Why Do Paddle Boards Have Fins (and Do You Really Need Them)?

Fins are an essential part of your stand up paddle board because it offers stability and it ensures that you are going straight. While you can technically do without fins, it is not advisable as you would be literally going in circles. Make sure to get the perfect fin and place it perfectly on the fin box to enjoy increased stability, speed, and maneuverability.
Why Do Paddle Boards Have Fins

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Stand up paddle board is a no-fuss sport. The gear you need is very minimal, and they often just include your paddle board, your paddle, and the fin (or fins). If you want to get serious about the sport, you should pay attention to the paddle board fins because this may be your secret in being able to ride your board so well despite being new to the sport. Read on to know more about paddle board fins.

What Do the Fins on a Paddle Board Do?

Fins play an important role in your stand up paddle board journey: they help keep your board stabilized, ensuring that your board will track a relatively straight line. The stability that fins offer is important because they make sure that the tail of your board won’t wobble from left to right, especially when you put pressure on the board as you paddle. The design of the fin or fins on your board also helps with the speed and the ease of turning.

There are different fin setups because they cater to different water conditions. Fins are also shaped differently, and it is just not for aesthetic purposes. Read on to understand how fins will help you in your stand up paddle boarding journey.

Do All Paddle Boards Have Fins?

All stand up paddle boards are equipped with a fin or fins. Fins are an essential part of your paddle board because it helps you with stability, speed, and maneuverability, among others. Your paddle board should come with several fin boxes.

Depending on the water condition in your desired location, the number of fins that you can use varies. Typically, a paddle board has three fin box which account for the center fin box and two side fin boxes.

Do You Need the Fin on a Paddle Board?

You most definitely need a fin on your paddle board, no matter how skilled you are. Fins help you in making sure that you are tracking a straight line. It also offers stability and sees to it that your board doesn’t wobble no matter how extreme your paddling is.

You have the liberty to decide on how many fins you will use. You can either use one, two, three and sometimes even four fins depending on the body of water that you will be paddling in.

Can You Paddle Board Without the Fin?

Technically, the answer is yes, but paddle boarding without a fin or fins will make you quite literally move in circles. Fins are there to help you move in a straight line which means that paddle boarding without it will make your paddle board turn with every stroke that you will make. This defeats the purpose of paddle boarding since you will go nowhere.

You would need to paddle board with a fin that best supports your riding style and the water condition in your chosen location. Even if you use a fin, but it’s not suitable for the water condition, then you still have a hard time paddling.

How Many Fins Should a Paddle Board Have?

A regular paddle board uses three fins in what is called a three fin setup. Your paddle board should come with three fin boxes; one center box and two smaller fin boxes on the side. As your skills progress and as you learn how your paddle board works, you would be able to decide between one fin set up, a two fin set up, or a three fin set up, and some even have four fin setups.

Fins have these different setups because they help you ride in different ways, and they are suitable for different water conditions.

Why Do Some Paddle Boards Have 3 Fins?

Some paddle boards use three fins for what is called the three fin setup or “thruster.” This setup includes one center or central fin and two thruster fins, which can be found to the side, which are also referred to as side bites.

The three fin setup is suitable for paddling on flat water. But with the aid of the two side bites, paddle boards using the three fins set up can also be used in choppier water. This setup is also great for newbies who are practicing in flatwater. You can even try to stand up paddle board surfing using this setup.

Where Do You Put the Fin on a Paddle Board?

Before you even decide on where to put the fin or fins on the belly of your paddle board, you need to have clear answers for these questions: What is your riding style? What is the water condition in your chosen location? How does the entirety of the waterway look—will you be paddling straight, or will there be several bends along the way.

Once you have the answer to these questions, then you would be able to figure out where you will be placing your center or central fin. Here’s how the position of your central fin will affect your paddling performance:

  • All the way forward, towards the nose. This position is best suited for paddle board surfing. Placing the center fin forward will offer more maneuverability, and it will help you make quick turns which are great if you are into paddle board surfing. This fin position is also great if you are paddling in much crowded places or tighter spaces like narrow rivers. However, with this position, it would be harder for you to track a straight line. Aside from that, this position creates a drag that makes you feel that you are moving slightly slower.
  • Middle of the fin box. If you want the best of both worlds in terms of tracking and maneuverability, then this center fin position is best for you. This is arguably the favorite placement of most paddle boarders because you get the best of the other two placements. When your fin is in this position, it will offer more stability, less wobble, increased speed, and relatively straighter tracking. This fin placement is also great for doing yoga poses on your paddle board.
  • All the way back, towards the rear. This position is best suited for long distance paddle boarding. You can also position your center fin this way if you want to make sure that you increase your straight line tracking. This position also offers more stability, less wobble, and increased speed. However, the turns that you can make are significantly slower.

You can decide if you want to put the side fins or side bites when you go paddle boarding. However, take note that these side fins increase the drag or resistance, which makes your movement across the water relatively slower. But if you are into paddle board surfing, then you would find that these thrusters will be good for you since they allow you to carve more aggressively.

