Lifting the lid on big wave twins with Simon Jones
They've been used to rip, tear, and lacerate small waves, they've sent a million fish on a high line glide, and they're back in vogue in a big way. I speak of twin fins, of course. Twinnys are currently enjoying a design resurgence on the back of retro planshapes. Yet there are a few shapers who think this re-examination could lead to fresh ground being broken, that the twinny came and went so quick it's potential wasn't fulfilled, particularly in bigger waves.
Simon Jones is the fella behind Morning Of The Earth Surfboards and he's one such shaper. He recently spoke to Alex Workman about big wave twins.
Swellnet: It seems the twin fin is having somewhat of a revival Simon, why so?
Simon Jones: I think essentially there are a couple of reasons. If you add a little bit more foam to people’s surfing their enjoyment level greatly increases. The other point is because you have only those two fins they’re very similar to a single fin in that they glide and have natural speed because there’s very little drag. So when you’re running and gliding they do feel quicker. They take out the little check turns people have to do on low volume thrusters to keep activating the board so it keeps moving. A little bit of foam and less fins will glide—and that’s a feeling that’s really attractive to people. So many people have grown up surfing and haven’t had that feeling and are so entranced when they actually get it. Like, ‘Oh my god this is a really heavenly feeling’.
The popular iteration of the twin fin is more of a zappy, small wave board. Do you think the potential of the design was never fulfilled?
I think the focus was taken away from twin fins after Simon in 81’. I guess the other thing that has kept them hidden away from the mainstream is that they have been associated with the fish. So a lot of attention did go away from them in seeing where you could take them.
Ben Aipa shaped some big wave twins in the 70s and more recently Santa Cruz surfer Anthony Tashnick has been known to ride twin fin guns at Mavericks. Who else has pushed the boundaries of the design?
You’d have to tip your hat to Dick Van [Straalen] and Rasta [Dave Rastovich]. Those guys spent a lot of time digging around on them in the early 2000s. I remember seeing a couple of really long keels of Dick Van’s in the Takayama factory that would have been in the 8-plus, maybe even 9-plus, realm that looked really interesting. I remember thinking that they looked like a big long fish because they were still so parallel and had the wide tail. I’m sure they would have to crank in big waves. On rail they would just be like surfing a big, long pintail. I remember being quite inspired when I saw those.
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I know you have developed step up models of your conventional twins but you also made a 7’10 recently. What was the seed of that idea?
I remember surfing one particular spot in Hawaii a few times and there were these old guys out there well into their sixties and they were all pushing it in big waves. They all had the funkiest boards. They were sort of a mixture of the 90s and the 70s all smashed together. They were really long and raked and had nose rocker in them and that really rolled deck so there was a lot of foam in them. They were real paddling machines.
I also had in mind bigger Lennox when it’s all sweepy but you do see waves and think, ‘Oh my god if I could just be there I’m on’. But if you’re riding a board that’s essentially a shortboard … you hop in, you get dragged down the point then you paddle all the way back up the point and can’t position yourself quickly if you want to tuck yourself back in on the inside. There’s this current pulling you all the way back down the point. It becomes this game of, ‘I’m exhausted, where do I sit here?’
I was like, I’m just going to make this massive twinny that you can sit wherever and position yourself quickly then be on a board that’s really solid underfoot so that even if it’s really windy, bumpy, and steppy like those Hawaiian surfs you just kind of ‘booph’ and cruise through the bumps like you’re riding in a Cadillac.
How does your approach differ when shaping a board like that compared to a conventional twin fin?
Whenever I do anything for the first time or I’m making a major change you certainly have to put away that idea that you’re going to shape this in an hour and a half. You’ve got to relax and tell yourself this is going to be a really fun process. You go about it in the way you enjoy a good meal rather than rushing through it because you’ve got to be somewhere. I think that is the main thing. It’s funny how you can do an injustice to something by not giving it just another twenty minutes or another hour. You get so much more if you just stand back and take your time—especially if it’s something new.
"I firmly believe that channels are a really important part of a good twinny," - Simon Jones
Can you elaborate on the design process?
