Simon Jones on How to Make Twin Fins Sing
Old ingredients, new recipe.
Though he didn't invent them, no shaper has done more to popularise the long-railed twin fin than Simon Jones. Here, the fella behind Morning of the Earth surfboards describes why the largely overlooked design works when under the feet of a surfer like Torren Martyn.
Torren’s lines are unique: how has he influenced your boards over the past decade?
Torren is someone who’s comfortable being the person he is. That’s where you see the lines come from, which in turn kind of informs the way I’m allowed a bit of free range shaping his boards - he’s coming to the board as much as the board is coming to him. I can shape what I feel is going to be appropriate for certain waves without a really prescriptive design brief.
For example, when you see Torren standing tall taking a high line or soul arching into a bottom turn, he’s letting the board lead him. And then when he does a more powerful turn or jams into a tube, that’s the board coming around to his influence, which is where you get that uniqueness of line, one leading the other and vice-versa.
Working with Torren has supported this design path as he surfs the boards so beautifully and his surfing is so relatable to everyday surfers as well. I have always taken design elements from the past and merged them with the great leaps forward that modern shortboards have given us. In turn Torren has shown the boards I shape as solid options in a range of different conditions, which gives me the confidence to go deeper down these design paths.
How do you and Torren work together on design?
I throw the first splat of paint down, which is a design concept I want to explore, then we discuss the waves Torren has in mind, and then he expresses how previous boards have felt and what he’d like to explore on a new board.
We have a funny onomatopaeic language which is bred from our friendship that allows us to translate the feeling of surfing a board quite accurately!
It’s an open and free-flowing process. I’ve always diverged to the left with my shaping, never really wanting to just follow everyone along. That kind of thinking is almost in parallel to Torren maturing as a surfer, where he’s confident and strong enough in his own character to be who he is and surf how he feels – which is much easier and more natural than trying to emulate others.
You basically make the entire board, right? Glassing and everything...?
For many years I did everything end to end: shape and fin set, laminate and sand. Essentially, it was a great way for me to focus on the Morning of The Earth Surfboards project and provide enough to bring up a family.
As time went on, I ended up with more and more orders and I found myself in a situation where I needed a few clones of myself to keep up with the workload. The boards are now laminated by a really good group of experienced and passionate board builders up the coast. I’ve found it really great after years of working on my own to be in a collaborative realm.
It doesn’t matter what human endeavour you choose, it’s always really stimulating to be bouncing off different age groups and skill sets, and that energy with those younger and older guys and girls really adds to board design as a whole.
Do you manage to get in the water a lot? What’s your local go-to break?
When there are waves, I’ll surf. The older I get, I find it’s better to surf in brackets of under an hour - that way I’m happier with my surfing because my energy levels are right.
I love all the points around here and the beach just down from my house that I frequent when the swell is smaller. I like to treat that time down the front as relaxation. It's a walk through the bush and when you get out on the beach there’s hardly anyone and sometimes no-one – it’s just really pleasant to be there on my own or with family.
Then the points are more high energy: chatter, people in the car park, the buzz of what’s going on. It’s nice to have those two elements to my surfing landscape.
How many boards did you shape Torren for the 'Lost Track Atlantic' trip?
There was a 5’9” channel bottom, a 6’4” diamond tail, 6’6” diamond tail - both single concaves - then a 7’2” and 7’6” channel bottom.
Just before Torren left for the trip, he’d wanted to freshen up how his boards felt so we veered away from channel bottoms on a few of his boards. These were all built with longevity in mind, not overly heavy but strong, triple-stringers etcetera.
Do you shape specific quivers for Torren depending on where he’s travelling to?
It relates to being able to identify the feelings Torren is seeking in a particular location, the sort of waves where he’s travelling to, and that will inform the surfboard development.
An example of this is recently when he was focusing on some heavier, cold water waves, we reduced the amount of foam in the forward part of the board.
As a shaper, I’m lucky to collaborate with a surfer of Torren’s ability, who takes the boards to such a wide variety of incredible waves.
You and Torren have played an innovative part in developing mid-length and longer, channel bottom twin fins. How did this come about?
That moment came from an interesting meeting I had with a young Californian named Simon who was travelling around Australia on a pushbike towing a converted pram with a seven-foot, rounded pin twin-fin.
At the time I’d been doing shorter, rounded-pin twins and I was totally taken aback when I saw it, like, ‘you’re right on the money there, that thing’s insane!’ Similar to artists and musicians, I pluck ideas that make sense then develop those my own way. When I saw Simon’s 7’0” on his pushbike I saw a direction I should go in, so I shaped the first 'Massive' - a rounded-pin channel bottom, 7’11” x 21 ½” x 2 ⅞” from an 8’0” blank.
I rode it a few times and was just totally into it. I gave it to Torren to try - at the time, everything I was shaping for him was under six foot. He took it for a surf and then called me, flipping out, he couldn’t stop raving about the feelings it gave him. It was a real leap to have one of his favourite boards well north of 7 foot.
After that, we hung onto the 'Massive' for a while, then Torren took a trip to Cloudbreak to meet a big swell and I shaped him the first 'Fiji' - a 6’6” x 19 ⅞” x 2 ¾” with a triple-stringer for strength. I knew it was going to be solid and I wanted to help the boxes by embedding them in some timber.
Suddenly we found ourselves busily working developing boards in the range between 6 to 8 foot. It was just so exciting because there were so many feelings, lines, and sensations in that range, and that’s what’s really driven our work together with mid-lengths.
Twin fins are often so loose. How do you make boards that still provide plenty of drive in solid waves ?
There are a couple of different things, but I really think of them as a single fin when I put them together.
I want the rocker to be almost as flat as I can make it, and at the same time I have to incorporate the turning curve into the rail line. So, when you look down the stringer you see a pretty flat board but when you look along the rail you see the arc of the turn I want the board to go through. That flatness through the board tends to move people slightly forward so they engage a lot of rail which is sort of like adding a fin which helps to alleviate looseness and add drive. I usually shape them with channels, allowing the board to sit down in the wave face rather than skim across it like a single concave does, and I suggest that they should be ridden longer than normal.
Even though the boards are long, twin fins go through the turn like a shorter board because they’re just pivoting off that one fin on the rail - you’re not dragging another fin through the arc.
Where do you see surfboard design heading into the future?
Surfing is now in such a creative space, it’s like a firework going off in so many different directions. It’s so fascinating watching the different surfing and design going on.
Not that long ago, surfboard design was a fairly narrow playing field. Now, with so many different options, people are free to do anything and try anything. It’s just going to be fascinating to watch where it goes as people feel free to explore different design aspects that might suit their way of surfing, and the waves they’re surfing.
This will be where all the really interesting growth takes place. It’s also important to recognise when surfers, shapers, musicians, and filmmakers all come together with films like the 'Lost Track Atlantic' series. People are genuinely nourished by these films and as a result they feel inspired to explore their surfing, and boards, in their own new way.