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SUP fins and why they’re an important part of your stand up paddle board set up.

SUP fins are an important focus point for us. When McConks first started one of the biggest niggles we had with inflatable SUPs was the low quality fin set ups that accompanied many boards. We set out to address this with the best technology available and speaking with reputable fin brands to determine whether we could combine their products with ours.

First McConks boards and SUP fins.

SUP fins on McConks’ first inflatable stand up paddle boards featured the cutting edge of fin technology that elevated performance no end. And fins is something we’ve kept focus on. If you scan the McConks webshop you’ll find a comprehensive range of find to suit all requirements.

But why are SUP fins so important and how do they affect performance?

A bad set of SUP fins will make a high quality board perform badly. On the flip it’s possible to improve a badly designed SUP with top drawer fins. Tweaking your fin set up – even by just a tiny amount – can see big gains (or performance drops). We appreciate it’s a time consuming exercise but would recommend any paddler who’s beyond the beginner stage have a fiddle with the positioning of his/her fins to see what differences can be felt.

Taking the central fin as an example (and keeping things super simple to start). Moving it forwards will see your stand up paddle board become more maneuverable and nimble. One good way to assess this is by paddling a few strokes on the straight before throwing in a quick pivot turn. With the middle fin forwards a rider should spin a tad quicker than if the fin was placed further back.

What you lose with a forwards fin is straight line tracking. The yaw effect increases exponentially meaning paddlers will have to dip additional strokes to keep the board’s nose from deviating. Whack the middle fin right back in its fin box and you should regain arrow like performance. So best course of action is playing with the fin’s position and seeing what suits your style and type of stand up paddling you do most.

Test and test again to make sure.

If you’re able to reposition your middle fin a few cm and head out for a couple of quick runs. Concentrate if how the board feels. Then head back to shore and move the fin again before repeating another few runs. See what differences can be determined. It may be you need to stop and process what’s going on. Even moving the fin back to its original setting, and back again, a few times before you really start to pick up those performance changes.

A neat little trick is to use different colour marker pens to identify the different fin positions so you have a reference point. We know someone who’s spent a great deal of time testing SUPs and SUP fins and this is the method they employ.

To some, the above may sound all geeky and overly techy. We appreciate you mightn’t care about optimised SUP board performance. And that’s not a problem. It’s one reason we don’t overcomplicate our beginner SUP packages with too techy fins. Instead, paddlers have the option to upgrade at point of sale or purchase additional SUP fins later down the line. Treating SUP tuning as a fun exercise, however, will add a layer of interest to your stand up paddle boarding sessions. This faffing and fiddling can spice up your sessions. Some riders may enjoy the process.

It’s not just the middle fin that can be tweaked on your SUP. Some models feature side fins which can also be tuned in some boards. There’s a whole new area of side bit fin tuning with overall size, can’t (how much lean the fin has) and toe in (what angle the fin sits at) affecting SUP performance. Fin flex can also deliver changes to on water feels. And, of course, overall shape. The more you get into fins the more down the rabbit hole you can go. It may seem headache inducing but as mentioned above it can be a fun process.

Tuning your side fins is especially applicable to riders who SUP surf on ocean waves or in rivers. Alongside the middle fin side types can compliment this and help achieve things like more drive through bottom turns or less grip for looser turns.

River paddling and SUP fins.

River runners also tend to inhabit shallow areas where scraping skegs along rocky bottoms can result in losing fins. This is where soft, flexible types can be come in handy.

If your own a touring or race SUP then just as with more turny boards you can play about with fins. These types of stand up paddle require a more upright fin to aid direction stability and reduce that yaw effect. Straight line efficiency is what your after, although racers are looking to offset drag as well. Whichever way you look at fins they do reduce speed so it’s playing about with fin lengths and seeing how shirt you can get away with whilst keeping your SUP knifing forwards.

Adventure SUPers will probably be carrying gear so something longer to help with stability (as fins can aid this aspect) should be looked at.

As you can see when you start getting into fin tweaking waver rider’s requirements are different, dictated by the style of board and riding in question. If you have a quiver of SUPs then different fin set ups for each will be the go. Most paddlers don’t pay enough attention to fins, which we get. But if you’re keen to have a mess then you’ll be unlocking a whole new dimension of your stand up paddle boarding.

For any questions about SUP fins give us a holla. Check out our range of SUP fins and paddle boarding equipment in the online shop.

You can find more McConks article about fins via the links below –

Talking river fins

General fin knowledge

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