Twin-Fins: They Mostly Sucked

You spin me right round baby right round

| posted on May 01, 2014

Just posted the EOS twin-fin page, which sent me back, reluctantly, to the mousse-tipped and cocaine-dusted years of my late teens. Here’s what I remember best about twin-fins. They mostly sucked. Yes, MR ripped on ‘em. Dane too. And young Martin Potter. The rest of us struggled. God, we struggled. Off the bottom, twins were as reliable as a wet paper bag. Top-turning, you get a little foam between the fins, you might as well be riding a unicycle up there. All those 360s we did on twin-fins? Half were accidental.

On the plus side, all of sudden we were going 25 percent faster than we ever had on single-fins. And if you did manage to work out the twins’ complex and hypersensitive control functions, you could whip that thing up and down a defenseless small wave like a frat boy snapping freshman asses with a bathroom towel. Style didn’t much come into it. The point was to do damage. “Rip, tear and lacerate,” as the great MR himself put it.

My first session on my first twin-fin was a massive rush; almost a drug experience; speed and more speed, and a not-totally-unpleasant loss of control. Then I spent the next three years, with varying degrees of success, chasing the tiger. I would make this design work. I would figure things out. Mowed through dozens and dozens of boards. The next one, I told myself, with blinkered teenaged optimism, would be the one. And yes, a couple of those boards were close.

But no. Not really. Not if the surf got over five-foot. Not if it got hollow.

The tri-fin, for me, in a way, was an admission of defeat. My first tri-fin didn’t feel special at all. It felt reliable. Steady. Kinda stiff, actually. I went back to twins for a couple of months, which was pointless, sighed, ordered another tri-fin and stuck with it. (This was all taking place in bubbling little Southern California shorebreak waves. My counterparts in Santa Cruz or Haleiwa or Cape Town must have been climbing onto their new tri-fins like drowning men into a lifeboat.)

It didn’t take long. I learned to ride, then to love, my three-finned boards. Never set foot on a twin-fin again. To this day I have muscle-memory flashbacks, still tinged with embarrassment, of all my twin-fin pratfalls, the spin-art bottom turns and banana-peel off-the-tops. Whatever bits and pieces of good surfing I managed in my life, it was all done on tri-fins. Five times a day I kneel and bow down reverently in the direction of Narrabeen and Simon Anderson.

But my heart, or my youth, or whatever is left of my sense of rebellion—all of these things are connected, still, to the twin. Simon’s Thruster guided surfing back to center. Literally. The three-fin design was a logical, necessarily, timely design. It made sense. It moved the sport forward. All the twin-fin did, really, was napalm the single-fin. But for pampered beach kids of the late ’70s, that was enough. It felt like a revolution, and for two or three years there we cared no more about our flapping arms and spin-out turns than those dusty X-tripping first-adaptors at Burning Man cared about the order and precision of their dance moves. Ridiculous, now, looking back on it. But so totally great in the moment.


  • whamo

    Corky Carroll and Rolf Aurness brought down twin fins to Riviera Beach one summer around 1970. No one had ever seen them before. They ripped on them, Corky did airs. I struggled with one I had Terry Martin shape. They went away, then MR brought them back. The only San Clemente surfer I saw ride them well was Midget Smith. They went away, again. I saw Ben Aipa ride a mid-length board at Haliewa on one, and he ripped, in 81. I haven’t seen one in the water since.

  • Occy

    A twinny? He must think he is on the mainland or something!

  • Steven Martinez

    Like riding on ball bearings! Thank God, for Simon Anderson!!!

  • Pike Harris

    you obviously dont know about steve lis fishes

  • PDG

    For some historical perspective, from 1970…
    Corky Carroll at 1:05. Those earliest twinnies REALLY sucked! CC was a brilliant twinfin rider, so this was as good as it got back then.

  • Jake

    You clearly havent seen ryan burch at blacks in stoked and broke. Well over 5 feet and hollow as it gets. I just disagree in general with this article. I ride a normal ,5’10 thruster-looking twin all the time, and have yet had no problem with sizeable or hollow waves. Each fin setup has its advantages and disadvantages, and style is beyond the number of fins you have. Plus, in the 70’s I dont think the simmons design was implemented much at all.

