Do You Need 3, 2, or 1 Fin on Your SUP Board? Why You Might Need All!
A paddle board can come with one or more fins, and they can be detachable or fixed. One of the questions that newbies ask when buying their solid or inflatable SUP board is … how many fins should a paddle board have?
And that is what I am going to advise you on here, today. In the past, we talked about why a paddle board needs a fin (s). Tracking, control, friction! So, we will go straight into the number of fins you need on your board.
Usually, paddle boards come with 1, 2, 3 or 4 fins but the most popular choices are 1 or 3 fins. For beginners, I recommend getting the 1 fin paddle board because it creates less drag in the water. For people with advanced skill, I recommend a SUP board with 3 or 4 fins.
What determines how many fins you need on a board?
There are reasons some boards have 1 fin, and some have three and some even have four (a bit rare though).
So, what should inform your decision to pick one over the other? That is what we are going to find out here.
Your paddle board use
This is the major determinant of the number of fins you need on the board. Keep reading as I elaborate this one further:
Fishing and yoga – If you are going to use your paddleboard for fishing, it needs to be extra stable. Therefore, you need more fins as they stabilize the board when it is tilting. The same would apply if you are looking forward to doing SUP Yoga.
Cruising – A board made for cruising is meant to pick up speed and travel over long distances. Therefore, you need fewer fins, meaning one only.
Fins create traction and friction, so they slow a board down. But this time, you need speed. That is why boards made for speed such as the Easy Eddy Modular Paddle Board come with one fin only.
Whitewater board – Now, some resources will tell you that a SUP board without a fin is best for whitewater. And it is easy to see why they say this, because fins would get caught up on obstacles like rocks, and debris. However, that can make the board go all over the place. Therefore, the best board for paddle boarding in the river should have a center fin, one.
Touring – Touring boards are the same as cruising boards, so they should come with one fin to allow you to SUP over long distance or many hours easily.
Beginner boards – Not only do you have to choose between a 4 inch or 6 inch paddle board, but the fin also counts. Get one with two side fins, or three for more stability.
Why 1 SUP board fin is better
As you have seen in the above section, most boards come with one fin. As a beginner, you will wonder why the fins are different. You will also wonder what board is best for you.
To help you, here is why you might want to choose a board with one fin as opposed to one with three or more:
Boards with one fin are faster in the water. They are also easier to turn. While it is not easy to paddle board in a straight line on such a board, with more practice, you will get used to it.
Fins generally create friction. So, it makes sense that one fin creates less friction than, say, three fins! Four fins will create the most friction, which means you use more energy to paddle the boat.
You can also build faster speed, once again, because fewer fins create less friction. This saves your arm power, so you can paddle longer distances. This is why cruising and touring Isle Surf Paddle Boards come with one fin.
Not only do you learn how to paddle board faster on a 1-fin board, but it also offers better tracking.
You can get more precision from the single fin than when you use three fins. This means you can paddle more on one side before shifting to the second side. Ultimately, this also means higher speed, faster.
Why you may need three SUP fins
It is not all the time that a single fin on the SUP is good. At times, depending on the intended purpose of the board, three fins are just great. Here are the main benefits of multiple fins:
Better for stability
When you are a beginner, you need all the stability that the board can give you. This is how you get to build your balance on the SUP board. If the board tilts to one side, it will be more stable since there is more water resistance, courtesy of the multiple fins. This prevents you from falling into the water when paddle boarding.
Easy to control and maneuver
If you try paddling a board that does not have a fin, it can run wild on your fast. Therefore, the more fins a board has, the easier it is to control.
A three-fin board is definitely easier to control than a single fin one. Also, the board can turn easily as the fins cause more water resistance. Besides, it won’t cruise at a high speed, so turning it where you want should be easier.
Do you need all 3 fins of paddle board?
Again, this depends on the activities that you intend to do on the SUP board. But … I will let you in on a little secret – you can have the best of both worlds.
Instead of buying a board with one fin, get one that comes with three detachable fins. That way, when you need to use all the three, you can attach them. When you need to use just one fin, you can remove two and leave the middle one.
It is also possible to detach the center fin and leave the two side fins. When you do this, there are two positive outcomes:
Two side fins are better for tiltable stability
The board has less drag than a 3-fin one, so you can build reasonable speed on the water. But that is not all because you also get better stability when the board tilts to either side.
Ultimately, this improves your stability, and you can paddle more on one side before you shift to the other side. When you are working on learning advanced paddle boarding techniques, you should start with two fins, then move on to one for more speed.
Try 1-fin board if you are a beginner
When you are learning how to stand up paddle board, a one-fin board is going to help you learn faster than a three fin one.
A SUP board with one fin is easy to turn and steer, as there is less drag in the water. All the same, the fin alone does not qualify the board to be good. There are other considerations.
For instance, the general structure of the board is important. Pointy and narrow boards with the center fin can build speed up to 15 knots very fast. This is definitely not good for a beginner.
Therefore, choose a board that has one fin, is wide, up to 34 inches, and is short. That way, it will be stable on the water, yet easy to turn.
Where should the fin be on a paddleboard?
If you order your SUP board package on Amazon.com, and then it comes with three detachable fins, and you do not know where to attach them.
Check on the bottom side of the board, and where you see slots, that is where the fins should go. That is also the tail end of the board.
If the SUP board comes with one detachable fin, there will be one slot, at the center point in the tail end of the board.
Depending on how you want to use the board, you can attach all the three fins, two of them, or the center one only.
It can also be confusing to know what fin goes where. The side fins are the small ones, while the bigger one is the center fin. The center fin is usually a bit forward, while the side fins are on the same position, towards the back.
When transporting a paddle board on a roof rack, it is easier with detachable fins, since you just have to remove them.
Besides, the fins are pretty easy to attach, within minutes. Actually, preparing an inflatable board – pumping it up and attaching the fins, should take less than 10 minutes, and then you will be ready for fun in the water.
For SUP surfing, you can have all the three fins coming in the same size. In this case, the fins are not arranged in the same line, but the center fin is usually forward, while the two side fins maintain the same position, on the sides.
Also check my earlier articles on:
On the topic of how many fins a paddle board should have, the usual configurations are usually 2 plus 1. This means two small side fins, and one large center fin, which is installed in a more forward position.
There is also the 1 configuration, where the board comes with just one fin, at the center of the tail end.
Finally, there is the 2-fin configuration, which is just for two small side fins installed at the back. In some cases, for instance for surfboards you can use for paddle boarding, the three fins are of the same size.
Another thing to know … fins can be fixed, or detachable.