Fins, The Guide – Video Podcast with Tyler Callaway of FCS

Fins, The Guide – Video Podcast with Tyler Callaway of FCS

Tyler Callaway dropped some knowledge about fins on Episode 34 of the Podcast.  Tyler is a return guest, so if you’d like to, know his story, listen to this.

This is a video episode, and should be watched as a video, especially the first 20 minutes when Tyler is using fins to explain different principles.  I’ve also produced an audio show, but you’ll miss a bit.

Enjoy this technical discussion of fins in SUP paddle boards.  Some key points from the show –

  • Wider tails generally work better as quads
  • Quads are faster, but they draw wider lines
  • Thrusters excel in turns past 90 degrees, surf better vertically, but take more to get going
  • If you want to turn harder go bigger front fins and smaller back fin/s
  • More rake will draw out turn, less rake will feel faster and turn harder, but slide out first
  • Tyler advocates trying different sets of fins in your board before settling, you never know what set will flow with the board
  • FCS2 center box fin is a game-changer, adjust placement during a surf

FCS Fin Test 2 – XL Performer Front, S Performer Quad Rear

FCS Fin Test 2 – XL Performer Front, S Performer Quad Rear

Have I told you guys how much I love surfing?  Well, I f@#$ing love it!!!

After traveling for a week and then having to unexpected leave for another 2 days, I’ve only surfed once in the last 2 weeks.  You’d have to go back to august to find 2 weeks with that little surfing.  I have been in the water, but kids are are amping so much that they don’t let me surf.  Sunday, I had it all planned out, get up early, sneak an hour or two in the water, then have the kids meet me, but they woke up earlier than I did and were already ready to go.  I’m not complaining, I’m actually having just as much fun watching them learn as I’m having surfing.

Read Day 1 of the Fin Test, Performer XL Front and GL FCS2 Center

But today was my day!  Kids at school, and the Fiji swell was showing up!  I checked the reef early, still not enough wave and the direction was wrong.  So I headed up to the beachy, high tide.  I didn’t expect it to be big yet, so I thought it would be a great day to try the quad setup that Tyler from FCS sent over.


Now, I don’t love quads normally.  There are a few boards that I’ll ride them, but not since my board was the 7.4 x 28.5 Airborn have I preferred quads.  Another board that I will ride as a quad at times is the 7.5 x 26 F-One.  That board likes the GAM2s.  So, today when I decided to ride the Quad setup, I wasn’t overly optimisitc.

I have tried a quad setup in the 2015 and 2016 7.4s.  If you don’t know the difference between those boards, the 2015 is 78L the 2016 is 83L.  The rails in the 2016 are a bit fatter, and fin placement is much better.  The 2015 fins were pulled in too far off the rails which hurt performance.  They fixed that in the 2016.


I didn’t like either the 2015 or 2016 as a quad.  Early on I tried the stretch quad set, which is my favorite shortboard set and lately the Performer L front and M trailers.  The stretch set was way too lose, fun on super small days, but I hate losing speed because of small fins.  The Performer L-M combo was also slidey, and flitty.  Not sure if flitty is a word, but it accurately describes the feeling.  Quick back and forth without any real drive.  Slow and weak off the bottom.

I described that feeling to Tyler and he sent me the Performer XL and the S trailer.  As I said, I didn’t expect much.

The waves this morning were bigger than I anticipated.  Sets up to 10-12 foot on the face were coming through every 15 minutes.  As I loosened up on the beach, I regretted my decision to ride the quad.  That said, I’m committed to the process and journey, not the outcome.


It’s a new experience for me to try to remain an observer instead of an active participant in  surfing.  I’ve been reading a lot about sports phycology and getting the conscious mind out of the way is something I’m working on.  Also trying to instill this in activites with the kids.

Here’s the idea –  You do something.  Instead of judging if you did it right or wrong, you notice how it went and draw lessons from the process.  So a wrong is a positive because you learn something.  And a right is a positive because you have a mental representation of how to do it correctly.  It takes the negative emotion out of the equation and allows you to learn faster.  Easier to say than do, but I’m working on it.

Like this approach to learning?  Come train with us in Costa Rica!


So as I was paddling out today I was just reminding myself today is a great opportunity to feel how these fins work in larger waves.

All my preconceived notions were wrong.

First wave was a medium one.  I’m conditioned to surf a new board or a board with different fins tentatively at the begging.  I have a exploration process.  Ideally I’d like to get a few slopey waves to first feel the rail, then open up a turn or two when I figure out where the board is really grabbing the water.  My first bottom turn held.  So much so that it put me off balance coming up to the lip and I blew the top turn,  ruined the wave.  But I realized that there might be something to this fin setup.

Second wave ran a bit and I got to expore where the board was accelerating.  I didn’t figure the drive out today.  Honestly, it felt a bit slow.  This is most likely user error, as I’m so dialed into riding this board as a thruster. There’s a lot of subtlety to driving down the line.  It didn’t slip around and the other quad setups I’ve used on this board have been dicey.

After a couple more waves I finally got a wave with a few sections.  I loved it on the bottom.  If you’ve been reading, that’s where I have problems with this board.  If you can hold a bottom turn, you can have a good angle and enough velocity to come hard off the top.


I’m not done testing this set.  Because I don’t ride quads much I need to give it a few days to internalize.  I think it will be 2 or 3 days before I can surf it without thinking about foot placement and really get feel for the differences.  But so far, I’m pleasantly surprised and looking forward to asking Tyler why it feels so much different from other experiences with Quads.  So far, he’s 2 for 2.

