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FINS: why they are important and how to choose them!

One thing I really appreciated during the lockdown were all the riders’ interviews organized by different organizations. My favorite one was one with Mitu Monteiro, I knew he was one of the gods of strapless riding so I was really curious to hear him out!

During the call he answered several questions and one of them was about the fins. How he chooses the fins and he replies “Depending on conditions, depending on what I want to do, I choose which board I’ll take and what type fins I’ll put on”. 

So I went like Russell Crowe in “beautiful mind” and started to think how many boards I would need and how many sets of fins… Then realized that my budget and also my level only allow for one and one eheheh

Image result for beautiful mind

If you are into freestyle and wave riding the best set up would be to have at least two surfboards, one for wave riding and another one for freestyling, and three sets of fins, one for freestyle and two for wave riding depending on the size of the waves. I know some of the pro surfers have plenty of boards… once I saw a video of Kai Lenny explaining which board he would use in which spot and I was simply WOW

Going back to fins…why are fins so important? Because they are essential to give you control, direction and stability. Without them it would be way more difficult to ride.

And mostly a board with the wrong fins is like driving a car with the handbrake on. It’s crazy how these little pieces of equipment can make all the difference. 

Today I’ll try to share some of the things I understood so far about fins for kitesurfing. I’ll start from the most basic info you need to know:

  • Box Types and compatibility
  • Different surfboard fin setup
  • Fins selection based on your weight
  • Fin size based on activity or condition

Box Types and compatibility

Before anything you need to check on your board which type of fins boxes has been added. The most used ones are: single tab (Futures) and dual tab (FCS).

The single tab (future) is long as almost the entire length of the fin. This box offers strong and lightweight connection to the surfboard, the fins are usually attached with screws.

The dual tab (FCS) has two tabs that are screwed into the surfbaord. There is also a screwless option!

Different surfboard fin setup

Now let’s talk about which set up is best for what. Most of the kitesurfing boards have the following setups:  thruster, quad or a five fins.

The thruster set is the most common fin set up around right now. It has 3 fins of the same size or you can vary using a different central size. The third central fin gives you more stability and maneuverability allowing you to do more pivotal (vertical) turns. With this setup you’ll gain grip and it is recommended for small medium waves if you like the snapping style. 

The thruster setup seems to be the best setup for freestyle as well.

The quad setup has 4 fins on the side, closer to the rail, there is no central fin. This setup helps increase speed, allows for fast well rounded carves and better upwind.  This setup is better for bigger waves as it adds projection and faster turns to the board however if you go vertical on a top turn you might have the feeling of sliding too much with the board. 

The five fins setup sounds like you could add 5 find to the board but it’s not actually the case :) Usually the boards with this configuration give you the possibility of using different setups either quad or thrust based on conditions. It’s rare to use 5 fins.

Small clarification, when we talk about big waves I mean 2 good meters waves, something like:

Fins selection based on your weight

Then we have the most general rule about choosing your fins based on your weight. It’s always good to check the manufacturers’ recommendations, but more or less following these guidelines:

Below 55kg > XS

Between 55-70 kg > S

Between 65-80 kg > M

Between 75-90 kg > L

Above 85 kg > XL 

This will already help you to narrow down your decision :)

Fin size based on activity or condition

Now we get into the most difficult part of the decision, what type of size best depending on what you need to do.

Let’s start from a basic question: do I need to use different fins whether I wanna go wave riding or freestyling? 

Truth wants that if you go freestyling you will want smaller fins and if you go wave riding you should select bigger fins based on the waves’ size. 

For kitesurfing freestyling rumour has it that some pro-rider replace the central fin with a twintip one to have 

Well guys… it’s not really a rumor…

Others like Javier Fernadez from RRD have made their own central  fins.

For kitesurfing wave riding you basically have to choose the fins based on the type of waves you’ll surf. 

As I mentioned earlier if you have a quad setup use it on bigger waves. 

However, since most of the new boards have a thruster setup you would need to adjust the size of the fin based on the size of the wave. With a thruster it’s recommended to increase the size of the fins for bigger waves.  Remember that using a thruster setup with big fins on a small wave is going to make you way too slow and you’ll miss the agility to move fast on the wave, which is why on smaller waves you want smaller fins. 

So if you go to Mauritius let’s say, it would be better to use a quad setup however, a lot of the new kitesurfing boards have only a thruster setup which you can use no problem and in this case pro-riders suggest to use bigger fins.

In a wave like we have here in El Medano, Tenerife you can use a thruster setup with small fins to really have that snapping extra touch.

Of course all of this is not a specific science and it really depends on your style. 

My suggestion is to start investing on different sets of fins or ask your friends to borrow theirs and start to feel and understand the difference. 

Definitely a good fins choice can change the outcome of your session for the best and a bad choice can make it a nightmare.

Bottom line whether you are a beginner or a pro your fins set up will have a huge impact on your riding style and choosing them wisely will change your session completely.

In the next post I’ll write about fins’ flexibility, materials and shapes. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I’m curious to know your feedback so don’t forget to add a comment  below :)

Special thanks to Abel Lago, Javier Fernandez and Francesco Capuzzo for sharing their knowledge with me!

This post was powered by Quobba Fins check them out on Instagram @quobbafins_kitesurfing

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