by Cédric Martineau

Demystifying the Different Fins

Whether you just purchased your first paddle board or you’ve been paddleboarding, SUP surfing, or surfing for years, we rarely talk about the variety of fins, their differences, and how you can (and should) use them. Yet they’re such staple accessories! Without them, the stability and trajectory of your board might just be tampered.

First off, the question of the day: What’s the purpose of a fin?

The fins play an integral role for the movement of your board on the water; a bit like the steering wheel of your car or the rudder on your boat. Depending on the use (SUP surfing, SUP river, calm water SUP ), they allow you to control your trajectories, speed, grip (if in a wave), and of course, your stability. With new types of boards and new materials, fins haven’t stopped evolving and the choices are now almost unlimited!

The 4 Fin Set-Ups: Single Fin, Twin, Thruster, Quad  

These 4 following terms are the most commonly used in thw world of surfing and therefore, of SUP as well. But what’s the purpose of each?

Single Fin: 1 Central Fin

In the world of surfing, the single central fin is used on retro boards and especially longboards. The main feature of Dolphin fins is its speed/trajectory ratio, as there is little resistance to the water. It is therefore the perfect setup for those who are looking for a smooth ride while generating a good speed. Perfect for paddling on the calm waters of your favorite lake! This is the case with our 9'0 touring center fin and our 10.0" RS touring center fin for all around, touring and race boards. The shape of the fin allows you to stay on course, keep a straight line and make more paddle strokes on the same side without having to change sides.

Twin: 2 Fins

Generally, these are smaller side fins that are mainly used in surfing on small boards to generate more speed, but provide very little grip. In the SUP world, this can be used in rivers or whitewater, but on shallow water as well.

Thruster: 3 Fins

Very popular among surfers and therefore also for SUP surfing, it's a combination between the Single Fin and Twin: 1 main fin and 2 smaller fins on the sides. This allows to generate speed while having a better grip in the wave, especially when you take it from the side. Except for SUP surfing, the Thruster is a redundant set-up for calm water paddleboarding... you're better off maximizing your time on a calm lake with just your central fin.

Quad (quattro): 4 Fins

Another specific setup for surfing as well as SUP surfing, especially for big hollow waves, the Quad provides a better grip in the pipe. It's not the ideal set-up for calm water paddle boarding, but like the Twin, it can be practical in rivers, whitewater, and shallow water. In fact, our river paddle board, the Kanoa 9'6, has this fin option.

The different characteristics to understand 

A fin is defined by its profile and its surface, which is broken down as follows:

The height ensures the grip of the board on the wave. The greater the height between the base and the tip, the more grip you will have. On the other hand, a daggerboard with a little height allows you to have more playfulness in the maneuvers.

The base determines the propulsion, it is instrumental in gaining maximum of speed. We're not going to get into the nitty gritty and lecture you on hydrodynamics, but basically, the longer the length of the base, the more speed you’ll pick up. The smaller it is, the sharper the turns.

The angle (sweep) enables the turning and consequently the initiation of your turns. Essentially, the greater the fin’s incline the more it is predestined for long turns (this aspect relates more to SUP surfing and surfing).

The material: is it important? 

Fins can be made of fiberglass, composite or a mixture of epoxy and fiberglass. Each of these materials are suitable for a different level of surfing:

  • In fiberglass, the fin is strong and proves to be both flexible and solid. Since it has to be hand-finished, it can take any shape and is perfect for short boards. Its only drawback: it takes a long time to make.

  • The composite fin is made in a mold with resin. It's a simple and inexpensive fin to make. It can be quite good for beginners, but if you're an expert, you will quickly turn to something else.

  • Made of epoxy, carbon and fiberglass, the daggerboards are simply ideal for the more experienced. They're flexible and durable and guarantee a great sensation.

The important thing to remember is that the stiffer the fin, the more reactive it is and the more power it requires (both in terms of support and waves) and a good level of surfing to appreciate it (because, unless you have a very good level of surfing, it is difficult to feel the impact of a surf fin on your glide). On calm water, unless you race, you won't feel much difference on the different materials.

The types of boxes on the market 

There are currently 3 main types of boxes:

  • The FCS 1, the most emblematic, characterized by a support via two compression screws. These are the boxes that you will find on all our rigid boards as well as our new models of this year; the most standard model on the market and easy to replace.
Photo : Le Hacher
  • The FCS 2, the latest generation of boxes with no screws. A simple push on the daggerboard is all you need to insert it.
  • The Futures, made up of a single compression screw placed on the upper parts of the plug. This type of box is primarily used on our models before the new EASYROLL technology.

To wrap up, regardless of how they make your board look, the choice of the fins will greatly depend on your practice, your experience and the environment in which you will be riding.

The takeaway? Go step by step! The best thing you can do is to experiment with different types of fins and different setups. In the end, there is no fin that is better than the other: it's a question of sensation. Afterward, don't hesitate to swap them around during a trip with friends or gift them to friends - it’s a great gift!

Discover our 👉fins collection 

Of you have questions, we're here!

See ya in the water!



If you want to know more, Pépé explains it all in this video: