The past few seasons have seen an explosion in the fins, types of fins and fin set-ups for wave sailors to choose from. While this creates an almost infinite number of possible combinations and tuning options it also helps to create confusion. The result is that rather than make the wrong fin choice some riders might be encouraged to stick with what they know which might not be the best option for them. This guide aims to empower you to make informed choices about your fins and confidently pick what is best for you. Always remember that we are all different, we sail in different locations, have different styles, different equipment, none of our situations are the same so if in doubt please contact us directly and discuss your specifics.
Options to consider
Variables to consider
- Sailing location & conditions
- Rider ability
- Rider style & preferences
- Rider weight and height
- Type of board used
- Number of boards in quiver
- Type of sails used
Sailing Location & Conditions: is one of the most important aspects to consider, riders need to accurately and honestly assess where they sail mostly and what the typical conditions might be. If you are riding 10% cross shore and 90% onshore then this is really important and you would certainly need to choose bigger and maybe even different styles of fins to those sailing more consistently in cross to cross off conditions. Where you do your most sailing should also influence what board you have in the first instance, single fins and thruster options can be tuned to be the best option for cross onshore and onshore conditions. When choosing the right fin for your location consider in detail;
- Type of waves: Consider the many variables in waves, whether the wave are fast, slow, mushy, pitching, long, short, average height, variance in height, all these help to inform the correct choice. As the waves increase in size many riders benefit from more grip, this helps to give rider confidence in the knowledge that you are not going to lose grip at the wrong moment. In smaller waves you can ride a much smaller set up as this helps to promote a more skatey style and the consequences of sliding too much are less significant.
- Current: the stronger the current the bigger fins you need to keep your position and make it to the lineup.
- Consistency of wind: with less gusty spots you can choose smaller fins, if sailing in gusty and fickle winds then a little extra length and area will help.
- Direction of wind: As the wind becomes more onshore choose a bigger fin and as the wind goes more offshore you will benefit from choosing a smaller fin. This also affects the type of fin set up to choose, those lucky to have a selection of boxes to use can really benefit from adjusting their ride. In cross onshore conditions single and thruster set ups tend to give more drive while remaining loose. As the wind rotates round to cross and then cross off expect that more options become possible and rider style is more important with all four variations working well with thruster and quad set ups having the edge for many. The Twin is a great all round solution for many which seems to have gone out of fashion the past couple of years but offers a loose option but not as directional as a single fin.
- Crowds and sailing level: The more crowds the more competitive wave selection becomes, as the average level of sailors increases positioning and catching the good waves becomes harder, if you can pick any waves you want you can ride a smaller fin, if you face stiff competition choose something a little bigger as this will help you get into position and gain priority.
- Water state: In choppy conditions choose a setup with more area and/or depth to help maintain control.
Rider ability: As rider skill increases they are able to be more efficient and therefore can enjoy the benefits of a smaller fin(s). Do not be too quick to change down in fin size; often you can increase your enjoyment with improved early planing etc.
Rider Style & Preferences: This is linked to both sailing conditions and rider ability. The same rider level at the same beach may want different fins to maximize their enjoyment during a session. Consider one rider who loves jumping but is less concerned about riding, it makes sense that he should use more area to promote earlier acceleration etc. Another rider with the same skill set at the same location on the same day may want to focus on his turns on the wave face and may be much less interested in jumping, hence he will need less power. Both options are valid, so always consider what it is you are trying to achieve and what makes you enjoy your session to the fullest.
Rider Weight & Height: Taller and heavier sailors typically need more power to balance their force hence will benefit from bigger fins than smaller shorter riders when using the same size sail.
Type of Board Used: Some boards feel stiffer on the water, they need smaller fins to loosen them up, other looser boards can handle bigger fins; we are always trying to balance things out. Boards with more vee and / or concaves will naturally have more directional stability allowing the rider to choose a smaller fin.
Number of Boards in Quiver: Fins can be used to extend the range of boards, they help to adjust the ride to the conditions hence riders with one wave board may choose to have a number of different set ups. If you have a range of wave boards in your van then you are less likely to need to change fins for each board instead changing to a whole new board and fin set up each time you change sail size and or sailor location etc.
Type of Sails Used: Fins help to balance the power of the sail and the board to create optimal forward motion. Sails which generate more power will need a bigger fins to counter and balance that compared to sails with less power. Again there is no one size fits all solution we are looking for a balance and perfect harmony in motion.
Budget: While it is nice to have an unlimited number of options we are all under some degree of budgetary constraint. Riders with less available funds will want to choose a safer option, thus they can still enjoy the extremes but not gain the maximum performance possible in all eventualities. As budget for fins increases riders will be able to try out more options and improve performance over a wider spectrum, this is a case where money can buy you more performance. The smart rider will buy less boards but more fins.
Chris’ Comment: “So far you will notice that I have not told you what fin set up is best, I have tried to explain some of the variables and / or questions which I ask myself each day when going sailing and when riders ask for advice. I return to the word balance, this is so important and when assessing your desired choice the above guidelines will help you think while on and off the water so that you can make an informed decision. Take the descriptions and sizing guides published for each fin and then review with the above points to make your decision but don’t stop there, once you get your new fins in your board keep evaluating, keep trying to feel the difference and the understand how you can optimize your ride. Regarding number of fins it is impossible to give a definitive answer, my advice is try out your friends’ boards, decide what it is you are trying to achieve and evaluate as many of the variables as possible. We are very good at adapting and typically riders less experienced in trying new boards will find switching hard at first, keep fluid try as much as possible and as often as possible to ensure that you are always thinking about how to have more fun and after all that is what this all about. For the record I ride quad boards more often than most but have been using more thrusters in recent months but I try not to limit myself and always want to change to improve my understanding of the ocean and how we interact with it. If in doubt please contact us and we can discuss and help you.”