As your skill progresses, you would be able to know what fin setup to use and where to place your center fin to enjoy your time in the water.

Which Way Does the Fin Go on a Paddle Board?

Keep this in mind: the correct fin installation should show that that slant of the fin is facing backward. This way, the water can efficiently flow back off the end of the fin and board. You have to make sure that you have attached it in the correct direction because the placement will affect your ride.

If the slant or knobby side of the fin faces forward, the drag or resistance will significantly increase, which makes your movement in the water relatively slower. Aside from that, you will not be as stable as you would wish to be had you positioned the fin correctly.

How Do You Put Fin on Inflatable Paddle Board?

Installing the pin on your inflatable paddle board is very easy. There is no need for tools or screws, and even a beginner can do it perfectly. Follow the following easy steps below:

  1. Make sure that the lever in the center fin box is right in the middle. If the lever is all the way forward or all the way back, make sure to reposition it in the middle to make sure that the fin will fit perfectly.
  2. Get your fin and make sure that the slanted side or knobby side is placed first.
  3. With a little pressure, push the fin in the box and make sure that it fits snugly.
  4. The last step is to move the lever towards the rear end of the fin box until you hear a snap. The snap means that you have installed the fin successfully.

How Do You Fix a Fin on a Paddle Board?

Fins are very replaceable, and if ever you damage your it is easier to buy a new one that to fix it. Fixing it would cost you money too, but the fin may still break even after you fixed it. It would also be a lot less cheap to replace a fin with a new one than damaging a fin box which costs around 200 to 300 dollars.

There are several ways on how you can care for your paddle board fin. For one, you should never put your board on the ground or on the sand with the belly of the board (where the fin is located) facing down. Make sure that whenever you put your board down, the belly is always facing up.

Aside from that, you should also make sure that you are in deep enough water before you jump onto your board and even when you are dismounting it. If you try to ride or dismount your board and the water is too shallow, the fin will take the pressure, and it might hit the ground resulting in breakage or damage.

How Do You Change a Paddle Board Fin?

Changing and installing your paddle board fin on an inflatable paddle board is pretty much done in the same way. Adjust the lever so you can carefully and successfully take out the fin. When you install the new fin, make sure that you hear that snap (a sign that the fin is installed correctly) before you set out into the water.

Changing and installing a fin on a hard paddle board can be a little trickier. First off, you would need to prepare these tools: fin screw, super bolt, and plate. Now carefully follow the following steps:

  1. Get the plate and turn it on the screw until it reaches the top.
  2. With the tail of the crew pointing upwards, carefully place it inside the fin box and move it all the way to the front of the fin box towards the nose.
  3. Insert your fin into the fin box and fasten it to the screw sticking out. Make sure that your fin is in the placement that you want it to be.
  4. Grab the super bolt screw and twist it until the screw and fin are securely attached to your paddle board.

Are Paddle Board Fins Universal?

Paddle board fins are not universal because each brand of paddle board uses a different type of fin boxes. This means that your fin may not be compatible with your friend’s paddle board because the fin box in his board is different. A fin box is a slot on the bottom of your paddle board where you install and attach or swap and remove your fins.

There are fin two categories, and they are influenced by several factors. These factors include fine shapes, sizes, and lines.

  • Touring and racing fins: Fins in this category have these characteristics—longer bases, greater surface area, and longer leading edges. These fins are great for touring and racing because they offer stability and tracking.
  • Agility fins: Fins in this category have these characteristics—shorter bases, less surface area, and shorter leading edges. These fins are great for surfing because they have great turning ability and agility and they are easier to maneuver.

Here is a short list of the basic fin boxes:

  • US Fin Box: This is known to be the most common type of fin box. As such, it is compatible with a lot of different kinds of fins. To install the fin in this fin box, you must use a bolt and nut, which makes it secure. However, there can be times where you would lose the bolt and nut. Aside from that, some bolts are very particular, and they need a specific screwdriver to tighten them.
  • Slide-In Fin Box: This type is most commonly used for inflatable paddle boards. Fin installation is very easy using this type because you just need to slide the fin into the fin box, and you would only need a peg to secure it in place. The most basic shapes and sizes of fins are compatible with the slide-in box. However, the selection is not as vast as that of US Fin Box. Slide-in fin boxes usually do not cost a lot, and they are mainly made of plastic.
  • Dual Tab Fin Box: More commonly used for side fins or side bites, the dual tax box can be used for paddle board surfing. It is also great for performance surf boards. FCS is one brand that specializes in designing and manufacturing dual tax fin boxes. There are different designs, and you choose from the many different sizes and shapes.
  • Snap-in Lever Fin Box: Snap-in lever fin boxes are arguably the easiest fin box to work with. You can just easily snap the fin and place it. There is also a small lever that secures it in place. However, there are only a few options of fins that can be used with this fin box.
  • Brand Specific Fin Box: Some brands opt to design and manufacture fin boxes at are only exclusive with their brand and are only compatible with fins of the same brand. These are made with high quality materials, which add to the price tag. Aside from the price, there will only be a few fin options for your fin box.