G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fins, Fog, Red Tide & Consistency

Visibility out my bedroom window this morning at 0430 was about 50 feet. So I readjusted my paddle out time by about a half hour. I don't see all that well in the low light and when you add fog and overcast I'm even more blind. (I hate getting wiped off my board by a four-wave set that just didn't look like it was going to break.)

The red tide is still with us even though I keep telling myself it looks like it's clearing up. It isn't. A friend told me that the shape of the bacteria that grows with the algal bloom is what irritates the sinuses. Also heard that the bacteria can be toxic and that causes sinus infections. Whatever it is (all of the above?) I am definitely susceptible to sinus infections. When it gets like this the first thing I do when I'm headed for a dunking is grab my nose and pinch my nostrils shut. Effective, and it also makes for very graceful surfing...

There was a raft of about eight otters in our general area, with two feeding right in the line-up. I saw one eating a sea star...yeech! Greg said he was watching the two surface with crabs, eat the legs off and then throw them back. Fine dining sea otter style.

When I changed out my 9" fin for the 5" RFC I set it up so that the fin would be all the way back in the box. I wasn't sure how the board would surf, or hold in so I gave myself the benefit of the doubt. With the fin all the way back I figured the Ohole wouldn't "slide-ass" as the old timers used to say. It didn't, so today I decided to go all the way the other direction and slide the fin all the way forward in the box. I didn't notice a big difference in take-off and initial turning performance, but the board seemed much looser on the wave face. It didn't take as much effort to climb and drop, and the board was more receptive and responsive to less pressure on the rails when turning, and to place or position the board where I wanted us to be on the wave. I think I'll keep it this way for a while. I've really only had one occasion when the tail popped out and I think I was just too high and steep anyway. Also wasn't trimmed up.

The really nice thing about today's waves was their consistency. At the beginning of the session it was just a merry-go-round with plenty of waves for everyone. When the tide change it slowed a bit, then picked up again about 20 minutes after low tide. Even though buoy numbers are starting to decline the waves were good. Buoy data also indicates west and west northwest swell direction. That could be why it's more sectiony than the other day. Most people were not hooking up the sections so taking off at the peak meant kicking out at the first section. But people were sitting on that second section for a nice take-off and ride too. On good days the sections hook up for long, long rides to the inside. On the best days the waves break from outside Scimitars all the way in to Tweeners. Those days are rare though.
November 16, 2007 (F)
In: 0655
1st Wave: 0708
Out: 0858
Wave count: 20+
Wx: Overcast with fog
Tide: 3.69 Falling to 3.6, Rising to 3.61
Wind: Moderately breezy from the east/southeast
Sea Surface: Glassy with some light backwash bump
Buoy: NWS
0600: 7.2 @ 12.1 W
0700: 6.2 @ 12.1 WNW
0800: 7.5 @ 12.1 WNW
0900: 7.9 @ 11.4 WNW
10'4" Angulo SUP
Rock reefs
Waves: 5' @ 11 (approx. ave.) Storm Surf Buoy Model


  1. Hey!

    I'm interested in your fin experimentation. I've been trying all kinds of different set ups on my 2 + 1 ten footer. I'm amazed that you can run a five inch fin in the box and still get the drive out of the board that you need- my experience has been much different. Probably because the tail on my board is really wide- but I'm running a nine inch center fin- pretty standard shape, no flex fin or anything and regular sized side fins (regular meaning they came out of my 6'3"). Just today I threw in an 8" fin and just couldn't get the drive off the bottom that I like. Same with running a 7" fin- not enough "pushability". Any thoughts?

  2. i'm interested in this fin business too. i've got a 12-6 starboard that came w/ a 9" fin and i'm trying to figure out how to make it more turny. it's 2+1 as well and i have a couple of fcs gls. any thoughts as to possible configurations i might experiment with?

  3. Hey Guys, good questions and good thoughts. In addressing this, my initial frame of reference and/or conundrum was how to surf in kelpy waters, in smaller waves, without getting thrown off or bumped off balance every ten feet. That's the primary reason I changed to a smaller center fin. I did that about a month ago I think and it has been a great success vis a vis the kelp situation.

