Don’t be misguided by their small stature, they can turn an average surf into an epic surf. With all the options for surfboard fins on the market, what’s a gidget to do? Beyond their bright colours and appealing design, these guys are a bit of a big deal, and often overlooked. If you’ve done any research you may have got a little stuck at things like carbon, foil, or honeycomb?
If it all sounds like another language then let us break down the jargon for you.
Basically, fins can be a very overwhelming, complex component to your equipment…but, with some basic knowledge you’ll be whipping out the right fin for the right conditions in no time. The beauty of fins is that they can totally change the feel and performance of a board. You can absolutely hate a board and have it listed on ebay after your first surf, but throw the right set of fins in and it could very well turn out to be your magic stick. It really depends on selecting the right fin for the right conditions, and knowing your ability level.
To keep it simple, the smaller the fin the more speed will be generated and turns will be much more responsive. The reason being, the smaller the fin, the less drag when trimming through the water. Smaller fins have less surface area, and less water pushing against the fin. The result is that a small fin will slip through the water with ease and turn immediately. On the contrary, a larger fin has much more water pushing against it due to the larger surface area. While this draws out the turning arc and provides a “slower” turn, there is more of the waves energy pushing against the fin, resulting in a more powerful and stable turn. Think of it like a small pair of swim fins versus dive fins. The small fins allow you to kick much quicker and change direction on a dime. While the large fins attract a slower kick, each kick pushes more water and in turn becomes more powerful.
Different fins for different levels
So, what does the right fin mean your surfing and progression? Having spent many years surf coaching and selling surfboards I quite often see fins in boards that are just too small. Especially for the beginner/intermediate on a minimal or fish style board, using small fins can tend to throw the bottom turn out a little and you’ll find the board can slide out from under your feet. The best way to combat this is to place a slightly larger fin into the board. I’d recommend something with an approximate base and height of 116mm-120mm. As your surfing starts to progress you’ll find that the bottom turn is the most important part as it really sets the foundation for top turns and carves. All your speed and energy comes from the bottom turn so throwing in a larger fin will provide much more control, stability and you’ll find in no time that turns become more powerful. If you find yourself on the intermediate side feeling a little adventurous and taking on some larger waves, you can still benefit from a larger fin. This is especially true in the Sydney area as larger waves can have a bit more power. By throwing in your larger fin you will have the extra confidence knowing your bottom turns will hold nicely in the pocket, allowing you to lean into the wave without worrying about the board sliding out.
Now, that’s the fundamentals of fins. Moving on from there you can start to look into the nitty gritty such as base, height and rake to vary the performance of fins but we’ll save that for next time.
Elise Peate x
Fin Magic is brought to you by Elise Peate. As an ex pro surfer and co-founder of the SheProject, Elise knows what she’s talking about. Tired of seeing the same male focused products in the surf hardware sector, Elise decided it was time to create products tailored to the needs and tastes of female surfers. That’s how the She Project was born. “Our products are a celebration of a woman’s unique style, extending fashion into the water and onto your equipment,” says founder Elise Peate.
We are thrilled to have Elise aboard as a regular contributor on the ‘Gidget Gear’ side of things. We are looking forward to her next post. If you can’t wait to her next update, check out SheProject in the meantime.