SUP shapes & designs – The importance of SUP fins

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You might think of fins as just the things that stick out the bottom and back of your board, that you never take out and just get in the way. Or maybe you’re interested in fins and want to change them and try something new but don’t know where to start. Well, whether it be on a performance race board or first time surf SUP all fins work the same way, but the shape and position of your fin can make your board feel very different and perform in a very different way. In this, SUPboarders fourth feature on ‘SUP shape & designs’ we talk about the role fins play on your board and how the different fin shapes effect the feel of the board.

SUP shapes & designs – The importance of SUP fins
Photo : Amilcar Tioni

Before we start we need to talk about when you will really notice the difference in your fins. The rule of thumb is, the faster you are moving or the further you are paddling the more impact your fins will have on your paddling. Whether it be racing, touring, surfing or cruising you will feel the difference between fins. However if you are just paddling at 1 mph having fun with family/friends the fin becomes less important. Any fin would do the job for that!

What does a fin do?

So… what does a fin do? And why do we need a fin on our board? In simple terms, a fin provides Drag, Control & Grip.
Drag : Any fin on any board will slow the board down because it produces drag at the back of the board. But by doing this it helps keep the back of the board behind the front of the board, enabling you to paddle in a straight line. Take your fin out and you will soon discover the importance of having a fin! It will be impossible to paddle in a straight line and your board will just spin around in a circle because there are no fins to produce drag and keep the board moving in a particular direction.
Control & Grip : Having fins will give your board more stability in a sideways motion and also help you with grip and control when your board is moving at faster speeds.
In a surf environment fins play an important role on a wave, but they’re not the only thing that aids the boards performance. It’s important to remember that the rails of your board are equally as important in helping to control and turn your board. As you can see in the latest ‘Dogman’ SUP surf action video, where there’s a clip of him riding on the nose of his board and using only the rails of his board to turn and grip. It just goes to show you that fins aren’t solely responsible for riding and turn on a wave. They very much work together with the other parts of the board. When riding finless the hardest bit is paddling on the wave in the first place!