Two Fins Changed My Life
I recently heard Kelly Slater say, “If you're an intermediate level surfer you should surf a big wide board and surf comfortable waves”. The idea, I presume is to surf the board and the wave repeatedly and well. To build fundamental skills and confidence.
A common problem with many intermediate surfers is that we think we are better than we are. We think we are too good for bigger boards or softer waves. We all have those friends who think they're too good for a certain surf spot or type of board. Usually a spot that has a mellow reputation or is considered a beginner spot. Or they only want to ride the same brand of boards that the pros are riding on the championship tour. Until said friend is repeatedly ripping smooth, flawless cutbacks and getting close out barrels on the inside then they are not too good for any wave or indeed any board, the same goes for us all.
I enjoy riding all types of boards and often browse websites looking at the latest and greatest designs. One of the most common descriptions I read is the classic cliché, “Paddles like a longboard, turns like a short board.” Great, that’s the board I have been searching for my whole life. I'm the lifelong intermediate surfer in my mid-thirties so any help I can get with paddling and catching waves is well appreciated, especially if I can still turn on a dime. Unfortunately, through experience, I have learned that the paddles like a longboard, turns like a shortboard description is utter nonsense.
I have tried numerous boards that promised this over the years. Boards that claimed to be the holy grail, that I could paddle easily, duck dive and put some responsive turns together. But the truth was, I was in denial. You can't have the best of both worlds. Logically, for every step you take towards a short board, you lose some characteristics of a longboard and vice versa. I ended up surfing numerous fun boards and mid lengths for some years. In my early twenties, I had the most fun on a 6’0 Mayhem Round Nosed Fish set up as a thruster, it still had more in common with a modern short board, but it helped me develop a style of surfing I enjoyed. Then, once I hit my thirties everything changed
A few years ago, on a rainy, fall evening I decided to watch a documentary. The movie was simply called Fish. It was a documentary about the original Steve Lis fish surfboards from the 1960s and 70s. The particular fish design in the movie started life as a knee board and evolved into a surfboard. I sat for two hours glued to my TV screen like a parishioner in church. I was completely sold. The surfing in the movie was so graceful and stylish. It looked obtainable for my intermediate skill set as well a appearing fun and rewarding. The surfers in the movie were drawing neat and beautiful lines with speed and flow. It looked like longboarding but with quick and balletic like direction changes. They were putting their short, flat boards all over the wave. From that moment on, I decided that was how I wanted to surf for the rest of my life. The next day I got up and headed straight to my local surf shop and purchased a Lis inspired fish, complete with twin keel fins.
That same morning, I proved my own point about intermediate surfers thinking we are better than we are. I paddled out on my brand-new fish, thinking I was going to dance around the waves like Rob Machado. Instead, I got to my feet on my first wave and felt like I was driving an old car on an ice rink. The tail slid around a lot. I surfed more like MC Hammer than Rob Machado. There is an art to riding a twin fin, you must surf on your rails and use the wave sections wisely, often taking high lines for speed, while staying low on the board. Riding a twin fin can humble you but also make you a better surfer. The board nags at you to understand the fundamentals of turning a surfboard, much like a longboard. It took some time but as the months progressed, I fell in love with the board and the way it demanded to be surfed. I almost felt like I was cheating, I could surf mushy, fat and flat waves and still generate speed. When everyone else was taking out a log or foamy, I would take the twin and still catch waves. I would take my twinny out in any conditions up to head high. I had found the holy grail and it was the most fun I had ever had on a surfboard.
After two years of surfing the keel fin, I decided to order a new board. This time I worked with Simon Day, head shaper at Fitzroy Surfboards in England. I initially wanted another keel twin fin based on Steve Lis’ design. Simon had other ideas and sent me back a mockup of something a little more modern. When I say modern, I mean late 1970’s. It was a twin fin for sure. A wide nose, flat rocker and thick rails. But he added a cutaway and a deep, wide swallow tail. Combined with some XL Mark Richards fins, this board became the best board I have ever ridden for two reasons.
The first reason being the fun factor, I can get into waves relatively early and surf over flatter sections with speed and flow. More waves equal more fun, more practice and more stand up time to work on turns. The cutaway tail also means sharper turns than the Lis design, meaning more movement and responsiveness, which is always fun. The second reason is progression. I have progressed my surfing more than ever before on this board, it’s a board the dictates real surfing and makes me want to surf always.
A twin fin is a must have for any surfboard quiver. For me, there is no better board for an intermediate level surfer. Depending on what style of surfing you are reaching for, a twin fin has everything to help you progress and enjoy surfing. The wide nose and thicker rails help with catching waves early and makes paddling easier, something we can all benefit from, especially if you don’t get to surf as much as you would like. The flat rocker and wide tail mean more speed, even on average or smaller waves. Most of us are not surfing steep barreling waves every day. We are more than likely taking what we are given at our local beach break. A faster board will help you cruise through flat sections and will only benefit your surfing in the long run. Lastly, learning to be delicate but tough with your turns and rails will improve your carves and cutbacks tenfold. Turning a twinny is all about the fundamentals of surfing, using the rail and gliding through your turns is something most intermediates need to practice.
Lately, I have seen an increase in twin style fishes in the lineups. The major shapers and brands have all caught on to the trend and have all released a version. Twinnies have been around for decades and everyone knows about them. However, I almost feel annoyed when I see so many in a lineup. The selfish side of me knows that those other guys and girls are going to be able to catch more waves now. It almost felt like I had unlocked a secret cheat code and now everyone knows. It’s like a having a secret longboard and to be honest, and it kind of does “paddle like a longboard and turn like a shortboard”.
I almost wrote an article titled “Never Buy a Twin Fin”. In the end I figured I’d be honest. The truth is, twin fin fishes are the best choice for most intermediate surfers. There, I said it. Go buy a twin fin and thank me later. In fact you can now buy the exact twin fin I designed with Fitzroy Surfboards as it's going into production to be sold as a 2019 stock model!
Check it out in action in Sri Lanka here...
And order your own here.. .