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SUP fin placement and board handling

One of the questions that new paddlers frequently ask (as well as a few veterans) is where do I position my fin? Before answering this you have to determine what type of paddling you will be doing. Will you be paddling a long distance with hardly any turns? Will you be negotiating a tight river with a lot of bends? Will you be surfing?

Modern stand up paddleboards generally have an adjustable center fin. By simply loosening the screw the center fin can slide forth and aft in the fin box.  If you own a Three Brothers board, your board will have an adjustable center fin box as well as two removable side fins. So what position should be used for what conditions and when do my side fins get used?

Your stand up paddle board will respond differently depending on how you position your center fin. Generally, moving your center fin all the way forward makes the board more agile and easier to turn. You would want to use this position if you were paddling in tight quarters or negotiating around other paddlers such as down a crowded or narrow river or a racing on a tight course with many turns.

Positioning your fin all the way back within the fin box will cause your board to track straighter and be less prone to wander side to side. Of course the added tracking stability means a bit more effort must be used to turn. If you are planning to paddle a longer distance, like on a group tour, then moving your fin rearward would allow you to switch sides less often.

Like life, standing on your board or doing yoga, most find being centered is the way to go. It affords the best of both and keeps your board handling neutral while still tracking fairly well.

But when do I use my side fins? Side fins or “side bites” are typically reserved for surfing although some will remove the center fin and just use the side bites in flat water. The side fins allow you to carve more aggressively while surfing. This is also the time to consider making sure your center fin is all the way forward.

Overall, SUP fin placement and board handling are intertwined. Once you know what your conditions will be you can set your board up accordingly.

SUP with your pup

Can pets also travel on my stand up paddle board? Absolutely. In fact SUP with your pup has become a favorite group outing. Before loading your Great Dane, Python or Goldfish up there are a few considerations.

Is your pet comfortable around water? Not all pets enjoy the water and at the end of the day we want them to have fun too. Aside from being uncomfortable some pets are afraid of the water. No one knows your pet better than you do. When you bathe your pet does it like being in the water? This is usually a good indication.

Is your pet social? Before you set out tossup with your pup consider you will likely be around other humans, possibly other pets and potentially wildlife. If you pet chases other animals or people it may try to do so while paddling. This could be dangerous for you, others or your pet.

Don’t forget your PFD or your pet’s PFD. Authorities require animals to have a PFD and can issue a ticket for not having one, usually a sizeable ticket. Most pet shops can assist you with sizing a PFD for your pet. Resist the temptation to use a leash while paddling or tethering your pet to the board. If they fall or jump off simply pick them out of the water and return them to the board. Tethering can cause dangerous conditions where your pet could be held under water beneath the board in the event the board capsizes or pull you over. Feel free to bring along a leash to get to and from your vehicle or to use at a rest point, although, small islands are usually a great place to let them run around if uninhabited.

Hydrate not only yourself but your pet as well. Collapsible bowls work well to give your pet a drink.

The area toward the front of the mat works well as a seating area as it keeps them close and away from the paddle as it moves from side to side. Some pets feel more comfortable at the nose of the board. You can offset their weight by positioning yourself a few inches further rearward than you would normally stand.

Take a trial run and see how they do before setting out on an all day adventure. The most important thing to remember when you SUP with your pup is to have fun. Your pet will enjoy themselves more when they are relaxed and comfortable. As both of you grow more accustomed to paddling two up you can venture further. Smaller pets, less than 20lbs, can be carried easily on a smaller board such as the Three Brothers boards 10’6” Blondie. Larger pets may feel more at home on a larger board such as the Three Brothers boards 12’ Jason Ryan.

Wherever your adventure leads, be safe and prepared and have fun when you SUP with your pup.