DIFFERENT SUP FINS WILL CHANGE
THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR BOARD
HOW DO FINS ENHANCE SUP RACE & TOURING BOARD PERFORMANCE?
Your fin can have a profound influence on the performance of your SUP race board and paddling experience. This section in our guide aims to explain the different characteristics SUP fins offer so that you can confidently choose which fin is right for you on any given day, whether you are out cruising or racing.
A larger fin with more surface area, longer depth, wider cord and thicker foil will help stabilize narrow and tippy SUP raceboards and reduce side-to-side roll. This is an extremely important aspect of performance because you’re not fast if you’re falling off.
It is also worth noting that paddleboards are fastest when they are riding flat and not tipping from side-to-side. Intermediate paddlers and those in choppy water or on new-to-them (narrower) boards will want a fin with more stability.
Tracking refers to how straight the board travels as you paddle on one side only. The more strokes you paddle on one side, the more the board starts to veer off course. Increased surface area and efficient foils will help you with tracking. A smaller fin with a more efficient foil will track better than a bigger fin with a less efficient foil.
It is important to balance your tracking with your paddling aims. Intermediate paddlers will want a fin which tracks straighter, whereas professional athletes tend to utilize a higher cadence and use a fin with less tracking characteristics. For example, World Champion Connor Baxter paddles with a high cadence and aims to take 10 strokes per side during normal racing and up to 25 strokes per side for the 200m sprint discipline. Some boards have increased tracking built into their design and therefore can utilize a smaller fin.
There are two aspects of maneuverability to consider. Firstly, how well does the board turn and glide when in planing* conditions (downwiding and in waves) – a smaller, more curved and more raked fin will help your board turn with control. Secondly, we can look at maneuverability in terms of buoy turning and changes of direction in non-planning conditions (normal flat water paddling) and a smaller fin with a narrower cord will promote increased pivot and make it easier to turn. Therefore, in general, smaller fins such as the Sonic or Tiger will be more maneuverable than bigger fins like the Ray and Maliko.
*Planing is when the board’s weight is predominantly supported by hydrodynamic lift, rather than hydrostatic lift (buoyancy). This occurs at speed.
A common misconception is that smaller, thinner fins are faster. Average speed and peak speeds are different concepts and overall board speed is a factor involving a number of variables. The speed potential (this is a function of foil, area and shape) of a fin is only one part of the average speed equation.
If you can balance on your narrow race board and efficiently paddle in a straight line, then a smaller fin will offer more potential but be careful about going too small too quickly. For most paddlers, a fin which helps them track straighter and remain stable will be faster.
SUP FIN COMPARISON CHART
A NOTE FROM SUP RACING WORLD CHAMPION
“I remember coming into standup when people were saying – A fin is a fin, it doesn’t make a difference. That just isn’t true. Standup paddlers may not go as fast as windsurfers or kiters, but with all the situations that paddlers get into, the fin actually makes a massive difference. Whether you’re going downwind, in the flats, doing a lot of surfing or sprinting—whatever—the fin has a big influence not only on speed but tracking, comfort, turning and other areas that add to your capability. Luckily my bag of fins is a little smaller these days, but there are still a few that I carry everywhere I go.”
Connor Baxter @conbax – SUP World Champion
FINS FOR FLAT-WATER TOURING & RACING
These fins are designed for flat-water touring and racing, ranging from cruising your local lake to hammering out a 200-meter sprint. Finding the right combination of tracking, stability, speed and maneuverability will optimize your performance on the water.
FINS FOR DOWNWIND & OCEAN RACING
In conditions where the fastest line depends on wind, waves and current, these fins enhance the surfing characteristics of your race board so you can maintain better flow and speed while successfully catching and riding swells.