I’ve wanted to test just how small you can go with fins on bigger boards for a while. It used to be, back in the Dark Ages of windsurfing, changing your skeg to cope with fluctuating wind strengths and/or wave size and quality, was the norm.
If it was breezier, change down, whereas lighter airs called for bigger skegs. With multi configurations now common place (and less attention given to fins) I was keen to see just how micro I could actually get away with in slower, mushier south coast slop.
For the purpose of this review I used a 90L twinny and a pair of K4 Stubbys – hopefully retaining maximum early planing but improving on nippier manoeuvrability.
It’s been a hectic full power winter so far – bull’s eye low pressures spinning relentlessly. Large swells, tidal surges and storm force winds have taken their toll on seafront landscapes – in parts, totally obliterating buildings, railway lines and coastal properties.
The majority of the UK’s population is no doubt sick to the back teeth of rampaging Atlantic depressions. Us windies, on the other hand, continue to act like pigs in muck and are positively frothing.
Conditions in my own backyard have been suitably epic. While nowhere near the colossus volume of water the West Country has received, Hayling has had its fair share of swell and breeze.
The problem when waves roll across our humble sand bank is the amount of rip you get. Current can zap power and leave you wallowing in superglue, unable to plane, with sets bearing down. It’s often wise to ride a (relatively) bigger board and use volume and width to combat the negative effects of rip. It’s important, however, you’re then on the right size sail and have ample (but not too much) fin area to make your ride as comfortable as possible – sailing bigger sticks, in overpowered choppy sea states, will rattle the very core of your insides if not careful.
Having used K4 Stubby skegs for stand up paddle board sessions I was keen to see how they coped with windsurf conditions. Setting the fins right at the back of the box, to increase upwind performance and grip, I commenced battle with side shore head high sets.
Just before launching, there was a slight nagging doubt about fin choice, but I shoved this to one side and jumped aboard with dogged determination.
A stiff westerly puffed me onto the plane like a rocket – completely dispelling myths about small skegs impeding get up and go. I was away and blatting towards oncoming loomers in the blink of an eye.
Boosting off the apex I rotated into a forward, a few seconds later touching down with a splash – so far so good. Now I had to get upwind and start bashing a few lips.
Pinch an inch
It’ll come as no surprise that heavy footed technique is a no no when sailing little foils – freestlylers are extremely used to this. Any size under (roughly) 20cm requires a rider to use the board’s rail and ‘drag’ upwind – too much back foot pressure will result in spin out.
The Stubby 14”s did an admirable job of remaining composed while pinching the breeze. Not quite as lightening quick upwind as bigger K4s (due mainly to my 83kg weight), but with a bit of technique and power in your rig, pointing was still efficient.
Lip slides, foam bashes and tail slides
Once in position it was a case of heading full power towards ramps, spinning a move, and heading back shoreward for a spot of wave wiggling.
During testing there was a considerable amount of chop, making wave faces less than buttery. A more drawn out bottom turn was therefore needed to avoid cavitation. Once back up to the lip the fun really started.
I love a bit of tail slide action and the Stubby 14”s certainly allow for that. It took me a few runs to dial into how much ‘push’ was needed – once I eased off the gas, everything settled down. At times I was able to redirect in such an extreme fashion I found myself pointing in the direction I’d just travelled. This usually resulted in a drubbing as I was mown down by a frothy lip – still good fun though!
With each run I was becoming more used to the small K4s and started to enjoy the super skatey feel. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but switching your windsurfing up and trying something new can be super rewarding and give a greater understanding of your kit.
At 83kg I’m certainly not the lightest sailor, but equally not the heaviest. Riding on small fins does require a deft technique – especially when touching down after big boosts. There’s a tendency to come down hard on the tail, something that will see medium to heavy weight riders sliding sideways.
Increased awareness is needed when reaching for the heavens – especially if you’re over 12 stone.
To some, small skegs, a skatey feel and having to concentrate while windsurfing is the stuff of nightmares – most just want to plug and play. However, those who love to slip, slide, boost and invert, in small to medium soft waves, would love a set up like this.
As I said at the start, my home break has its own unique traits and knowing these inside out ultimately helps with kit choice. Small fins, bigger boards and compact rigs are great for flicky, nippy and whippy sailing in slower waves. If windsurfing somewhere with more powerful surf then I’d definitely but opting for bigger fins – the last thing I’d want is to take an unnecessary pounding because of a lack of grip.
K4’s 14” Stubby fin set up is super loose on a wave and allows wider tail boards to remain settled – even in super powered conditions. Sail choice is key, as they don’t take kindly to overloading, and heavy back foot technique will give cavitation and spin out. It’s a great set up for some skate style windy fun – in particular, lighter sailors would do well with a set of 14” Stubby fins.
For added grip try this configuration with a smaller 10” Shark trailer fin if you have the option.