Bigger, Smaller, Straight, or Fast: SUP Fins for Racing

SUP Fins for Racing

What kind of SUP fin is best for racing? Should the fin be bigger, smaller, straight or just focused on fast? This whole conversation about various SUP fin systems and how they play into best fins for SUP racing started with a test ride on Naish Javelin MC 14’ Race SUP. This board is long and sleek and built for racing. Not your beginner board by any stretch. The MC stands for monocoque construction, the height of racing technology that uses a hollow carbon design giving you a stiff, ultra fast experience. It also comes equipped with an excellent, race ready fin.

But one of the other really attractive things about this and Naish boards in general is the fin replacement system. This system allows to you find the right SUP fin for racing and change it out based on course conditions. So if you have a board with this sort of design, and you’re looking to improve your SUP racing experience, how important is the fin itself?

Naish fin system

Naish fin system

Size matters in a lot of things and your fin choice can play a significant role in more aspects of the SUP experience than you might imagine. When it comes to your fin, the right size can make for a better ride or a stronger performance. In other words, it should be matched to what you hope to achieve. Let’s start out by dispelling a few myths about the size of your SUP fins.

Myth One: After a certain point, the fin doesn’t matter.

This statement suggests that a fin can only provide so much help and once that point is reached, all you’ll do is go straight. Straight is good except when you have to turn your board.

Try to paddle on a board with no fin and all you will end up doing is spinning in circles. But then again, straight does you no good if the back end of your board flutters or wiggles with each stroke. This can happen if your fin isn’t as closely matched to your actual paddle style. You might need to have a few fins to switch out based upon race conditions but generally, a mid-length fin will give that extra control when trying to get those narrower racing boards like the Naish tracking.

Myth Two: Once your maximum paddle strength is reached, all you’re looking for is stability.

This might be true if the only thing you are doing is going straight. While longer fins are generally recommended for bigger riders, that extra length in the water can pick up some odd water currents and actually create a situation where the board might wobble a bit. You’ll find yourself looking to be balanced far more than you would if you had the right fin.Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 8.21.39 AM

Myth Three: Long fins are better than short ones, more fins are better than one, and your board width can matter for optimum speed, no matter which fin you use.

The idea behind the right fin is to match it to your paddle stroke. This is contrary to most people who recommend you match the fin to the weight of the paddler. Most off-the-shelf boards come with a fin too small to race with. On the other hand, a too large fin might be great on the straightaways but once you get to the bump, or a buoy turn, you’ll barely be able to get the board back on the course.

Of course, you could simply buy a number of fins to change out or you could buy one of the best matched boards to the task. One thing about the Naish boards is the the fin mechanism used by the company to change out the fins for varying conditions. It can be adjusted forward or aft, changed out with very little effort, and on some boards, a steering mechanism can also be installed.

One last thing: Be sure to be aware of the water depth. You don’t want a sudden thrust forward because you ran into some lake milfoil.

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