    It also made the board more "turny" (i.e. easier to turn) which is something linter is looking for so I'd suggest to you linter that you get a smaller fin and give it a try. Your 12'6" is considerably longer than my 10'4" but a new fin on your board will make it different somehow. This kind of experimentation is really fun so no matter what you do linter, keep us posted as to the results.

    Re John's issue with drive (which is something we're all concerned about especially on bigger days when drive is so essential) revolves around everyday surfing, right? For me in my everyday surfing it is more important to have a shallower draft and a looser board than drive because I make most of the waves I drive for or through. I think this is so because I don't usually surf waves bigger than shoulder high so drive and ultra-blazing speed isn't as much of an issue overall. When the waves are shoulder high and smaller I can usually set the board up, trim it and make the long, fast walls that come through where I surf. (The hard rails in the tail and tail design, rounded pin with wings, are a big factor here too.) When the surf gets bigger and drive becomes a more critical issue, then the kelp is not as much of a factor because there is more water moving through and over the kelp beds. Not much kelp bogging going on. I could go to a bigger center fin and even a single fin but haven’t’ tried this yet. However, your question John and this conversation is motivating me to do this in future.

    Here's another thing...I (at 150# + with wetsuit) cannot lay my Angulo Olohe over on rail (unlike the pics I've seen of John laying his green SUP over), therefore I don't do sweeping bottom turns which create a drivey slingshot effect off the bottom of the wave. My Angulo is too wide, the rails too thick and me too light. A bigger fin with more drive would probably not help here in terms of laying the board on rail as single fin boards tend to be pivot turned unlike three-fins or quads which can more easily be turned on rail.

    On initial take-off I pivot turn the board using step-back pressure on the tail and inside rail, and a lot of leverage with my paddle in the face of the wave. It works great, but I have to set-up and get in trim fast if I'm on a fast breaking wall. I usually look for the fastest part of the wave and try to put myself there. (If it’s kelpy I’m riding high on the wave in order to avoid the kelp beds.) Once I'm trimmed up I let the rail and bottom configuration of the board do the rest. So far so good. Also, the smaller fin, tighter fin cluster set-up, makes the board looser, and makes it easier to climb and drop on a bigger wave face and I can gain speed this way, drive under and around falling sections while having fun doing the roller coaster thing. The paddle too is helpful in adding speed and makes up, to some degree, for the loss in drive although the paddle is pretty much neutralized when screaming across the face of a fast moving and steep wall (which is where you need all the drive you can get).

    All this being said one of my favorite fins is the Harbour (HP fin) performance fin. I’ve used that on my 9’ Harbour Wing Pin and really like it. My notion is to swap out the three fin cluster at some point and put in the Harbour performance fin as a single fin, to see how it works. Experimenting with the board as a single fin vs. three-fin should be interesting, and most of all…fun.

    Tail configurations make a difference too as you noted John. Your wider square tail will respond differently than my pintail with wings. I think more drive is inherent in the shape of a pintail vs. a square tail. What do you think?

    There's an old Joni Mitchell song lyric that goes: "Something's lost if something's gained in living everyday." That romanticized cornball phrase does illustrate that fact that there is no one size fits all surfboard or SUP. And also I think that since different boards surf differently, even with the same fin , to get a true feel for what my board does vs. linter's or John's we would have to have them all together and all go out for a surf together and compare the results together over beer and pupus.

    Thanks for this conversation guys, very interesting. Let's keep it going. I'd like to suggest that you both come to NorCal so we can continue our experimentation and our conversations in the beer and pupus, I’ll buy!

  4. Now that's a QUALITY response!

    I've been mystified by fins forever- Stamps would explain to me the whole thing about lift etc and I'd kind of get it- your explanation here Gary has helped clear some things up. Defining the qualities of different fin set ups is tough- it's so much a feeling thing.

