There’s nothing worse than the fin of your stand up paddle board falling to pieces and needing replacement. Fins are one of the most critical parts of a SUP. They allow for better movement, maneuvering, and stability, which are rather crucial to paddle boarding. The good news, however, is that replacing a SUP fin is actually really easy. The only tricky thing is choosing the replacement!
Most SUPs already have a fin included, so you never really decide in the beginning what fin you’re going to have; that choice is out of your hands. When you’re replacing a fin, you need to know a bit more about them to make the right purchasing decisions. That’s why you’re here, you need to know more, and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about replacing a paddle boarding fin! Let’s dive in, shall we?
What Is a Stand Up Paddle Board Fin?
A fin is considered a stand-up paddle board accessory, and it’s responsible for providing stability in order to navigate effectively through the water without excessive difficulty. Fins are intended to make paddle boarding easier when it comes to turning in the water. When you paddle board without a fin, this becomes far more difficult. Therefore, it’s recommended to have at least one fin attached to your board. However, there are multiple setup options available for SUP fins.
Types of Fins
A few different types of fins are available for paddle boarding, including flat water, racing, quad, and downwinders.
Flat water fins are usually rather long and, as the name suggests, are suitable for flat water paddle boarding. These fins generally provide stability and help you maneuver waves while achieving faster speeds.
If you’re looking to go racing, you’ll need to give a lot of thought to equipping your board with a racing fin. They’re also able to provide stability and speed but in a much more targeted way that’s needed with racing SUPs which are usually narrow. Most importantly, they’re made for waves, unlike the flat water fin.
A quad gives paddle boarders more options when it comes to how they approach waves. You’ll find that there’s a great deal of versatility in how you ride, maneuver, move through the water, and more when you’re using a quad fin.
The longest and narrowest of the fin types, a downwinder fin is perfect for rivers or fast-moving bodies of water, including the ocean.
These are not the only types of fins for stand up paddle boards, but they are the most common.
The Different SUP Fin Setups
Besides positioning your fin or fins, multiple setup options are available, including single, 2+1, or 4+1.
Single fin is when only one fin is placed in the middle of the paddle board’s tail, either further back, further forward, or in the middle.
2+1 is when you’ve got the prominent fin in the middle and two smaller fins, one on either side of the main fin.
4+1 is when you’ve got the prominent fin in the middle and four smaller fins, two on either side of the main centered fin.
When deciding which set up is for you, you have to consider your needs for performance and how the different set ups can help you achieve that desired performance.
The Best Position to Place Your Fin
When it comes to the placement of your SUP fin, you need to be very careful as this can have a tremendous difference in your performance.
Having your fin placed further back is good if you’re looking to tour or race.
A fin placed in the center is good all around and even better for Yoga as it balances turning, stability and tracking.
When you’ve got your fin further forward, you’re likely doing beach races and surfing waves as this placement is the best for turning.
Choosing a Fin Replacement
Ask yourself what your need is for your paddle board. If you’re racing, you obviously will need a racing fin. If you’re spending time in rivers, you’ll want a downwinder. If you spend most of your time on flat water, then you’ll need a flat water fin. This question alone should answer the question of ‘which paddle board fin replacement should I get?’
The bigger question comes in when you’re looking at different makes of the specific fin types. Unfortunately, this is a decision you’ll need to make alone. While the guidance is always provided, the ultimate decision lands in your lap. You will weigh all your options and pick apart each fin, making sure your decision is the right decision for you and your SUP.
The 3 Best Paddle Board Fins
Here are some of my favorite SUP fins available on the market, all of which would make great replacements.
KONA Pivot Single Fin
You’ll find that the KONA pivot single fin offers users a more effortless paddling experience. Its design makes controlling your paddle boarding infinitely better. As a result, you can ride the waves with confidence.
- Kona handles control, turning, and nose-riding like a dream and makes for easy paddling.
