Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right SUP Fin
The quality of your surf rests on many factors—and choosing the right fin is one of them.
Below, we’ll walk through some of the most important considerations you should make when choosing a SUP fin.
These fins, designed for stand up paddle boards, differ from traditional surfing fins. Those looking for information on selecting traditional surfing fins can find more information in our guide here.
We’ll also go over what you need to know to set up your board correctly.
How Does a SUP Differ from a Traditional Board?
As you may have guessed from the name, stand up paddle boards are not designed for sitting, or paddling like a traditional surfboard or shortboard.
Instead, surfers use a paddle to propel through the water when not riding the waves.
This makes their design unique where the board contains far more volume and mass in order to maintain it's buoyancy.
For this reason, it’s important to understand their design and specific uses to get the most out of your purchase.
What Do You Need to Know to Select the Right Fin?
So what do you need to know to choose the right fin?
To answer this question, let’s take a brief look at the different functions of SUP fins.
Fast speeds compromise your board’s stability.
The fin that you purchase influences the overall stability—and the speed—of your board.
Their size affects just how much stability they will bring to your board.
As a general rule, larger fins will provide greater stability, making it easier to find the right balance. This makes them a popular choice for beginning paddle boarders.
On the other hand, because of their larger size, they also create more drag—something that every experienced surfer tries to avoid.
Drag reduces the speed of your board.
Those looking for a quick surf tend to buy smaller fins. If this sounds like the right choice for you, just be aware that the board will be less stable, so beginners should consider this.
The good news is that because they come in a variety of sizes, it should be easy to find one that suits your board.
The fin you choose also affects how easily you can maneuver your board.
We’ve seen how they can affect the stability, and a similar principle applies here. In general, the more stability that’s provided, the less maneuverable a board will be.
This is especially important for those who are looking to do stunts or timed races. Decreased maneuverability makes the surf harder and can be a pain for experienced surfers looking to compete.
Arguably, the most important function of a SUP fin is its ability to support the surfer while standing.
Because surfers stand at all times, it’s important that the boards don’t start spinning in the water.
Without getting a specially-designed SUP fin, surfers are at risk of losing their balance. Without the proper support, their boards are at risk of spinning out of control in the water.
For this reason, be sure to buy these especially-designed products when setting up your stand up paddle board.
SUP Fin Design
There are four main design elements that make these fins more suitable for stand up paddleboarding. Understanding the design process paints a clearer picture of which product is right for you.
By taking a look at why these products are more suitable, you can better choose the one best for your surf.
In general, these fins can be broken down into the following elements:
When determining the overall performance of a specific fin, one must not overlook the rake.
The rake is the degree to which a fin curves away from the base and is what directly affects a fin’s ability to cut through the water. The shape of the fin greatly affects the rake, with upright fins causing more drag.
In isolation, the height of the fin doesn’t seem too important. However, when combined with the base and the width, it’s a key component to calculating overall surface area.
As we’ve noted, the larger the area, the more stability the product will provide. The tradeoff, of course, is that both maneuverability and speed will decrease.
When determining the area of the fin, however, one must not consider height as separate from other determining factors. Though a larger height may increase drag, this can be combatted if it features a smaller base.
The area of the fin can be calculated with a simple formula.
One must calculate the length of the base, the height, and the width and multiply them together to find the overall surface area.
As we’ve seen, the width of the base is critical in determining the overall surface area.
But it has another important function: tracking.
Depending on the shape and the size of the base, some fins are better suited for straighter tracking, while others are designed for pivoting ease.
Typically, the wider the base, the straighter it will track. We’ve seen this same principle play out when considering the overall surface area.
Keep in mind that wider bases may also lead to increased drag, especially if the height is also large.
For the optimum balance between speed and maneuverability, one must consider the overall weight of the fin.
While this is related to its size, it has more to do with its construction.
Manufacturers make their products from a variety of materials, including both those that are made from a foam core and carbon construction and those made from fiberglass. The first provides for increased speed and maneuverability, with slightly less strength. Those made from fiberglass typically weigh more and provide greater stability but create more drag.
Several quality products are available on the market.
And while there are several differentiating factors between each one, perhaps the most important consideration you should make in your selection process is your skill level.