    I do know what you're talking about with the pivot nature of the single fin- my wife's 10'10" does this very well, just kind of stalls and pivots- a sweet feeling and just begs for a nose walk. The green board, on the other hand, likes to be pushed- I was amazed that dropping the fin size by an inch took away so much drive from it. Slapped the 9 back in and it went so much better this morning.

    One other thing. I used to be such a fin skeptic- I'd use whatever was lying around. I've seen the light now- fins really do make such a big difference. And like you said, Gary, it's just FUN to switch them around and a cheap alternative to buying more boards (although you should look into that board Stamps is selling - you could get it for under a thousand and it's sweet- in very good condition and at your size very do-able).

    Beer and eats? You're on- although, I warn you- I'm a big boy. And the offer is reciprocated should you ever find yourself down here!

  5. I don't know about the "quality" but I do know about the "quantity"...asking me if I have any thoughts is like asking if the Pope is Catholic.

    Two more things though: re the Stamps SUP you mentioned, what are the details, the specs, pics? Is that under $1000 new? I wish I could ride one. A purchase means shipping costs or a trip down south which I don't have the time for right now. I actually called Tim about the Commander when I was researching before I bought the Angulo, but I could demo the Angulo up here so I went for the bird in the hand.

    Because I have so little control over my passion to blab I just wanted to say one more thing about linter's concerns re a "turny" board. My understanding is that rocker is the fundamental design characteristic that makes a board "turny." Lots of rocker makes a board easier to turn but not as fast on the wave; flat rocker gives speed but makes the board harder to turn and "stiffer", i.e. less "turny." Therefore, if your board has flat rocker, no fin in the world is going to make it as easy to turn as if it had more rocker. Therein lie the "trade-offs" of surfboard design and why we have quivers...but this is a whole 'nother discussion.

    These are just my opinions based upon reading and talking with people who know what they're talking about. Three really good sources for info that I've found are a book by George Orbellion called "Essential Surfing" (basic fundamentals of surfboard design and construction); the Harbour Surfboard website, click on "Information" and the forum is also very good; and of course where the info is a little harder to get to but voluminous.

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  7. this is a great and helpful thread. regarding rocker, my 12-6 is a starboard w/ a good bit of rocker and i've got to say it turns better for me than my much-flatter 11' Jimmy Lewis. the 12-6's tail is more pulled in than the Jimmy's, so as you say i'm sure that has something to do with it too. it's a little strange to me, but even though the starboard is 1.5' longer than the Jimmy, i think it's a much sweeter, much more maneuverable ride. the only thing it doesn't do better is allow you to get to the nose. the jimmy has a fat nose, the star doesn't.
    as to fins: with the 9" center, i first tried 4-1/2" side biters and it seemed kind of muddy to turn. put on the 3-1/2" GLs today and it came right around pdq. much better. maybe it was the wave and the day, too, since i can't believe 1" could make all that much difference.
    next step: smaller center fin. maybe 7". do either of you have a fin shape that you like in that size?

  8. Howdy! Stamps posted some photos of the board he's got for sale on the SUZone under classified. The board's used- but used by him- which means that its seen very little wear and tear because he's got like four others to choose from. There are a couple of older photos of it from when he was glassing it in his shop on my site- it's a pretty sweet board- I think a little too small for a guy my size. He wants 1000 obo with fin pad the works for it. I do know what you mean about trying a board first- tons of guys down here are hopping on my board before orderin g them up and I don't blame them. The board for sale isn't the Commander model- it's actually the one posted on his website under performance boards. Get a really big stocking... Christmas is coming!

  9. Erik
    Here's what my 5" fin looks like.

    My understanding is that the GL's are the smallest sidebites FCS makes. With the hard rails and rounded pin with bumps (wings) tail shape of my Ohole I don't think it takes much for the board to stick to the face of the wave. The GL's are more than adequate.

