This post is brought to you from our team rider Claire Chappell!
Vanessa Wood-Taylor and I had a good laugh as we both switched out our fins for the millionth time before the surf comp at Fibark in Salida, CO. In my head, it went something like this: “I’ll go with the nubs (Staircase Step), yeah, that way I can grind, I have to grind and maybe I’ll even try a spin! No, no, no, what am I thinking, I need stability. I’m nervous and people keep flushing trying to catch this wave so I need speed and stability, I should definitely go with a full thruster set up. Wait, no, I’ll use a nub in back and the Library Cards on the side. Ah! I got it, the Pumphouses…they are a happy medium, right? Nah, I got this, the nubs it is. Ok, decided.” And then 5 min before it’s my turn, “Final answer, the middle of the road, the Pumphouse are in and staying in, I’m sick of thinking about this.”
As I learned in my first surf comp, fin selection was a big component of the strategy that goes into competing at SUP surf. Based on your skill level you have to juggle difficulty of getting onto the wave, establishing a surf, carving, utilizing the whole wave and then adding tricks or dynamic moves to increase points. Fin selection plays into every one of those things. The shape, size, material and number of fins can help you nail certain parts of your ride but could hinder others. Too loose and you might fall getting on the wave or fall trying to make strong sexy carves. Too tight and you’ll carve hard but maybe struggle with rotation and tricks.
In your mind and in your practice runs, you try and put together a plan to maximize your time on the wave to earn points. Some people even plan to try and switch fins mid competition, varying their style between each of their 4 to 5 rides. But there is no guarantee there’ll be time for that. In the jam-style comp, if people in your heat happen to fall quickly, you may be hussling up the river bank just to get back in time for your surf! It was a complex and amazingly fun experience and for me it highlighted how cool it is that we have several fin shapes to play with and a local company experimenting, innovating and producing new fins. It also made me want to improve and learn to use my fins better. Cheers to the progress of this new sport that we all love, and to a growing group of surfers and homegrown companies pushing the limits.
The winners of the Salida SUP Surf Comp! From left to right: Tracy Sage, Vanessa Taylor, and Claire Chappell.
Click here to learn more about the fins that Colorado River Surf Co offers