SUP Race Fins for Stand Up Paddle Boards

Byron Kurt SUP Fin

The Runner SUP Fin by John BeckerIn today’s ultra-competitive world of Stand Up Paddleboard Racing, choosing the right SUP race fins may mean the difference between a personal best with a podium finish or packing up in disappointment after a hard fought race. All other conditions being equal, selecting a paddleboard fin that fits the board design and the rider can make a big difference in the outcome of an SUP race where seconds count.

What to Consider When Choosing a Stand Up Paddle Board Fin

Before diving into the specifics of SUP fin design, there are a few basic generalizations to consider as you are shopping for a new stand up paddle board race fin. Depending on your skill, strength, weight and balance along with board design and race conditions, you will need to make race fin selections taking into account the need for stability, speed and tracking. Fin design will affect all three of these aspects heavily.

You can’t ignore the shape of the fin, but in general the more surface area on the fin the more stability it will provide. However, ease of turning may be sacrificed. Also the more surface area and volume a fin has the more drag it will create … more drag means less speed. In a very simple sense, large fins are slower but more stable; small fins are faster but less stable.

But what is fast for one racer may not be the fastest fin design for another. The paddler’s skills and board design may combine to dictate a different set of fin characteristics for maximum speed. These considerations must be taken into account when choosing the right stand up paddleboard fin.

For instance, a skilled paddler with good stroke mechanics and good balance may be able to maximize a smaller, raked fin design. But a less skilled rider using the same fin may be swimming more than paddling while fighting to stay balanced and/or suffering from too much yaw as the board tracks back and forth along the race course … definitely not a good recipe for speed.

So let’s get into the specifics of fin design as we rate 7 excellent fin choices from 1 to 7 with #1 being the most stable, straight tracking design to fin #7 which is the fastest fin. Along the way we will discuss how fin shape affects the ability to pivot around buoys or make turns in surf for open ocean races.

SUP Race Fin Design Elements

SUP Fin Design Elements

H= Height
Height is key in determining surface area in fins. Distribution of surface area is critical in
determining how well a fin tracks
B= Base
The base width is another key factor contributing to surface area and tracking. Typically
a broader base tracks straighter, while a narrower base allows for more pivot. The shape
of the fin tip can also contribute to ease of pivot.
R= Rake
The rake in a fin is one of the most critical elements dictating fin performance. The
“leading edge curve” and “foil” combine for efficiency cutting through the water and
reduction of drag. More upright fins will pivot (downwind fins), but may increase drag or
snag sea grasses.
A= Area
calculated by: A= Base x Width x Height (adjustments are made to compensate for
curve)

*GENERALLY SPEAKING, more surface area in a fin offers more resistance to pitch & roll. The placement of that surface area relative to the bottom of your board results in varying levels of tracking &/or drag. More area deeper in the water = more tracking + deeper draft (increased drag). More area closer to the board = less tracking + shallower draft (less drag).

Wt= Weight
Fin weight is dictated by construction method. Fiberglass lay-ups are durable but heavy. Foam core + carbon construction is more expensive, but optimize strength to weight ratios.

SUP Race Fin Selection

Flat Water Fin Rating Scale

tracking<______________________________{- pivot -}_______________________________>speed
                1.           2.            3.          4. 5. 6.                                    7.

 

Flatwater Fin Descriptions – #’s correspond to fins (see scale from 1 to 7 above)

1. Triangle Cutaway (Med) : H= 8.85” B= 7.75” R= 6.87” A= 52.3 Wt= 10.25 oz

Triangle Cutaway SUP Fin

This fin is great for heavier paddlers or paddlers that have less experience with regard to
stroke technique. The generous area deeper in the water column provides a tremendous
amount of tracking even in the choppiest of conditions. The swept back leading edge helps
to mitigate the drag resulting from the fins height.

Best for: beginner to intermediate paddlers, paddlers +190 lbs, or for extremely choppy
conditions.

2. “The Runner” by John Becker H=8.25” B= 7.02” A= 58.93” Wt= 13.125 oz

 

The Runner SUP Fin by John Becker

A great fin to maximize strokes per side. Works well in a narrower board to aid in reduction
of pitch & roll.

3.Triangle Cutaway (small): H= 7.85” B= 7.25” R= 6.68” A= 44.0” Wt= 10.125oz

Triangle Small Cutaway SUP Fin

One of the best selling race fins, the Triangle Cutaway small complements a wide range of
paddlers. The swept back leading edge reduces the fins profile, while the well distributed
surface area helps to maximize strokes per side. This fin tracks well in all conditions, helping
to maximize paddle stroke efficiency.

Best for: paddlers of all levels that race in a broad range of conditions.

4. Karen Wrenn Fin: H= 8.125” B= 7.87” R= 4.0” A= 39.91” Wt= 9 oz

Karen Wrenn SUP Race Fin

The most agile of the flat water fins, the Karen Wrenn fin relies on a big base to track well in
a variety of conditions. The low volume fin tip is crucial for quick buoy turns, and riding waves
to the finish in ocean races.

Best for: technical races with lots of buoy turns, or racing in and out of the surf

5. Byron Kurt Fin: H= 9.0” B= 7.25” R= 3.44” A= 43.2” Wt= 8.75oz

Byron Kurt SUP Fin

This is a great all around fin that fits all levels of experience. The Byron Kurt fin is the best ocean race fin, outside of the specialty downwind fins. The broad base allows for great tracking in all conditions, without being so tight that you can’t surf in for the win.

Best for: technical racing with buoy turns and ocean races through the surf

6. Jamie Mitchell Fin: H= 9.25” B= 6.0” R= 3.25” A= 40.0” Wt= 7oz

Jamie Mitchell SUP Race Fin

This more upright fin template allows easier directional changes in the open ocean. The nimble feel makes it a great choice for downwind runs, ocean racing, or hanging ten in the surf.

7. Keel Fin: H= 6.438” B= 7.0” R= 5.875” A= 44.4” Wt= 8.5 oz

SUP Race Keel Fin by Futures

The race Keel fin keeps a low profile with a highly raked leading edge and a lot of surface area
packed in close to the board. By concentrating the area shallow in the water column, the Keel
minimizes drag and maximizes speed. The Keel fin tracks best in flat water conditions, however more experienced paddlers can use stroke technique to compensate while capitalizing with the added speed. The added agility comes in handy in races with multiple buoy turns.
Best for: flat water conditions, or intermediate/ experienced paddlers that have a good grasp
of stroke technique.