    One other thing I wanted to mention has to do with how much more maneuverable the board is to paddle with the smaller center fin. It doesn't take as much to turn it around from a dead stop, or to change directions quickly. Conversely, there is a bit more yaw with the shorter center fin, but that for me isn't a problem, I just switch sides a bit more often, and I'm finding that the better I get at paddling and SUPing, the more I can paddle in a straight line without having to change sides.

    JOHN-I can't find Tim's board. What is the website?

    Thanks to you guys for making this a really interesting discussion, I'm enjoying it to the max!

  10. Try this: got to the "Rides" section- it's the green board in the picture for "performance" stand up boards. Or go to Stand Up Zone and go to Classifieds section, check out his add, it's got a couple of photos of it. I think my next Stamps board may be a 10' version of that shape- width brought out to 28.5"- if I could ride that thing at my weight- I'd snag it, on a payment plan!

  11. Thanks John, I found it. I'd love to ride it. I gotta say though I'm waiting anxiously for the Bonga Perkins field test analysis...for about $1300 the board comes complete with paddle, pad and fins. Seems like a deal to me. (A deal I can't afford right now but a deal none-the-less.)

  12. And don't forget a bag for the paddle too! Yeah- I was pretty impressed with the price point on that Bonga Board- and in person it did look really nice. I'll see what's up.

  13. those perkins boards look great but are far too advanced for me. i'm dreaming about an angulo; i think he's got one that about 10-8, more stable than the jimmy11 and a better surfing board. know anything about it?

    meanwhile, we're supposed to be getting some head high+ stuff here tomorrow. i've put a 5.5" fin on my 12-6 big boy. can't wait to see if it holds or what ....

  14. Linter
    I SUPed with a guy today, Pat, who was riding an 11' JL. He's a novice, but was doing pretty well, both paddling and surfing. He didn't fall once and he was riding waves too. The JL looked wide and stable.

    The Angulo I own, and the ones I've seen and ridden come in three sizes: 10'4"; 10'8" and 11'9". The 10ers are meant to "surf" more than "paddle" and vice versa for the 11'9" but they all surf very well, especially the shorter 10's.

    I'm about 150 pounds and ride the 10'4" which works great. It's a rounded pin with wings and the tail is more pulled in than the 10'8" which has a small square tail, also with wings. The 11'9" has more tail volume but again, a rounded pin with wings. Andy and Dave C both ride the 10'8" and they are bigger boys, both going a bit over 200# and they paddle and surf very well. Mash and MikeyB ride the 11'9" and also surf very well. In short, all the Angulos surf well. The longer ones paddle better as one would expect. If I was going on a long coastal paddle, looking for surf along the way with a goodly distance to cover, I'd rather be on the 11'9" than the shorter 10's. But for everyday SUPing, I love my 10'4". I surf it a lot!

    All that being said, there is a big difference in overall "surfability" between the 10'4" and the 11'9". The 10'4" (Olohe) is much looser, easier to turn etc. than the 11'9". All three are a 2+1 set up but if I were to buy an older one I'd double check. It's possible that the older ones are single fin only.

    The Angulos are "pop-outs" based on the "Tuflite" (Surftech) technology. Made in China. They are expensive. I paid $1700 out the door with pad, fins and leash. But they are durable. I crashed mine big-time with another Angulo and came out with just a few scratches. A conventional PU or EPS with glass would have been thrashed with repairs necessary.

    If availability is a problem I know there is a distributor here. If you're interested send me your email and I'll forward it to him.

    Finally, my understanding is that all three of the Angulos I just mentioned are going to be replaced by a new three board line-up but I don't know when. Andy should know. Rumor has it that the 10'4" is going to be replaced by a 10' with more rocker, an even better surfing SUP. I don't know about the other two, size or shape-wise.

    About the new fin...go Linter! Keep us posted.

  15. wow, another quality post -- no fluff, all 'formative. thanks. gives me lots to think about as we wend our way to the new years ....
    took my tiny center fin with sides out today in smaller stuff than i'd hoped. turning on the flats was easy as pie but on the wave it felt a little slidey. probably need another inch or so. i'm going to keep at it. i gotta say, though, while fins are cheaper than boards, they sure aren't cheap. and good ones don't show up on ebay all that often. ah well. so it goes.

