If you're buying a surfboard for the first time, one of the main things that you'll have to consider is how many fins you're looking for. There are a number of boards available with four or five fins, but for most surfers choosing a surfboard will mean deciding between either one, two or three fins.
Everything from the way surfboards handle to the type of waves you're going to be best suited to will be influenced by your decision, so it pays to spend some time thinking over your options. Use this guide to the pros and cons of each option to help yourself out.
When you first learned to surf, chances are you used a surfboard with a single fin. These boards provide exceptional stability and control; essentially, they're perfect for beginners. With a single fin, you'll be able to go fast and straight so these are nice for areas where you just want to pick up a wave and head into shore quickly. You'll also find it easier to surf smaller waves with a single fin, so take the conditions at your local beach into consideration.
Unfortunately, what you gain in stability you lose in control. The single fin isn't great for making sharp turns, and it is also going to struggle with larger waves.
Two fin surfboards, or 'twin-fins', are nice for the same kind of small waves that you'd approach with a single fin, but they take huge strides forward in terms of manoeuvrability. While single fins are usually found with longboards, twin-fins are common with shortboards because they allow for more speed and control.
Twin-fins are therefore perfect for intermediate surfers who are able to handle the increase in sensitivity but not yet quite ready to tackle larger waves.
Three fins is probably the most common surfboard configuration that you're going to find, and you'll be able to find them across styles and lengths. Also known as 'thrusters' or 'tri-fins', three-finned boards are excellent choices since they combine the benefits of one-finned and two-finned boards. The central fin provides some of the stability you'd get from the former, all while the two fins to either side allow for a little more manoeuvrability.
Of course, you'll still get more stability from a one-fin and more manoeuvrability from a twin-fin, but these are still great if you need the best of both worlds. Furthermore, you'll now be able to tackle larger waves with confidence.