I had started doing some of the rounded pin twins and I had ridden one that Torren broke and it was quite loopy and the turns would connect together really well. It reminded me of good longer thrusters—specifically the feel of the connections through turns. I wanted to keep the familiarity of the feel between the shorter ones and the longer ones. So I was like, ‘OK, it’s gotta be a big twinny’. Then it was also about getting the fins in the right spot. The little mind games you play in your head about where fins should be mainly come down to feel and look. But again the important thing about the 7’10” was that it felt familiar to the shorter ones. If you had that set up as a single fin or a widowmaker the back fin is essentially further back and it gives it that pivoty feel. Which is what I wanted to get away from. I wanted that twin fin glide and that real loopy, connecty-turn feel that they have
That’s the great thing about having them set up as a twin fin because the fins are further forward than where they would be if it was a single or a widowmaker. I think that’s the really defining point about them—that they are really familiar to your shorter stuff when they are on rail.
What was the reaction when you unveiled it?
A lot of people were freaked by it. They were like, "What the fuck is that?" It wasn’t like I was the first person to do it because there’s Dick Van, Takayama, and others that I’m sure have done it. But it was something that was unfamiliar to a lot of people around. Especially Torren. When he first took it he was like, "I want to take that for sure". I remember getting a couple of texts from him and he was saying, "Man, I can’t get it out of this car park people are just crawling all over this thing".
It certainly gets a lot of attention.
The channels are an interesting addition. Why are they so significant on your step up twins?
I firmly believe that channels are a really important part of a good twinny. Not so much twinnys that you want to ride up to head high. Because the bottom on those boards provide a lofty, floaty, dreamy feel where they’re just skipping like a skimming stone. But when you do want to start pushing them and you don’t have that back fin, or two back fins, then hold becomes important. If you do those channels really nice and deep, especially out the tail, you have kind of replaced those back fins but in a manner that won’t drag. There’s no drag at all. There’s no object being held in the water it’s just the actual form that’s got the hold. I think that is a really crucial part to all the twinnys I do with the channels. They hold in.
Channels are rows of little fins in a way but they don’t drag—which is why they feel so quick. They have that really slick feel about them.
You’ve dubbed the board ‘The Massive’ – what an appropriate name.
[Laughs]. Another mate of ours who is a shaper, Paul Hutchinson, used to have a board that he called The Massive and I thought it was such a funny name. So I’ve actually pinched that off him.
What went through your mind when you saw footage of Torren surface on ‘The Massive’ on that Central American point?
It was a bit of a blow out for sure. I’d seen him ride it at small Lennox late one arvo and I remember seeing him do one bottom turn and he’d just held both arms out and done the full Jesus Christ pose. The wave was just this ugly thing and then here’s this apparition just flying around it and he’s going to make this section. It just looked so elegant.
One of the first waves from that trip to Central America he almost does one of those similar bottom turns. He’s very upright and he holds both arms out and it’s almost a little moment of orgasm. I kept wanting to go back and watch that turn. The three-second highlight for me was that bottom turn. It was pretty amazing.
Torren Martyn on one of Simon's 7'10" twins in Central America
Do you feel there is room for you to push the design further?
I think there’s a huge scope for it to be developed further. I think one of the most attractive points for me is that they have that super quick, slick feeling where there’s just so much running speed. The board just has natural speed. You throw them in the water and they just glide and glide and glide. It’s a strange thing.
I notice you have a rack of three 7’10 channel bottom twin fins sitting there waiting to be glassed. Following Torren’s clip is there in an interest out there from the general public?
It’s really funny. At first you get a couple of people who are really onto it and they just have to have one. But generally it’s actually fairly kind of subdued when you do new things. It’s not like Torren posts that video and all of a sudden you’ve got to make twenty of them. You just get these nibbles from these weird corners. Usually it’s not until really eight months or a year later and you see this bump with it. It’s almost like whether people are really cautious or want to see it themselves. That’s when you get a bump and it becomes a steady part of what you do. The ones I’ve got down in the shed are direct responses from those posts on social media.
The Thruster and more recently the quad have been the dominant fin configurations for big waves. Do twin fins have a place in a big wave line up?
I think where the bigger twinnys place maybe in the fact that maybe the board has an ability to actually—with a lot of ease—go to some fresher places in some bigger waves but also be able to remain back in the hook because they have that really familiar on rail feel. They have more running speed than a multi-fin board but at the same time they’re going to have the hold. Because if you do the channels right and they’re really dug in and that tail is really seeded in the wave you’re not going to slide our or anything like that.