Read Day 1 of the Fin Test, Performer XL Front and GL FCS2 Center

FCS Fin Test – Performer XL Front and GL Center

FCS Fin Test – Performer XL Front and GL Center

Back in Costa Rica!  Seven days of no surfing and zero athletic activity.  For me, that’s unheard of, but the body needed a break.  I was getting sore  in the hip flexor area and the elbows and one week of downtime seems to have solved both of those issues.  The downtime was and always seems good for my surfing.

Taking a break from an activity  allows time for the mind to process new skills.  I find this in both surfing and language.  I group the two because if I’m not surfing I’m also probably not speaking spanish.  When I return from a trip back to the states surfing and spanish are noticeably better and more fluid.

Now, I’m not sure if the time away has allowed me to forget the level of where I was and thus it seems that I’m more proficient, or if in fact the mind uses that time off to solidify new processes.

The latter makes sense.  The feeling I have in the water is that the areas focused on are now naturally included with other older skills.  I also find that the “chatter” has dropped out and there’s more efficiency in movement.  The same holds true for language.  And I’m not built for language, so it is probably a better barometer for the learning process.

I’d be interested to know if there is a documented process in learning and strategic off time for processing, internalizing skills and movements.  If you know of a resource please comment below or shoot me an email.  Otherwise, I’ll do some research when I get time.

Prone Pop Up - 1

Today is the first session report from our fin test.  Tyler Callaway, a guest on the show and head of FCS, has sent me 3 new sets of fins to test.  I’ll be testing and journaling what I’m feeling and then at the beginning of next month we’re going to circle up and he’ll explain why and how it’s all working.

The fin setup for the morning session was Performer XL for the front fins and a GL (Gerry Lopez) FCS2 center.  I’ll be testing all the fins on the Starboard 7.4 because I’ve committed to riding that board in the Costa Rica SUP finals which will take place on June 25.  For the past month I’ve been using the Starboard with an AM2 center and Performer L fronts.  So, the change today was larger front fins and a taller, .5cm, but narrower, especially at the base of the fin, center fin.

Tyler sent the specific sets of fins to try after a discussion where I was explaining that the board felt a touch loose on the bottom and I didn’t feel I could hold hard bottom turns.  I had to decide to do a harder turn and lose speed or pull the turn and surf flatter.  I tried different fin positions with the AM2 and I could get more drive off the bottom with the fin all the way back in the box, but then the board felt slow and tight on the top.  It drew out the lines too much and the gains from riding a small board were lost.  If you’re going to ride a small board, you want to be able to draw tight lines.

Prone Pop Up - 3

Here’s the GL FCS2 center.  This fin is a game changer from a feedback perspective.  Never before have you been able to make micro adjustments to equipment in the water with no tools.  Normally you surf a whole session, thinking about how the board feels and then make a change for the next day.  But by then the waves are different and the test isn’t apples to apples.  Now, you can surf a wave, make a change, then surf the next to compare.  This significantly reduces time for discovery.  I also believe that you mind will change and shape experience due to outside factors so you may not truly own the sensation of the wave after a few hours.  Game changer!

Here are my notes from the morning.

  • On my first wave the board felt a bit loose and I blew the tail out completely and fell on a normal cutback.  I relied on the back fin with previous setup.  It wasn’t there in the same way.
  • I adjusted foot position forward, slightly, for the second wave, and used more rail and felt the larger front fins grab.  Bottom turn held, but the waves were small.  I’m not going to give a verdict until we have some juice.  Off the top the board is very loose.
  • I was able to refine cutbacks and began to like the feeling of larger front fins with a smaller, it did feel smaller than the AM2, center.  I would equate it to riding a Twin with a trailer.  Specifically it felt like a Lost Round Nose Fish with the MR 2+1 setup.
  • My favorite turn of the morning was a slingshot cutback, generally the most difficult turn for me on the starboard.  It felt like the front fins allowed more rail to be used.  The lead in picture is this turn.
  • Backside results felt similar.  Bottom turns were similar, here we really need big, fast surf to know.  And of the top the board was very loose.  It is going to take some getting used to as on two turns I just blew the tail out and slid around.  I’m going to need to use more rail for powerful turns off the top both frontside and backside.


Loose off the top, wish this shot were a second before as the tail released.  Felt like sliding a coping on a skate ramp.


I notice looking at the photos that there isn’t as much spray as the other fin setup.  That loose feeling is a loss of power.  Better for video, worse for photos.


I like this shot because the rail is still engaged and the fins didn’t release.  I pushed hard in the turn trying to feel if the fins would break out and they didn’t.  Could be good in bigger surf, we’ll have to wait and see.

Side note:  If you go to Atlanta, you’ve got to hit the Georgia Aquarium.  My kids were blown away.  Here’s a shot of one of the three Whale Sharks.

If you want to swim with one, come down to our camp and surf with us and you might get the chance!  I had the opportunity to swim with whale shark’s twice now!

Whale shark - 1


Session Notes – Infinity and Starboard Observations

Session Notes – Infinity and Starboard Observations

I rode the Infinity this morning.  High tide was smack center of my session and with the swell on the decline, I figured it was the call.  It was, but the waves weren’t great.  Smaller inconsistent surf, with a big crowd really takes down the fun factor for me on a standup.  It’s ironic, because those are the exact conditions that a bigger sup excels in, but with the crowd I feel bad utilizing the benefits.  Even though nobody is catching most of the smaller waves rolling through the lineup, you just know that if you get aggressive and catch them, you’ll attract a bunch of attention and create some ill will.  So, I played the other game, the wait way outside for the every 15 minute bomb and hope that I could see it in time and sprint to the spot game.  It worked a few times and I got a couple. (more…)