Take the 10'6" Explore, for example, an inflatable stand up board. It's pre-configured into a 2+1 configuration using 9" FCS II central fin and 2" outer fins. This is perfect for a board with 250L volume, It's 10'6" Long X 5" Thick X 32" Wide allowing for nearly anyone to work with as a general learner or mid-level rider.
Moving into something like the new Jason Momoa eco tech board inspired by his recent movie. It comes with a 4+1 Fin System which allows for multiple configurations depending on where, when and how you're riding. It's designed for someone who takes riding seriously.
Are you just starting out, or do you have some more experience under your belt?
The answer to this question will ultimately determine which product is right for you.
If you don’t quite have high-level skills yet, you may find that choosing a fin with a wider base and larger overall surface area is what you need. Chances are that you don’t have the natural balance it takes to counteract the decreased stability smaller fins bring.
Those who have more experience, however, typically find that the decreased drag smaller options offer to allow for a greater variety of stunts. They also provide for increased speed, making them perfect for races and other timed competitions.
Ultimately, the fin, and/or fin system your board has may determine your direction. You may wish to experiment with different products before finding the one that’s most comfortable for you. As your skills and experience increase, consider investing in new fins to better hone your skills.
Properly setting up your fin and board is important to its overall functionality.
Depending on how you intend to use your stand up paddle board, you may consider utilizing a different setup.
Below, we’ll take a brief look at some of the most common setups for SUP fins.
Click here for a detailed look at setups for traditional fins.
A single fin setup provides best results for those who are flat-water cruising.
Those wishing to ride the waves with a single-fin setup would perhaps find the most success in choosing fatter waves.
Because this setup allows for only moderate control, surfers wishing to use this setup generally need to be of a more advanced skill level.
As there is only one fin being used, this system offers less board stability, meaning that riders have to have an advanced degree of balance.
The reduced number of fins, however, makes it perfect for reducing drag and adding extra speed.
2 + 1
The 2 + 1 configuration is perhaps the most common setup for stand up paddleboarding.
In this setup, one large fin is flanked by two smaller ones, giving riders more stability overall.
When compared to the single-fin system, the 2 + 1 configuration offers clear advantages in overall stability.
This makes it a popular choice for less-skilled riders who need extra support from their boards.
It’s important to note, however, that this setup makes for increased drag and reduced speed.
4 + 1
Those looking for a great balance between stability, speed, and maneuverability tend to favor the 4 + 1 configuration.
This setup allows for four smaller fins to stabilize the board. Because there’s no large center fin, riders enjoy less drag and increased control over the board.
Those who are just starting out in stand up paddle boarding, however, may find this configuration too difficult. Instead, this setup is geared to more-advanced riders looking for a challenging and thrilling stand-up surf.
Removable Fin Systems
It’s also possible to find stand up paddle boards that have a removable-fin configuration. These allow for great flexibility and control, as they can change the setup to suit their specific and often-changing needs.
It’s clear that there are several pragmatic reasons for choosing the right fin (balance, stability, increased maneuvering, etc.). Yet, there are other considerations you should make when it comes buying time.
Let’s look at a few of these factors so that you can make the most informed choice when the time comes.
Not all fins are created equal.
That’s why they can vary greatly in price depending on the material, size, color, pattern, and brand. Choosing the right fin has as much to do with price as it does with finding the option that’s right for your board.
Luckily for you, a great selection of fins can be found here at affordable prices. If you are looking to trick out your board and be the envy of the surf, I highly recommend you visit this site and find the fins that are right for you!
It’s time to find a quality option that fits your budget! Doing so can help you maximize your surfing experience and take your game to a whole new level.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right fin plays a critical role in your surfing experience.
If you’re ready to get to the next level of surfing, it’s time that you invest in an option that works for you. In general, your experience level largely determines the type of fin you will need. For beginners, larger, wider options that provide extra stability and balance are recommended.
Already an experienced surfer?
You may be interested in smaller, leaner fins that can help you surf like a pro.
Whatever you choose, remember that the flashier your fin, the better. As you trick out your board, keep in mind that the efficiency and aesthetic of your fin will be determined largely by your budget. That’s why it’s crucial you know where to go to buy a quality product.
So don’t wait! If you’re ready to hit the surf in style, it’s time to buy your next fin today!