  • Michael Susoeff

    I loved my twin fins and hated the thrusters. I finally setteled on a twinzer from Midget Smith in San Clemente. God rest his soul.

  • Sean Davey

    Actually, the most funnest board that I ever did have was an old G&S (Gordon and Smith) Twin fish. Damn that thing was fun and so fast…

    • smarter than you

      funnest ins’t a word. idiot

      • Jared Wallach

        ins’t isn’t a word. idiot.

  • PDG

    I lived in Pt. Loma during the late 60’s and early 70’s, and rode Newbreak regularly with Stevie, Ching and Gephardt. So the Lis fish is a keen part of my background.
    I really don’t consider the Fish as a part of the goinky, contest-oriented twin fins dealt with in this article. Fishes were, and are, so much more sophisticated in my opinion. That’s why I didn’t mention the Fish design in my original post. I just thought the old Hal Jepsen footage of Corky Carroll riding one of the early Hobie Twin fins was really interesting and worth pointing out.
    The twin fins that Rolf and Corky rode in the early 70’s were based on the Mike Eaton Bing design which was, in turn, based on the Simmons twin fin set up (toed in fins, etc.) True Lis Fishes had parallel fins, and drew much longer lines.
    Of course, this is all just personal opinion and taste, which is why this is a good discussion.

  • Rincroft Neftanger

    Though twin fins were nothing performance related for my generation, these surfers had to try something they probably felt similarly indifferent about, they had to experience it and for their uncanny ability to show there is something better, they should be saluted.

  • Harry

    Just ordered a twin…Stoked!!!

  • Sam

    Posting an article that says boards with only two fins “mostly suck”, the day after running a Derek Hynd spotlight, seems weird.

  • SK

    Some of us had great ones. I had magic ones from Schroff, Rusty, and Tom Eberly. Rode them in some pretty good surf, La Jolla reefs, and Blacks

    • TJ Hancock

      Just read the article and reviewed the posts. I cannot help but reflect on my own personal experience regarding the aforementioned topic.

      First, I loved riding twin fins. I also enjoyed riding the fish inspired design when they became available in the early 70’s. Probably the most enjoyable board I rode back then was a Hobie Positive Force IV which I bought in Dana Point used. It’s also the one board I wish I’d kept. Funny, I have absolutely no idea what I did with it.

      There’s another element to the article and the ensuing dialog which I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on. Let me preface something before I share my following thoughts. How I feel about something or what I believed I experienced doesn’t mean it’s fact, nor does it mean that it’s right or wrong. It was my experience and I gave it meaning.

      Discrimination and/or bias. Yep, that’s it. Would it matter to me now, no. Did it matter to me when I was a young punk back in the 70’s, yes. I wish I hadn’t let it affect me, but it did, couldn’t escape it. By the mid 70’s riding a twin fin became uncool, obsolete. Times were changing, designs were changing and attitudes seemed to followed suit. The waters were not especially welcoming let alone for one showing up on a twin.

      The last board I bought before I quit surfing altogether was a longer single fin. I did this more out of obligation than out of desire. I rode it (wiped out) one time next to Huntington Pier, got out of the water, gave the board away and didn’t return for 30 years. Regardless, it was my time to go. The bias I felt simply hastened my exit.

      Due to my youngest daughter’s desire to personally watch (experience) the US Open of Surfing maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I highly doubt I’d have ever got back in the water. I did and I’ve been surfing since and loving it. Best of all, rather than owning one board (which was all I could afford when I was young) I now own 11. Twins? Hell yes! Most of my quiver are twins and fishes. I still love the way they ride. What people think? Who cares.


  • Chris

    Love twin fins for everyday suf. Having grown up on thrusters, I had exactly the opposite revelation when I first surfed a twin. With refinements to the rails, outline, rocker, and larger fins you get speed and flow with all the drive and control. Surfing on thrusters seems slow, forced, and predictable now, but it’s still what suits in larger, hollower surf when having the center fin slow you down is advantageous.

