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Everything you need to know about Paddle Board Fin Placement

SUP fin placement can have a huge impact on how your board handles on the water. That’s why your paddle board fin set up is something you want to make sure you consider before you head out on your stand up paddle board.

Your paddle board is made up of 3 parts. The board, the paddle, and (even though they are the smallest) the fins - which play a vital role in the performance of your board.  Once you have your fin attached, these tips will help you optimize the performance of your board for whatever conditions you are paddling in. 

Paddle Boarders on a calm lake

SUP Fin Setups

There are several different fin set ups that your SUP may have:

Single Fin

One middle fin at the tail of the board.


  A Single Fin Stand Up Paddle Board


Has the main middle fin at the tail, but also two smaller fins,  called side fins or thruster fins, on either side of the main fin.


 A 3 Fin Stand Up Paddle Board


Also known as a quad, this features a middle fin, and 4 thruster fins.


 Paddleboard fin replacement


When Should I use the Middle Fin?

For paddling in flatter/calmer waters (basically any conditions other than whitewater or surf), you will want to have the middle fin installed at all times. This is what keeps the board going in a straight line. Without a fin, the board will just spin around.  Boards that are made with single fins are often intended towards flat water paddling, but even with a single fin, still perform great in surf!


Paddle Boarders in Flat Water

Where do I Position the Middle fin on my Stand Up Paddle Board?

The most common fin system on SUP boards is the US fin box, which is a track that is slightly longer than the fin itself. This design allows you to customize the performance of your board via the fin placement either further toward the nose, or tail of the board.



Depending on where you position your fin, you’ll see different performance out on the water.


1. Fin Positioned all the way Forward Towards the Nose

 Best for:
  • Surfing
Putting the fin all the way forward in the fin slot will make your board feel more maneuverable and make it quicker to turn. The trade off is that the board will not track in a straight line as well, and may feel like you’re moving slightly slower through the water. This fin placement is one you’d want to consider this position if you are paddling in smaller or crowded waters, or when surfing.  Ideal boards for a further forward position in surf are the Kona Classic, All-Wave, as well as the All Terrain.


a paddle boarder riding surf


2. All the way back Towards the Tail

 Best for:
  • Long distance paddle boarding, or when you want increased straight line tracking
This will increase the stability of your board, and will also increase the boards tracking and speed. The trade off is that it will be slower to turn. This is a good placement if you’re paddling longer distances and want to maximize the tracking of your board.  The V-Max series, as well as the Voyager series do well with fins further towards the tail for increased tracking.


a paddle boarder riding flat water


3. In the Middle of the Fin Slot

 Best for:
  • Any condition where you want a mix of tracking, and maneuverable
 This fin placement will give you a mix of all the performance characteristics of the other fin placements, and is the one most favoured by paddle boarders. Positioning your fin In the middle of the fin slot will give you a mix of control, stability, tracking, and speed on your board. Of course, you will want to play around with all the positions to find the placement that works best for you.

 Paddle boarders in Calm Water 


When Should I use the Side Fins?

While some do like to use the side fins for non-surf paddling, many experienced boarders find that it is best to leave them off. Side fins do tend to increase the drag (or resistance) of your board which can cause you to be slower than using only the middle fin. Generally, it’s best to stick to only using the side fins, also called thruster Fins, when you are surfing.


a paddle board with side fins installed


Do I need the Middle Fin if I am Using Side Fins?

For the most part, yes, but there can be some exceptions to that. In flat water some do prefer the feel of the board with the side fins only and no middle fin. Personally, I find that slower and suggest paddle boarders use only the middle fin in flat water. 

In surf, you will want to position the middle fin 1” or 2” back from the front of the fin box if you are using a 2+1 fin setup (this means 2 Side fins, one Middle fin). If you are riding a 4+1 (4 thruster fins, 1 middle fin; also referred to as a Quad) setup like the All Wave, try it with just the 4 thruster fins for great grip on the wave, or with 2 of the thruster fins and the middle fin.


a paddleboarder using a quad fin set up 


Experiment with your SUP Fin Placement

There are a lot of subtle performance changes that can happen when you experiment with the fin placement on your SUP. Personally, I prefer right in the middle for all around paddling, but on a race/touring board I like it all the way back to maximize the speed.  Take some time to experiment with the different options for placing the middle fin, as well as using or not using side fins to totally customize your paddling experience.
Still not sure about fin position?  Just comment below or email us at info@cruisersup.com




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