring an ever-elusive Allen key to change fins.
FCS fins are easy to swap due to their lack of screw, but this allegedly diminishes their structural integrity.
Famous FCS surfers include Julian Wilson, Mick Fanning, and Gabriel Medina.
Famous Futures surfers include John Florence, Jordy Smith, and Italo Ferreira.
Clearly, both systems work. But just for fun, we decided to poll our staff to see who (if anyone) they were loyal to. Through this exercise, I learned there has already been an in-company hand-to-hand duel over the very topic. Let's start there.
Gold Coast, 2017.
It was a warm March evening during the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, maybe a Friday, and excitement filled the air. Holly Daze Coffee rode a longboard skateboard up and down Coolangatta’s hilly streets, gleaming after a successful semi-erotic photoshoot directed by her father. The night was anyone’s to seize.
A group of men gathered on a canopy, doing what only manly men do — talk about surfboard fins.
(Well, Rory was there, talking about having a bunch of threesomes, but who needs to bang your wife with another fella when you could delight in Mick Fanning’s new FCS model instead?)
I’m (mostly) blind out of one eye. I’d like to say that my board hit me in the face but it would be more accurate to say that I head-butted my board. Eye socket straight to the fin. Futures. Jordy template, large. Optic nerve damage. Ha! Got eem!
I’d do it all again rather than switch to FCS.
I’ve only lost one FCS II fin, but I only have one board with the System. Nudged a rock paddling out, see ya. We all know this happens enough for it to be a thing. I mean, look at the base of an FCS II fin — they have little screw holes.
However, my real issue is feeling like I’m going to break the fucking plug every time I try to take a fin in or out. It just doesn’t go smoothly. There’s a reason why that Finpuller tool exists and has great reviews.
The world’s most convenient fin system is designed to accommodate screws, even though it’s supposed to be screw-less, and works better with a tool, even though it’s supposed to be tool-less? No.
Back on the Gold Coast, I sought to articulate these thoughts in the most eloquent words I could find.
“Fuck you, Sam McIntosh. I bet I can screw a set of Futures fins in faster than you can put a set of FCS fins in.”
I lost. Rory got fired. Holly Daze Coffey found love in the form of a man who wears a backwards visor and yellow sunglasses on Instagram. Quiksilver stopped sponsoring the Gold Coast contest and did anyone actually like Kanoa’s last edit from Teahupo’o? Be honest.
I swear by Futures and like big fiberglass fins. My favorite is a pair of fiberglass AM2s that I've had for about a decade. I love the combination of pairing a would-be looser board with some bigger, stiffer fins. I think the worst thing a board can do is not be drivey, and I've learned that fins can play a major role in that.
I also think it's crazy that everyone acknowledges the thruster as one of the most important advancements in performance surfing, but nobody has fucked with it all that much since then. I want a fin revolution to sweep across the world and break my brain.
Danny Johnson - Wet Lettuce
I worked at FCS in Australia for a few years but I abruptly quit the moment Derek Hynd released that first video of himself surfing finless at J-Bay. I thought the entire industry would collapse overnight.
Despite my departure, I’ve remained loyal to the Fin Control System and will be for life. As has Kelly Slater. His contract expired years ago but he’s remained a devotee and subsequently their cheapest team rider.
I don’t have anything against Futures, just a huge non-sexual crush on Kelly that given the right night and consensual opportunity, could easily become sexual. Hopefully, Rory won’t be there.
Hey Buck, if you hadn’t spent half your life screwing in fins you might have had enough spare time on your hands to learn that there’s another reason those crews are in the FCSII plugs. They’re there so that new plugs are still compatible with the old fins, not because the new system needs them.
They did that because FCS are nice guys, they’re not sociopaths like Steve Jobs that constantly invent new shaped holes that your old shit doesn’t fit into.
Sam McIntosh - Founder
I hate accoutrements and wanted to own just a single set of fins as opposed to an extra bag of crap to carry around. I always rode a mix of both tech but when FCS started the FCSII, I went all-in on my boards. They were efficient, easy to use and it seemed obvious to me I that the surf world would switch just like the great Nokia to iPhone migration.
About five years ago I moved from Australia to the United States. There were three major cultural differences I noticed when I landed. The first was the ubiquitous Dakine foam protectors that wrap around the surfboard roof racks. That was a real trip. I never thought a surfboard laying on a flat rack could be damaged. I still don't. The second was the portable shower that you used after getting out of the surf. That one made sense because of the contrast to Australia’s beaches having such a thorough network of showers. The third and the most striking feature was the pervasiveness of Futures fins. From what I could tell, using these over say FCS fins represented a kinda “core score” I’d never experienced, as if driving a shitty two-wheel drive Hyundai on the sand alongside a muscular 4x4 Tundra.
