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HOME arrow GEAR INSIGHTS arrow FINSIGHTS: Where does a flex-fin shine?
FINSIGHTS: Where does a flex-fin shine? PDF Print E-mail
By: Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine   
Thursday, 01 May 2008

TK Flex by RFC produces several flex-fins.
A fin often referred to as a flex-fin has become popular shape among stand up paddlers. Team riders from some of the leading SUP companies are using the flex-fin certain conditions. Every fin has its place in the ocean and in this Finsight article, we’re going to spill out guts about our experience with the flex-fin. We put our flex-fin to the test in small, medium, and large surf, as a single fin a 2 + 1 setup.

    First of all, what is a flex-fin? In this article, what we are referring to as a flex-fins are center fins for a longboard that thin out toward the tip allowing the fin to flex and twist more than that average center fin. These fins usually have a bit more rake to them, meaning they are more drawn out and curved toward the tail or the board.  Rainbow Fin Company has several flex-fins such as the TK Flex and the Hull Flex. Island Fin Company also has the Flex Fin model. There are several other companies that make similar, flexible fins. For our testing, we used the Flex Fin by Island Fin Design at reef breaks on the North Shore of Oahu.


    Small Surf (2-4’ faces): The first time we took the flex-fin out, it was as a 2 + 1 in small surf. With the flex-fin in the center box and standard SB2 Futures sidebites, we took it to the waves. The board was stable, predictable, and forgiving on the waves. With some basic paddle skills, bottom turns were fluid and recovery was a snap. However, this was nothing compared to the fun we had on this fin when we removed the side fins and moved the flex-fin all the way to the front of the fin box. The board was a little more tippy at first, and the board would drift quite a bit at first, but after a few waves, we got that fin dialed in and it surfed like a dream on those small waves. It was loose and fluid. Who would have thought you could do cutback on a knee high wave, and still have enough wave for a few more turns off the top…on a stand up paddleboard? We sure didn’t. The fin performed and we were stoked.

 Medium Surf (4-6’ faces): With the side fins on, the fin performed very similar to its display in small surf. Fluid, styling turn were in order with the flex fin in a 2 + 1 setup. If you’re used to a small, stiff fin, or a thruster setup, it may feel like the fin is lacking in drive through your bottom or top turns. The drive is still, there but things tend to move just bit slower with the flex fin. It’s sort of like surfing on a huge marshmallow or in a cloud, smooth and fluid. But what really blew our minds in the medium surf, was the down the line speed. When the wave walled up and it seemed as if all would soon be lost to the feathering lip of the wave, with a slight forward adjustment of the feet, the speed increased dramatically and we never got closed out on. All we could really attribute that to was the thinness of the fin. From our estimation, the thin diameter of the fin made for very little drag. Combine that with the forgiving nature of the flex, and the journey down the line of the wave was smooth and fast. And, that’s not all…. Remove the side fins, and the whole experience was multiplied by 10. 

 Large Surf (6-10’+ faces): For us, the flex-fin wouldn’t be our fin of choice for big waves for two reasons. First, making the critical bottom turn on a fast moving wave was a little too slow. When a wave is big a moving fast, decisions and adjustments need to be made so quickly, almost subconsciously, and we felt like the fin was putting the board a few steps behind what our mind and body was telling it to do. Secondly, and we didn’t expect this in the slightest, after dropping over the lip of the wave about half way down the face, it felt as if somebody put on the brakes, and the board just slowed down. It’s not a big deal, until you look over you shoulder to see the lip of the wave looming over you on its way down. In short, on a big wave, the speed wasn’t there, in fact, it had a noticeable drag to it. Why would the fin be so fast in small to medium sized waves, yet so slow and a bomb? Our best guess is that, on the way down, with so much water passing by the fin, the tip of the fin was fluttering rather than cutting straight through the water. We compared it to holding a flag out of a car window while driving on the freeway…tons of drag.

 So, where does a flex-fin shine? For us, it was an absolute blast in small to medium surf, while in large surf it was a drag (no pun intended). It you’re in the mood to try something new grab a flex fin. You’ll feel like you’re on totally new board. Is it better than a fin of traditional stiffness? That’s up to you. Some think it’s the magic fin. All we know is, when the flex fin was on as a single fin in small to mid-sized waves, we stayed out until we were surfing in the moonlight…and it was all smiles.

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