    • Don Diego

      go fuck yourself you fuckin hipster piece of shit

      • Bert

        Spoken like a true kook don diego. You probably suck balls surfing huh?

      • internet_rapist

        oxygen thief

  • Mark Gregory

    I remember those trunks too…

  • srfmstr

    learned to surf on a CC Spacestick. It was stable and could turn easily. certainly, my surfing progressed further on a single fin, but that was probably due to the natural progression of experience. During that period, pigs, guns, semi guns, spears, logs, tri fins, diamond tails, swallows etc. in all sorts of variation were everywhere. Length and width of board seemed to matter more. But I don’t think twin fins sucked. It was a necessary step in the progression of design. Certainly the fish is a proven design. Hard to ride? maybe. but so was the bonzer. The Bonzer (Campbell brothers) is the unsung hero of the shortboard revolution. And all were necessary steps to get to the thruster. good on Simon Anderson to figure that out.

  • Ryan Polfer lets get back to the single fin discussion

  • Robert Higgins

    I watched Rolf Arness surf one in solid Haleiwa and he smoked everyone else in the water..he was so much better than everyone else and I was shocked to see a twin fin under his arm when he came in…he let me look at it…and the design was burned into my brain…and shaped one as soon as I got back to the mainland, it was a magic board.

    Although it absolutely sucked in high thickness…that was the true achilles heel to me of these boards.

  • Jimmy the Saint

    I think I have had more fun on a twin fin fish than any thruster set up, just can’t stop smiling when I get it flying down the line…

  • Stephanie Gillmore

    This is an insult to surfing intellegence. The moniker is based off Christian Lassen surfing Nias on a twinny back in the 80s and his poor impersonation of Peter Fonda-acting, Easy Rider from beetlike era gone lost.

  • Bigballs

    Looks like, for the most part, the majority of people commenting seem to disagree with the writer of the article. Interesting. Not everything published on the Internet (or in magazines) must be true.

  • Um yeah

    What a minute, is that why Mark Richards was the honeree at the 2012 Boardroom expo….because the boards sucked?

  • Pavlo

    I learned to surf on one of Mark Richards’ original twin fins in the late 70’s early 80’s in Australia. It was a great board in anything up to 4′ to 5′. Should’ve kept that board… MR was freak in his day.

  • internet_rapist

    very questionable article this one

  • Mik

    I transitioned from a 6’7″ Malcom Campbell Bonzer (great bottom turn and tube machine), to a 6′ Pearson Arrow twin. Bob Pearson had twin fins so dialed then (81′). Best rail to rail bottom turning board I think I ever owned, even though I love Thrusters so much now that I don’t even think of going back. So yeah Matt, I’m with you on this. Cool article. BTW: i road that little Twin in 15′ Middle Peak Lane surf, no problem. Bob’s twins had pronounced Vee in the tail, and with a round or pin tail, there was no sliding-out on the wave face, although off the lips could be less precise.

  • whamo

    I have to laugh. I struggled with my Terry Martin shape twin. I had to get one after seeing Rolf and Corky tear Riviera apart with them. On long perfect Trestles the thing would track in the curve of the wave. That was the summer of 1970.

  • Mo Denaro

    At 1st, I thought you were wrong……… But then have to agree. All my friends and I rode Midgets twin fins in the late 70’s. You could not go to the pier or anywhere in town without seeing ’em. Most were under 6′. Everyone moved to thrusters in the 80’s. But you are right, it was a pretty magic moment in time. The quickness made you forget about looking like an idiot when both fins popped out at the worst possible moment.

  • twinny

    its all about rail not about how many fins you have

  • DW

    I surf a twin fin in newport every time we have small offshore wind days. Santa Ana conditions. It’s a heavier glass job that doesn’t get affected by the wind pushing upwards during the takeoff. I can thread through small tubes easy without the nose getting pushed back up. We don’t get winds like that all the time but the twin fin is very user friendly for the right conditions. Will say though that I surf on a thruster 98% of the time. On days that are 2-4 I surf the twin every now and then.

  • luke

    He must have been riding some shitty twins, a well designed fish with properly sized fins cant be beat in most waves under 8 foot.