When I got face to face with Brendan Buckley on the Gold Coast, he was like everyone else I had met: a diehard fan of Futures because Owen Wright once lost a fin in West Australia. He offered there was no variance in the time to change a fin so we battled. My victory was decisive and swift.
I ordered a Padillac from Pyzel and picked it up in Hawaii in November last year. The board is a quad. The board was built and the glassers had put in Futures. When it was ready, they realised, and started to remake the board with FCS and sold the original. I arrived at the same time a quite good swell did. I wanted to surf Sunset. I visited three surf stores, called a bunch of people. Nothing. I paddled out a stifling 6’4” and watched other people ride very good waves.
I am now completely mixed between tech, rarely have a complete set and carry a bag full of mismatched fins. How do I feel about each tech? I love and hate them both in equal measure.
Ashton Goggans - The beanie
Futures unless a free board has FCSII. I don’t trust FCSII without the screws, and with the screws it’s almost three times as long, and certainly twice as painful, a process, taking fins in and out.
Jake Embrey - Surfing's last true communist
Sam and Buck's fin competition was the best surf-related comp I've seen since Shin vs. Hatman at Bondi (RIP hatman).
Anyway, I use whatever system is in the Drag Drumstick.
Dylan Roberts - made your fav Stab films
On 'performance' shortboards I use FCS fins for convenience. On 'alternate' boards I generally use Futures as they seem to have a bigger variety.
Aaron Carrera - deals baby deals!
I want instant results for everything in my life...except for my fins. I just can't get behind FCS II's. It's 100% user error, I admit. But I spend more time struggling with this system than I do putting in the 3 screws. And I've been using Futures since I started surfing, so I guess I'm a creature of routine.
Zack Raffin - slings T-shirts
Being a creature of habit (despite my holy overlord Aaron Carerra's reserved opinion that that habit is "leisure"), I have ridden Futures forever. This is mostly due to the fact that the first extremely oversized 5'11 moontail quad I acquired was laden with the technology. They've never failed me, so why change?
I did, however, own one board with FCS. I won it in an ESA Eastern's raffle in 2010 from Florida's Impact Surfboards. Adorned with 1 piece X-Trak traction and FCS Hobgood fins, the board went well enough to take to Virginia Beach's ECSC. Hurricane Irene hit, we evacuated despite me being slotted in the Quarter Finals of the prestigious Menehune Longboard Division (thanks mom), and upon arriving home from the grueling journey from VA to NY, I managed to put all my boards away but that one. The board and bag were stolen overnight in what I can only believe is a sign from above that I just wasn't meant to plug two holes at once.
I use both, but prefer FCS2 out of convenience. So far its system hasn't faulted on me. Aaron [Carrera], I find it so hard to understand you don't know how to work it!? Just wrap it with a damn towel!
To be honest, I'm a bit lost on fins – like, I use the Mick black on black fins. Large. But I also have those new Swiss army fins and a set of Kolohes, and I can't tell the difference between them. I don't think I'm a good enough surfer to feel the sensitivities of a change in the angle of the rake or whatever. I just go with whatever looks the most understated.
The Intern - the intern
Fcs, only because the routing jig was cheaper. Freshman year was rough. Jimmy Johns didn’t pay well and a substantial weekly budget for the devil’s lettuce pushed me towards the cheaper option.
Tried a couple glass-ons recently. Like the way they feel but I’m 2/3 on breaking them off in the shore break. Been having a noticeable amount of surprise finless sessions lately. I should probably let someone more qualified glass my boards.
Will Stiles - the guy who makes Surf100
I’ll ride whatever fin system comes with the board. By chance, most of my boards have Futures fin boxes. I rotate my two sets of large and mediums. I feel better about my surfing when I get to decide if the conditions call for medium size fins or large size fins (not sure if that’s correct). I’d like to try out the FCS screw-less system, but I’m fearful I may loose one when I’m booging into the sand whilst avoiding stingrays.
Michael Ciaramella - Digit gnome-ad.
And me? I'm a Futures guy, for the simple and character-revealing fact I always have been. I own way too many of their fins to switch now. Plus, after 20 years, I'm finally starting to understand what I like in a fin and why. And I fear all that pseudo-enlightenment would decay with a new fin manufacturer.
*Addendum: Harry Bryant texted us his thoughts of glass-ons:
In regards to the fin saga: Nothing will beat the craftsmanship of screwing in a fin, better yet, get them glassed in so you never have to think about your fins and you’ll be more attentive on how your board feels