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Which Fin is Best for Different Situations and Races?

By changing your fin, you can significantly tune the performance of your SUP race board for different races and paddling conditions. 

Best Fin for Touring, Flatwater or Long-Distance Paddling

For flatwater paddling and distance paddling it is important to have good tracking with increased glide between each stroke. Both of these factors enable you to paddle with a lower and more sustainable cadence, keeping your heart rate down and energy levels up. A larger fin with a fuller foil will generate great tracking and increased glide. A bigger fin will also help with stability as your body starts to suffer from fatigue.

Beginner to Intermediate – A bigger fin with a thicker foil will help improve tracking and stability, which is ideal for those learning to SUP. Remember that you’re not fast if you’re falling off or veering off line. Staying upright, level and on course will have you paddling faster and expending less energy.

Best Bet: RAY at 24cm (9.45 inches) this is our biggest fin with the thickest foil. It is designed to increase stability and tracking, especially in choppy water.

Advanced to Professional – Paddlers who are stable on their boards and who paddle with a higher cadence will benefit from a smaller fin with a thinner foil. Used correctly, these fin types are extremely efficient and will help you reach higher peak-speeds and faster course times. Smaller fins are also better for buoy turns, which are often a feature of flatwater racing.

Best Bet: TIGER

 

Best Fin for Technical SUP Racing

Technical races are shorter and feature lots of buoy turns. It is important to be able to accelerate quickly and turn on a dime. A more upright fin helps with turning and a smaller (but not too small) fin design helps with speed. If you go too small, you may find it hard to accelerate as you dig deep with your paddle. There are also different types of technical races, those on flat water (e.g. Gorge Paddle Challenge) or those in surf (e.g. Pacific Paddle Games) and this influences how you want the board to behave. For flatwater technical races, tracking and speed are most important, while for surf-style technical races, control and flow are more important as you need to surf your way to each buoy.

Beginner to Intermediate – With lots of paddlers in a small confined area, the water can get quite choppy–even on flat days. The effect of this chop should not be underestimated. While fast buoy turns are important, staying on your board is more important.

Best Bet: The RAY– This will give you the tracking and stability while the relatively upright profile will help with buoy turns. As your experience progresses and you begin to feel more confident, consider trying the smaller TIGER.

Advanced to Professional – During flatwater technical races, you need a fin with fast acceleration and fast buoy turn potential. For races held in surf conditions, a fin with increased feel and flow on the wave is critical.

Best Bet (flat water): TIGER – This fin offers the fastest acceleration and increased pivot around the buoys due to its relatively small size, upright profile and moderate foil. 

Best Bet (surf zone): SONIC – This fin is designed for surf and will give you more control, flow and agility on the wave. It is engineered to enable you to harness every ounce of free energy that the ocean provides. In surf zones, increased agility will be your winning edge. At 18cm (7 inches) This is our smallest fin and suits those with a high cadence and intermediate to advanced stability.

 

Best Fin for Downwinding 

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Downwinding comes in a number of forms and paddlers’ needs are different depending on ability and location. Here on Maui’s north shore, the water is very rough and the course is an ark, compared to Hood River which is a straighter course with smaller bumps. Expert athletes will surf their way down a course, linking bump after bump, while those with less experience will paddle more and need help catching and staying in glides or fighting against side winds in choppy seas. These factors heavily influence fin choice.


Beginner to Intermediate
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Stability and glide are very important. A bigger fin will help with stability and help you fight against side winds (e.g. coming out of Maliko Gulch). A thicker foil will also help extend the length of the glide which gives you both a respite from paddling and more time to find the next bump.

Best Bet: MALIKO v3 – This has been a very popular fin both in high winds on Maui’s rough water and in the Gorge withlighter wind conditions. It will help you glide and keep you upright in rough seas.


Advanced to Professional – 
You love to surf right? So a fin that helps you maneuver between swells to glide down the coast with minimal paddling is going to be your best bet. A smaller, more curved fin with a thinner foil will offer the most surf ability and other rewards to the experienced paddler.

Best bet: SONIC – This is our smallest fin in the race range and is designed to enable you to milk the ocean currents. The Sonic’s shape, rake and foil are designed to enhance the surfing characteristics of your race board. If your motto is ‘Surf More, Paddle Less’ then this is the fin that will help take your downwinding to a new level.

 

Best Fin for Sprint Racing

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Sprint racing is a relatively small discipline in SUP, but one which has a lot of potential. Over such short distances, acceleration and tracking are the most important aspects of design.

Intermediate to Professional – Best Bet: TIGER – With success in the Fastest Paddler on Earth at Lost Mills, ISA Worlds and more, this fin is ideal for short sprints because it offers a great balance between tracking, acceleration and top-end speed.

 

Best Fin for Weedy and Shallow Water

If you are faced with weeds, trash and obstacles in the water, then you need a fin that will shed them. There is no point to having the fastest fin if it collects weeds or plastic bags as you paddle. A fin with a rake of 45° will let you paddle without collecting debris. If you are paddling in shallow water, it is also important to have a strong fin for when you do hit bottom. There are fin savers on the market that are designed to break on impact and save your fin when accidents happen.

Beginner to Intermediate – Best bet: MALIKO v3This fin has an aggressive rake designed to shed weeds. At only 21cm (8.3 inches) deep, you can paddle it in relatively shallow water.

Advanced to Professional – Best bet: SONICWith a high and progressive rake, this fin will cut through weeds and enable you to paddle in very shallow water thanks to its 18cm (7 inch) depth.