What is the best fin to use for SUP racing, general flatwater paddling, or for open water? Through fairly extentesive albiet unscientific personal research, I have settled on a medium sized cutway fin.
For some reason, our intuition as beginner paddlers often leads us to reason that because all you do is go in a straight line when paddling flat water, and that all big fins do is make you go in a straight line, that therefore big fins are good for flat water paddling.
(sorry for the crappy picture… hopefully I’ll post a better one soon)
This guess is very wrong for two reasons:
1. The best way to go really fast is to reduce your resistance as much as possible, and beyond a certain point, a fin does not provide any more help going in a straight line and simply adds resistance.
2. The biggest enemy of forward paddling speed is when forward paddling power is diverted to keeping the board stable. Longer fins pick up strange, counter-intuitive water movements below the top surface of the water and tend to make your board LESS stable after a certain point.
These two effects of increasing our fin size land us in the medium fin size range, similar to what one would use on a high-performance longboard: around 7 to 9 inches in length. Out of all the fins in that size range, one is designed specifically to minimize drag – the cutaway shape. Originally intended to maximize down the line speed on small/mushy waves, it also happens to minimize the drag in flat water as well.
Both FCS and Future (and other brands) make cutaway designs, and all are fairly similar – at least not different enough to recommend one brand over the other. As for sizing, I recommend picking a size based on your weight, starting with a 110 lb person on a 7″, and ranging up to a 300 lb rider who should go for the 9.5″. Take your weight and pick a size in that range accordingly, but at the end of the day any size in there will work well no matter what your weight.
- Selecting the Correct Fin Setup for SUPs
- How to Buy / Select a Standup Paddle Board
- SUP Paddle Review: Werner Carve (Nitro) Adjustable
- How to not stick your butt out when you paddle
- Head to Head: Bark 14’0 vs. Laird Pearson Arrow 14’0 – Downwind