If you are faced with the choice of which paddle board is right for you, then you definitely have to deal with the issue of fin setup.
You’ve probably noticed yourself that there are many very similar models on the market with a different number and arrangement of fins.
The decision for or against a certain fin setup is not easy, especially for beginners!
While single fins clearly dominate touring and racing boards, you often have to choose between paddle boards with 1 or 3 fins, especially for allrounders.
So that you can easily judge in the future which setup fits your requirements, I have directly compared the paddle boards with one fin and paddle boards with three fins in this guide.
Once you understand the purpose of the fins and what effects the different setups have, the topic is not as complicated as you might think!
Table of Contents
- 1 Differences Between Paddle Boards With 1 Fin and 3 Fins
- 2 Should Beginners Buy a Paddle Board With 1 or 3 Fins?
- 3 Innovation: Paddle Boards With Three Removable Fins
- 4 Best Paddle Boards With a Center Fin
- 5 Best Paddle Boards With Three Fins
- 6 Conclusion
Differences Between Paddle Boards With 1 Fin and 3 Fins
To really understand this difference, you first need to understand the physical effects of a fin in the water. But don’t worry…this sounds more scientific (and boring) than it is.
First and foremost, each fin causes increased water resistance with its surface area. The more fins are mounted, the larger the friction surface and thus the resistance in the water increases.
This simple fact affects the various running characteristics of your paddle board in the following categories:
The possible speed of your paddle board depends elementally on the number and size of the fins. The fewer fins are mounted, the less resistance you have to overcome when paddling.
Accordingly, paddle boards with 1 fin are much easier to glide and therefore faster than paddle boards with 3 fins.
Tracking or Straight-Line Stability
This characteristic is very similar to speed. The single fin cuts through the water, so to speak, and offers much less surface area to attack than 3 fins do.
Therefore, paddle boards with 1 fin run much straighter and more true to track than models with 3 fins. In practice, this means that with a board with a single fin you can set more paddle strokes on the same side before you have to change.
This faster rhythm additionally leads to a higher speed as well.
When it comes to maneuverability, all the advantages lie with the 3 fin setup. Due to the larger surface area, boards with three fins are much more maneuverable than boards with only one fin.
For turning, you just need an increased water resistance and use it to turn the board!
The higher resistance of the 3 fins also has a positive effect on the basic stability. Due to the larger surface of this setup, the boards with three fins are more stable in the water than the paddle boards with a single fin and tilt less easily with weight shifts!
Should Beginners Buy a Paddle Board With 1 or 3 Fins?
This question can not be answered in general, ultimately you have to decide for yourself. It depends above all on which features are most important to you! So that you can judge that, I will explain the advantages and disadvantages of paddle boards with one or three fins here again in detail.
Paddle Boards With 1 Fin
As already mentioned, the advantages of the models with single fin are mainly in the directional stability, thereby you can also reach higher speeds with this setup, regardless of the board type, and maintain them over a longer period of time.
The disadvantages lie in the poorer maneuverability and reduced tipping stability.
Paddle Boards With 3 Fins
These models convince with better maneuverability and the noticeably higher tipping stability. The larger the fins are, the more pronounced these properties are.
Due to the stronger water resistance of the 3 fins, these boards are easier and more agile to turn.
Accordingly, however, these boards do not run as straight in the water and you have to change sides more often and regularly when paddling to stay on course.
Due to the slower rhythm of the paddle strokes and the pause when changing sides, you will not reach high speeds.
Innovation: Paddle Boards With Three Removable Fins
If the decision is not easy for you despite my explanations, then some paddle boarding manufacturers have listened to your wishes and have the ultimate solution to your dilemma.
For some time now there have been paddle boards with removable fins. So you no longer have to choose between a paddle board with 1 or 3 fins, but have both!
The boards with 3 removable fins, usually have 2 smaller side fins and a larger center fin. This arrangement is known in the jargon as a “2+1 fin setup”.
With these boards you can adjust the running behavior to different situations and thus achieve maximum flexibility.
In addition, the removable side fins reduce the pack size of your board. It is easier to roll up and transport and the small fins are protected and stay in shape.
If you are now wondering which setup fits which conditions, I have a small overview for you here:
Setup With 1 Fin (Center Fin)
In this variant with a single center fin, you emphasize the tracking accuracy. This setup is best suited for longer and mostly straight tracks.
You can then paddle on one side for a longer time before you have to switch and thus achieve a much faster speed.
Setup With 2 Fins (Side Fins)
In shallow water you can also attach only the two small side fins and thus significantly reduce the risk of touchdowns.
At the same time you achieve a very high turning ability. This arrangement of fins (“twinser”) can also be found on surf boards from time to time.
Setup With 3 Fins (2+1)
If you mount all fins, you enjoy the highest possible stability and the board is easy to turn…optimal for varied short distances.
In most situations, this will give you the most control over your board. With this setting you underline the versatility of your (allrounder) board.
Best Paddle Boards With a Center Fin
The single fin is the most common fin setup for touring (cruising) and racing boards. With these types of boards, improved straight-line stability and higher speed are absolutely key.
Accordingly, these paddle boards are usually designed narrower, have a pointed nose (board tip) and are therefore very streamlined.
With allrounders, however, you often have the choice between paddle boards with 1 or 3 fins. Again, the focus of the models with a single, central fin is on an improved and true to track glide.
For this reason, this fin setup is also often associated with allrounder boards with slightly different dimensions from the standard.
The average dimensions of the popular allround paddle boards are about 320 x 80 x 15 cm (10’6″ x 31″ x 6″). Boards with a center fin are often a bit longer and sometimes narrower, these deviations additionally emphasize the improved running characteristics. However, there are also numerous boards with standard dimensions and single fin available.
#1 Bluefin Cruise
#2 Cala Ikatere
#3 WOWSEA Bionics B1
Best Paddle Boards With Three Fins
The setup with 3 fins is still the most popular for allround boards. Often as a so-called 2+1 variant with 2 small side fins and a larger center fin.
The dimension of the side fins is often different, so there are also models with (approximately) the same size side fins (“thruster setup”).
Since all-rounders focus on versatility of use, the setup with 3 fins offers the optimal compromise of the most diverse properties.
It ensures the highest possible stability, which is essential for paddlers without previous experience. The width of 80 cm and more further increases the tipping stability of this board class.
Three fins allow for good, agile maneuverability, which is further emphasized by the mostly rounded shape of the board tip (nose).
The sacrifices in the speed to be achieved and the directional stability are noticeable, but fall with the diverse and varied use of the board less weight!
#1 Penguin Competition
#2 Decathlon X100 11′
#3 Aqua Marina Beast
#4 Bluefin Sprint
#5 Penguin Coast Runner
The decision between paddle boarding with one or three fins is sometimes really not an easy one. Each setup has advantages and disadvantages.
But if you have read this guide carefully, you can surely choose the right variant for you and your requirements.
Especially as a completely inexperienced paddle boarding beginner, keeping the balance is in most cases the first and most difficult hurdle on the way to becoming a paddle boarding pro. The basic stability is generally higher on boards with 3 fins and a real argument for beginners.
However, if you are quite ambitious, then the single fin models will reward you with a much better glide after you have mastered the initial period.
So you see, your decision between a 1 or 3 fin paddle boards mainly depends on your expectations and usage profile.
However, if even after careful consideration you are still not sure which variant suits you, then you should opt for one with 3 removable fins. These paddle boards combine all the features described above and offer you maximum flexibility.
If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to leave me a comment. I will try to answer you as soon as possible!