"What fins are you running today?" This is a common question us whitewater stand up paddlers often ask each other before getting on the river. Some of us geek out on this topic more than others. But your fin choice can have a huge effect on your paddling experience. The anxiety around making the best choice is somewhat warranted. Fins are important! So, let's get you well versed on the subject so next time someone asks you, "What fins are you running today?" You can answer with something like, "Well, it's more shallow than it is deep but can also be pushy in spots so I'm going to go with a 4.5" gummy and 2" side bites." Instead of, "I don't know, what are you running today?"
What is a fin?A fin is a hydrofoil that is attached to the underside of the tail of a board that helps with directional stability. Meaning, the fin is going to help your board stay pointed in the direction you want to go, as well as, offering up some resistance against lateral waves. Running with no fins might make it easy for your board to turn but when its time to go straight you'll find it very challenging to stay on course. Unless you're paddling extremely shallow rivers you'll probably always be running some kind of fin set-up.
Types of fins and when to use them...Fins come in all shapes and sizes. Choosing which fins to buy can be overwhelming, fortunately when it comes to paddling rivers it is pretty straight forward and simple. It's when you get into flat water racing and surfing that fin selection and technology becomes understandably much more complicated. Whitewater stand up paddle boards tend to have more volume and width (to make it more stable in rapids) than non-whitewater boards. Having a lot of fin can make it more challenging to maneuver the board and set-up your angles. You'll notice we call this fin a soft flex fin. That's because it is made of a flexible rubber to make it more forgiving when hitting rocks as well as more durable. We recommend sticking with flexible fins in river situations if you want them to last any reasonable amount of time. 9'6" whitewater boards may opt for these fins more often than 4.5" side fins so less power is needed to lay into the rails of their board to make an eddy turn or change their angle.
Center Fin Screws
Fin Keys! Fin Keys! And More Fin Keys!
The precious fin key! Get lots of these! Keep one on your key ring, in your lifejacket, in your shoe, under your car mat, around your neck, on your dogs collar. You never know when you're going to need one and they are never where you thought you put them. That should get you started! And remember if you have any questions about fins or gear you can message us directly on our website or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.