An Amateur's Take on Freestyle Fins - Take 2:
Looking back to the archives, I wrote a brief synopsis on my own personal experiences with stubby freestyle fins. Here is the LINK.
I got a variety of comments and noticed that some additional comments were smothered around the WWW with snippets from this blog post. While totally flattered to have readers at all, there was definitely considerable disagreement on my diagnosis of stubby fins. I was using this custom cut down MFC fin, down to 18cm from a big old 31(!), with a wee bit of extra grinding for reduced profile around the tip:
If you read the article, you may recall that my personal experiences with stub fins did not quite unveil the purported benefits. Now in the realm of professional riders, 18cm is considered far from small these days. But, for me, used to riding a 23cm and 25cm MFC freestyle fin (at the time), it WAS small. Anyway, since reading some of the comments, I vowed to reconsider smaller fins, more specifically - purposely-manufactured small freestyle fins (as opposed to custom cut-down) as a result of some of the comments. With the recent acquisition of a spanky new 2010 Goya X1 105L, hereby named 'the Big Booger', I made off with a nice new 20cm MFC Pro UL fin. I've decided to start naming my boards, just like I name my cars with silly names that the kids will find amusing. I figure they'll be nicer to me that way. The boards that is...
I have to put out the disclaimer that I am a pretty low-level freestyler. Now 37 yrs old, my ankles and other joints are less twistable and such, so it is safe to say my progression is declining (along with my time on the water due to kiddies), but that is not to say I don't try - and I do still love trying tricks! I probably always will. Anyway, I make the claim, again, that this is an amateur's perspective - I am not going for double spins, I am not going switch-stance - I am just trying to work my way through basic flakas and relearn grubbies, which I somehow have completely lost since returning home from New Zealand 3 years ago. The coriolis effect has been working against me. ;)
So, I just got back from two weeks in Cape Hatteras and had lots of time to play on the new X1 with the 20cm MFC Pro UL. First off, to me, it does look like a really small fin, and IS in fact reasonably small. But, in todays world of small fins, admittedly, it is probably just entering what can be considered the small stubby fin domain.
First impressions: Well, there was lots of wind. I was generally riding 4.2 Guru or 4.7 Eclipse for most of my stay, on the Pamlico Sound, which is reasonably flat, yet still I'd often be hunting for the perfectly flat around the shallows and islands. I would say my first couple of days on this board and fin were very positive ones and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't struggle too much to stay upwind.
However, as the wind kept up and the directions wavered, the sea grass also starts to get mobile and form long lines in the water that are completely unavoidable. All it appeared to take was one or two little strands of sea grass caught on the 20cm fin and all bets were off. On one particular day sailing with my buddy Amine, fully wound-up on a 4.7, I was constantly struggling to stay upwind. After getting very frustrated, I finally figured out that it was largely the sea grass slowing me down, just that little tiny bit, that I was having a really hard time. Anyway, this became the norm for the rest of the trip... I switched back to a 23cm fin that allowed me to stay upwind a bit better (albeit catching more weeds in the process). Towards the end of the stay, I even switched to a cut down weed fin (probably about 18-20cm?), which seemed to deal with the weed accumulation much better, but had a wierd feeling to it that I am not used to. All that said, I cannot fault any non-weed fin for the weed accumulation issues.
As far as trick- and spin-ability goes, to be honest, my sailing was so rusty during those first few sessions (5 months off for winter) and my tricks are so basic, that I really am still convinced that I don't benefit that much from a small 20cm fin. Saying that, I revert back to my previous conclusion that I need more time on the water to be able to form a more firm conclusion. Definitely, without any weed issues, I'd say the 20cm fin was managable and my semi-developed "freestyle stance" enabled me to work with it. Any smaller, I think I would stuggle too much.
So maybe, I can theorize that I have found a rough fin size that balances my current abilities with maneuverability and purported 'ease of rotation' on tricks. 20cm.
Saying that, I have yet to truly realize the 'easier' rotation and slide-ability of the smaller fins, perhaps due to my relatively basic aerial freestyle level and lack of consistent conditions to work on tricks with different fin set-ups. My case is simply not amenable to a proper, professional fin review, let alone my deficient style and stance development to permit shorter fin use.
I am going to toss in a quick props for the 2010 X1 - the 'Big Booger'. I defintely like it! One of the struggles i seemed to have with the older 2007 model was that it didn't seem to like to carve very well (or probably better put, I never figured out how to make it carve well). On those rare occassions when I actually did want to jybe, I struggled to set a rail and make it turn smoothly. While I don't care a whole lot about jybing these days, this issue presented itself mostly when trying shove-its. I really had a hard time doing nice shove-its with that board - it was always so much easier with a smaller (and turnier wave board (and more wind - coincidence?)). No such problems though with the 2010 model. It carves nicely and can easily manage the tight aggressive upwind carves to hit those shove-its in small chop. In general, it also seems to have a smoother all-around ride, which is maybe part and parcel with my point about the carving. Definitely happy to be playing with the Boog.