Find your perfect fin setup in our Gear For The Long Haul feature on Page 40. Photo: Black-Schmidt
Find your perfect fin setup in our Gear For The Long Haul feature on Page 40. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Gear Hacks: Finding Fins

GEAR FOR THE LONG HAUL: TIPS AND TRICKS FOR FINE-TUNING YOUR SUP ACCESSORIES

Paddlers fall into two gear camps: Those that obsess over every item, seeking golden bits of information to gain any sliver of performance on the water or an extra year of longevity in the garage; and those that could care less and just want to paddle that board now, factory fins and all. Wherever you fall on the gear-geek spectrum, understanding the basics of optimizing and maintaining your hard-earned equipment will take you a long way. We reached out to our top contributors and athletes to gather some hacks, tips and tricks to maximize both the performance and the lifespan of your gear. 

This article is part of a series of tips and tricks for picking the right gear and maintaining it for the long haul, originally published in our 2018 Gear Guide, available in digital and print here!

Finding Fins

Choosing the right fin setup is a tricky concept to grasp. But it's also one of the most important.

For most paddlers, choosing the right fin setup is a tricky concept to grasp. But it's also one of the most important. To cut through the confusion, we went straight to the source for a few tips from a guy who dedicated his career to finding the right fins, FCS co-founder and board designer Tyler Callaway.

Touring: For flatwater it's best to find a good all-around fin with a decent-sized surface area and at least a nine-inch depth.

Racing: Race boards call for something stable and hydrodynamic. The deeper the fin and the more area it has--especially in the tip--the more stable the board becomes. The more rake (angle) it has in the leading edge, the better it will shed seaweed and kelp. The tradeoff is that the more rake it has, the more resistance you get during buoy turns.

Downwind: These boards have so much rail in the water that a straight up-and-down fin with no rake makes them easier to edge into bumps during a glide.

Surfing: I recommend using bigger fins on your SUP than what you use on your regular surfboard. The goal is to get the fin close to proportional with the size of your board.

Longboards work best with a two-plus-one setup. For the side-bites, I recommend going 4 ½ to 4 ¾ inches long. With the center fin, you should be somewhere between six and nine inches for performance surfing and if you're going solely for noseriding, you might even go 10 inches with a lot of rake to keep the tail from sliding out.

For shortboard SUPs bigger fins are usually still better; bigger fins in front actually loosen the board up and make it turn faster. I'm six feet tall and I like them to be about 5 ¼ inches in the front. Personally, I usually run a quad (four-fin) setup because they generate speed more easily in softer surf. If it's hollow and peaky, I'll opt for a thruster (three fins).

River: Any extra short-depth, small keel-shaped, flexible fin that is preferably designed to flex over before it damages the boxes will suffice on the river. Smaller is usually better in shallow rapids. -TC

Related

SUP fin placement tips. 

More SUP surfing tips from Tyler Callaway.

Explore Tyler's custom-designed SUPs at allwatersup.com