- Flex and durability are top-notch due to their fiberglass construction
- High-quality product
- Design is brighter in pictures than it is in reality
DORSAL Hatchet Surf SUP
The Dorsal hatched surf SUP fin has been around since the 60s in some form or another, and it’s provided a lot of boards with sensational stability, versatility, and turnability. As functional as it is, it’s also extremely well designed aesthetically.
- Well designed with great color options.
- Provide great board stability
- Somewhat limited compatibility with SUPs, so be careful and check if you can install the Dorsal SUP fin at all before purchasing.
- There have been complaints that it’s rather fragile.
Santa Barbara Surfing SBS 9″ iSUP Fin
If you’re looking for a SUP fin that is versatile, then you’re looking for the Santa Barbara SBS 9”. This easy-to-install fin will have you moving through the water with ease. Its design is relatively standard, but it works well to provide the best performance possible.
- The nylon construction provides a level of stiffness while still being flexible overall.
- Fits most ISUPs that feature a slide-in fin system
- It can sometimes not be tightly secured enough; keep this in mind when installing.
My personal pick would likely be the Santa Barbara. I think its simplicity is a strength in that it works for most paddle boarders needs while providing robust performance thanks to its construction. If I were buying a SUP fin, I’d likely go with the Santa Barbara for my SUP needs, including flat-water paddle boarding, surfing, and more.
There are a few other things you need to consider when looking at replacement fins for your SUP. So, let’s take a look.
Because fins can determine how stable and fast your board can be, you need to consider how these two elements work together or against one another. The size of the fin will affect how much stability they provide your SUP. This is why larger fins are fairly popular. However, larger fins also create a drag, and this reduces overall speed. If you want to go faster, you need smaller fins, but be warned that this will decrease overall stability.
When a fin provides excessive stability, then your maneuverability is compromised. So ensure that if you’re looking to maneuver easily on the water, you don’t choose a too big fin.
Fins explicitly designed for SUPs support paddle boarders while they stand on the board. Without SUP fins, you risk losing balance and spinning out of control in the water.
There are four aspects of design to look out for when choosing a SUP fin.
When a fin curves away from the base, it’s called the rake. This directly affects your fins’ ability to move and cut through the water. The fin’s shape can significantly affect the rake and cause scenarios where more drag is created.
If the fin you’ve chosen is high, you risk increased potential of dragging in the water. This isn’t the case if the base is smaller, but you need to ensure you find a fin that appropriately balances the two.
To discover and understand the surface area of the fin of your choosing, you need to use a simple formula of;
length of base x height x width = surface area.
The base is a pivotal determinant of overall surface area, but it’s also essential for tracking. The wider bases will track straighter. Wider bases will also create more drag, however, especially when joined by more considerable heights.
This is more about construction material than overall weight. The commonly used materials for fin construction include foam core, carbon construction, and fiberglass heavy constructions. Fiberglass fins usually provide greater stability while they are heavy and do create an overall drag.
On the other hand, foam core and carbon construction can be faster, better for maneuvering while providing less strength.
Here are some frequently asked questions we find get asked the most in regards to paddle board fins.
If I’m using side fins, do I still need a middle fin?
Yes. While there are some exceptions, it’s recommended that at least the middle fin be present, with side fins being treated like the optional fins. This is because the central fin keeps your paddle board going straight. While side fins can do this too, they’re not as effective as a center fin.
When is using side fins appropriate?
This is entirely up to you. Side fins, to many, are more of an annoyance than they are a benefit. Many see them as items that slow you down and do not enhance speed or maneuverability. Therefore, it’s recommended that you use thruster fins if planning on using fins at all for surfing.
Hopefully, you’re a little less stressed out about getting a new SUP fin considering now you know far more about them than you did before! Just weigh your options and compare your needs before making the ultimate purchase, and you’ll likely wind up with something that works wonders for your SUP needs.
Let us know in the comments what fin you went with and how it’s working out for you. Additionally, if you know a friend, family member, or fellow paddle boarder needing a new fin, send them this article. Help ensure they’re fully aware of what they need to look for before making a purchase! Good luck, and happy paddle boarding!