  16. Linter
    Did you have your fin all the way back in the box? If not try it there. My board slid out once with the smaller fin all the way back in the box. But it only happened once and I figured it was an anomaly. It hasn't happened again and on the wave that it did happen on, I was way high and steep on the wave face, any fin might have slid out.

  17. John
    Re drive and a bigger come a lot of big wave boards are configured with a small center fin and two side fins? Wouldn't one need all the drive and hold one could get for making a big wave? Or is drive less important compared to drag. Is there less drag with a small three fin cluster? Does it have something to do with the plan shape and volume of a typical longboard, and aren't longboards more like SUPs than any other kind of board...therefore the "necessity" for drive? Or does it have to do with tail configuration...square vs. pintail for example? Are Dorothy's red slippers really magic or did Toto just unload on them?

    I don't rightly know...just curious.

  18. You're killing me with that "slippers comment".

    I really couldn't answer your question about the fin set up on those big wave boards- I just don't know too much about the design aspect of those boards. I do remember reading in a Surfer Magazine in the mid-80's about Ken Bradshaw's Waimea guns and how he was saying it was more about slowing down then going fast- or slowing down enough to maintain control.

    But don't quote me on that- my buddy Kelly just got a new Slough's gun from Stu Kenson- it's a quad so that may shoot the slow down idea right out of the air. By the way, those kind of boards are scary, you walk down the beach with one of those purpose built beasts and you're pretty much commiting yourself to some heavy water.

    Let us know if you learn something there. I've tried smaller fins then my 9" and I just can't push 'em like the big boy. But I am the caveman surfer- not too much finesse in my approach.

  19. John
    So now you have to bring up quads eh? Is there no end to it! (hah-hah)

    The biggest waves I've surfed on my 10'4" Angulo have been about head high...not very big. Since 90%+ of my surfing has been on small waves (shoulder high and smaller) I can't really give a good account of how the board or small fin cluster set-up works in bigger waves. Hopefully I'll be able to find that out this winter.

    But in small waves the board and fin cluster work very well for what I want to do...turn hard in both directions, climb and drop, trim and position the board on the wave face, walk the board and try to noseride and paddle efficiently both in the flat water and in catching waves.

    Today the NW swell is up and I hope the waves are bigger than usual. I'm going to keep the same tight fin cluster config with the small center fin. I'll post my findings...(if I survive the ordeal)!

    A Thanksgiving swell...yet another thing to be thankful for. Did I say "Life is Good!"?

  20. Fin Findings
    Waves were good and plentiful yesterday, but still mostly in the head high and smaller range. I was able to make the board move through all sections that I thought were makeable. I didn't bog down when trying to make the board go fast as long as I kept a fairly flat trajectory. (Trying to lay the board on rail instead of pivoting from the tail almost always bogs the rail resulting in immediate loss of speed.)

    I had a thought re drive...why do you need drive when you have a paddle? Doesn't the paddle provide a lot of drive when you need it? Are we talking about drive coming out of a turn or off the bottom; or are we talking about "sweet spot" drive that kicks in when your weight is over the sweet spot? I think this is decent food for thought but probably "mixing apples and oranges".

    The Angulo 10'4" would surf better with more rocker. It's a fairly flat rocker which makes it go faster I think, even without a drivey center fin, and especially with a paddle to get you through the slow or flat spots.

    The smaller center fin makes the board easier to turn and paddle turn without a noticable loss in sticking power on the wave face. It is also a God-send in the kelp.

    The next step is for me to install the 9" or another big center fin and make some comparisons in comparable waves. I may wait on doing that until after we get a nearshore mondohumungous storm that tears loose a lot of kelp and clears the line up and inside some. It could be a while the way things are going.

    Happy post-Thanksgiving and hope you all are getting some good waves and fun paddling.

  21. There's a good piece on Evan's blog re SUP fins.