When we decided to base our testing in the UK , we were understandably pretty nervous about testing wave boards in August. But what an August it has been, we have barely had a break from the wind!
We have spent most of the past four weeks testing 80-85 litre Twin Fin wave boards. We had six in test from Mistral, Fanatic, RRD, Quatro, Starboard and JP and the full test will be released in next week’s issue of the magazine. We also had the very accomplished Fanatic NewWave (Single Fin) in the test as a benchmark to see just how these Twin Fins perform.
Whilst testing in Rhosneigr, the boards received huge interest and we were continually getting asked whether Twin Fins are just hype or whether they really have a future in wave board design. It seems that there are a lot of rumours and myths around at the moment about how they work, or don’t work, but few people have been lucky enough to sail them as much as we have over the past 4 weeks and done so much direct comparison against Single Fins.
So here are our answers to some frequently asked questions. Please remember that these conclusions are based upon 80-85 litre boards and different sizes may reap different conclusions. It is important also to remember that there are huge differences in how different boards perform within a group, so these conclusions are general conclusions and specific boards may offer alternative results.
How different do Twin Fins feel to sail?
In general, they do feel different to sail in a straight line. The board feels more planted in the water when sailing rather lifting and driving off the tail and fin like a Single Fin. Those who have sailed a freestyle board with a small freestyle fin, will have an idea how this feels, but Twin Fins are nowhere near as sensitive of backfoot pressure, so don’t spin out like the freestyle board might.
Do Twin Fins spin out more than Single Fins?
The simple answer is no. They do spin out from time to time (just as Single Fins do), but generally you can push against the fins of a Twin Fin in the same trusting way that you would a Single Fin. Occasionally you get a weird sensation when one of the two twin fins spins out, but this is usually self-correcting.
Do Twin Fins Get planing later than a Single Fin?
Maybe ever so slightly, but the difference is so minimal that volume and board shape will be much bigger factors. Because the boards feel more ‘planted’ than Single Fins you can get the impression that they are sticky and not releasing, but when head to head with a Single Fin, we have struggled to recognise any significant difference.
Are Twin Fin boards slower than Single Fins?
It seems not. Again the planted sensation of the Twin Fin makes it feel slower, but head to head there appears to be negligible difference
Does a Single Fin board go upwind better than Twin Fin?
No. Again, the sensation is different so can fool you into thinking that the Single Fin is going upwind better (because it feels like it is driving off the fin more) but in practice we can establish no noticeable difference in performance. Board shape and fin size are much more important factors (as they are with Single Fins).
Do I need to buy a bigger Twin Fin than I would Single Fin?
You don’t need to buy a bigger board, but you can get away with buying a bigger board if you choose Twin Fins. Volume for volume there is no reason to go bigger on a Twin Fin as they both plane as easily, but the Twin Fin is both looser on the wave and more controllable when powered up (as the fins don’t overpower the board in the same way). Using a bigger board that remains as controllable as the smaller board in stronger winds gives you more wind range out of one board.
Do they only work in Cross off conditions?
Absolutely not. The Twin Fins appear to be looser to turn, allow you to sail a bigger board and hold their speed in the turn better, which all equates to great cross onshore performance. We didn’t get a chance to try the boards in proper cross off (although we did have full sideshore conditions and some cross off with weak head high waves), but if anything, their biggest advantage over Single Fins so far seems to be in cross on conditions.
Are Twin Fins worse for jumping?
Ever so slightly, but not significantly. 90% of sailors will notice no real difference. If you are very good at jumping and look for that extra kick off the top of waves in overpowed conditions, you will notice that they are slightly lacking in drive but generally they are just as good. After all, Victor Fernandez won the PWA Pozo (jumping contest) this year on a Twin Fin, so they can't be that bad!
How are Twin Fins different to ride than Single Fins?
The good Twin Fins allow you to turn tighter than any Single Fin and also keep your speed through the turn. You can do full radius top turns and finish the turn in a way that is much harder to achieve on a Single Fin.
The Twin Fin allows you more control over when to allow the tail to break out on a top turn. When the tail does break out, you seem to have a lot more control over how long you let it slide for and when to pull it back in. On Single Fins, you are often a bit out of control at this point.
Do you have to be a good wave sailor to benefit from a Twin Fin board?
No you don’t. Twin Fins are no more technique demanding than a Single Fin and in many ways easier as they flatter your technique more with their tighter turns and maintained speed.
Why is a Twin Fin better than a Single Fin?
Two main reasons:
- They make the board much looser to turn on the wave, which for advanced wave sailors allows them to ride with a much more surf orientated style (ie shorter tighter turns in the pocket of the wave) and for less experienced riders allows them to make better turns with more ease.
- Traditional Single Fin boards get difficult to turn and uncontrollable in a straightline when overpowered. The Twin Fin remains loose (even when the sail is very overpowered) which allows you to keep the board turning and prevents the sail powering up mid ride. This result of this is that you can choose to ride a bigger board for the given conditions, which gives you more range and generally makes life easier.
When is a Single Fin better than a Twin Fin?
This is a tougher question to answer. After spending so much time on these Twin Fins and having got used to the subtle differences in technique required to make the most of them, we are now struggling to make a good argument for a Single Fin. In bigger (ie mast high) waves, we believe that the Single Fins will be easier to sail as they are more directional, particularly for bottom turning, where the Twin Fins may feel a bit too loose. However, overall it is probably more a matter of adjusting your style and technique to ride with shorter, tighter turns on the wave face instead of the more traditional drawn out style.