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HOME arrow GEAR INSIGHTS arrow FINSIGHTS: The Single Fin Setup for Stand Up Paddle Surfboards
FINSIGHTS: The Single Fin Setup for Stand Up Paddle Surfboards PDF Print E-mail
By: Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine   
Saturday, 05 July 2008
SUP Explorer by Rainbow Fin Co.
SUP Explorer by Rainbow Fin Co.
As the winter waves will shortly be upon us, there our thoughts are turned to fins and find tuning what the right setup might be our stand up paddle surfboards this winter. Many boards are now being produced with multiple fin boxes offering the rider an endless combination of fin and arrangements.

Go to True Ames SUP Fins and get free shipping
In this series of articles we’ll offer some of the conclusions we’ve come up with from our experiments and trials with the various fin setup arrangements. We know it’s an organic topic and welcome your comments and input at the end of each article. Truthfully, the way things have been progressing, we may change our opinion about all this tomorrow, but we hope it makes sense and helps you refine your search for your perfect stand up paddle fin setup.

In this article, we'll explore The Single Fin.
The single fin has long been the original setup of all surfboards from the first time fins began to show up on surfboards. Although single fin setups are often associated with classic lines and novice equipment, we are convinced that the power of the single fin has been greatly underestimated. The thought was first truly solidified in our minds when we saw master shaper and stylist Dave Parmenter shredding on a single fin at the most recent stand up paddle contest in powerful overhead surf on Oahu’s North Shore. Dave consistently places in the top 4 of Hawaii’s Pro-Am stand up paddle events. His consistent performance has really got our wheels turning and opened our minds to the possibilities of riding a single fin.

single stand up paddle fin
Rainbow Rake by RFC
In general, single fin stand up paddle fin setups are fast paddling, stable, carry speed and can deliver plenty of drive through the turns. Much of this is attributed to the single fin’s minimal drag and superior holding power.

One fin pointed straight ahead, without any side fins installed on the board, allows the water to flow around the foiled fin undisturbed and without the turbulence that side fins would contribute. For this reason, flat water and downwind racing boards are built for single fins. Downwind fins are usually upright and a little bit longer than traditional surfing fins.

In the surf, a single fin setup has superior holding power and stability. It allows the water to foil over the fin and the tail of the board holding it in the wave through noserides, bottom turns and cutbacks. The glide that a single fin offers allows for earlier and more even entry into the wave. On takeoff, there is increased stability as the water flows over and around the foiled fin. The foiled shape causes the fin to “stick” to the wave making for a cleaner, smoother drop. There are some who feel that with a single fin, they get less hung up on the lip when taking off on a wave as opposed to when they are riding thruster or 2 + 1 fin setups. For these reasons, the single fin setup is the choice of many big wave surfers.

cutaway stand up paddle fin
Traditional Cutaway by RFC
On a stand up paddle surfboard, the holding power and stability is a huge asset given the thickness and flotation of the boards. With the massive amount of volume to a stand up board, once the board starts planning over the surface of the wave, getting it to grab the water and change direction is quite a feat given the momentum and lift of such a big board. Single fin setups will hold the tail to the surf so you make that bottom turn without skipping across the surface of the water.

Why does there seem to be an endless lineup of center fin designs? First of all, just like the wide variety of board shapes and lengths available today, different fins will cause your board to respond in a totally new way. You may not believe us, but with a simple fin swap, that old supertanker could turn into the performance board you’ve been looking for. We’ve seen it happen over and over again.

Starting with the basics, you can’t go wrong with a classic template fin with traditional rake. Rake is the term used to describe how much the fin curves back toward the tail of the board. Most surfboards come with fins that have a standard rake template to them. These are good all around fins for all conditions. They’ve passed the test of time and will not disappoint.

Hull Flex Fin Rainbow Fin Co.
Hull Flex Fin by RFC
Cutaways can be described as fins where some portion of the base of the fin has been cut away. The theory behind this is that less fin where the fin meets the board will allow the board to turn quicker, thus adding to the performance. There are many cutaways that are meant to be ridden as a single fin and there are also those that were originally intended to be ridden with side fins. The templates for cutaways are numerous and come in a variety of lengths. Buy a few or borrow some off a friend to see what you prefer. Most surfers have a hearty supply of cutaway center fins and will be stoked to tell you about their personal favorites and how they perform.

Flex Fins: Originally meant to be ridden as a single fin, there are many who are riding flex fins with side fins. However so far, we’ve been most pleased riding a flex fin on its own as a single fin setup. These fins are thinner and sometimes more upright with extra flex in the tip. When you pick one of these fins off the shelf at your local surf shop, a flex fin may seem just as stiff a all the others, however if you stick it on a surfboard, put your body weight on it, and pour thousands of gallons of rushing water over it in the form of a wave, you’ll notice a difference. The flex fins tend to “load” during bottom turns and cutbacks. They flex during a turn, then unload coming out of it creating a sort of snappy propulsion through the turn. Many surfers prefer additional flex for smaller waves and extra stiffness in bigger surf.

wingnut sup fin
Wingnut Cutaway by RFC
Length: Finally, to throw one more element into the mix, length is a key element. A common length for single fins is 8, 9, or 10 inches from the base of the fin to the top of the fin when it is installed. Some prefer longer and some prefer shorter. The shorter center fins of 5”, 6”, and 7” usually perform better with side fins as opposed to a single fin setup. In rough or somewhat stormy surf, a longer fin will aid with stability and smoother takeoffs. A longer fin will have more hold to it, while a shorter fin may have more release to it for additional performance.

And so, the search continues for many of us for the right fin for the right board. Remember, different fins will perform differently when switched from board to board. The rocker of your board and shape of the tail will also have an effect on how a certain fin responds with your board. What’s the solution? Try out as many as you can, and try placing them in various positions in your fin box. Moving the fin forward almost always increases the turning power of a board, while moving it back increases stability and creates smoother drawn out lines.

It may seem daunting at first, but as you narrow down your search for the perfect combination of length, outline, flex and fin box positioning for your board, you’ll ber thrilled as your board seems to take on new life. Never underestimate the power and performance of a single fin setup, especially on a stand up paddle surfboard.

(Once again, we welcome your comments, input or recommendations at the end of this article. There are always two sides to every fin story and we’d be stoked to hear yours.)

feed1 Comments
sam roe
June 30, 2011

ive a stand up 9 foot board, just put some side fins on it, thort it wud be more stable and easier to ride, am i doing the opposite? wots the best to have in the surf, and also on the flats?

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