One of the benefits of living in the California coastal town of Encinitas is the opportunity to have an ocean-centered lifestyle year-round. During the winter we have good-sized waves, and in the summer the waves are small and the water temperature warms up.
I have created an ever-changing quiver to match that lifestyle. For surfing I like to use a 9′ 4″ x 30″ SUP surfboard because it offers stability for tall paddlers like me and good maneuverability while surfing the wave. I usually set up a three-fin setup, also known as the thruster, that lets me track better. With that larger center fin, it creates more drag, which you’re going to counter by creating speed with your paddle. But when waves are small I like the four-fin quad setup. The ride feels looser, more relaxed and responsive. Hard to get more laidback than Southern California, but little things like your fin setup can make a difference wherever you are.
For ocean paddling, after punching through the surf, I use a 14′ board. The size of the board gives me a high volume and the length needed for effective displacement for a person my size, 6′ 4″ and 200 lbs. It doesn’t feel like I’m paddling a submarine—it feels fast. For this displacement board I have several fins that I like to use, depending on the type of paddling I’ll be doing.
When I’m touring I like using a fin that will not get caught in the kelp beds of Southern California: this fin has an extended angle and rake. The distance the fin tip curves away from the base is the rake. The larger the rake is, the more maneuverable the board will be, and manuevering is the smartest way to avoid getting caught in a kelp bed!
For downwind paddling, I use a downwind fin, which is long and stable, but narrow enough to allow me to catch the bumps. For racing, I searched out a special fin and I’m thrilled with it. I use a fin with a sharp leading edge and flexibility in the tip to be able to make turns. If you’re going to be doing serious racing, it’s worth researching racing fins. By researching, I mean try to talk to some paddlers after a race about their fins, or ask the person who paddled fastest at your local spot if they use a different setup or have any tips for you. The SUP community is full of friendly watermen and waterwomen!
Photography credit: Kevin Mcllwaine