Simon Jones: On shaping a twinny for Shippies
Earlier this week, the fourth and final episode of Lost Track Atlantic was released, thus ending vicarious travel for grounded Aussie surfers. Circumstances made the series sing, but even if it weren't for COVID the project would've recieved high praise as it combined a raft of talented folk all contributing their best work.
The last passage of the film saw Torren back in Terra Australis, trudging down Tunnel Bay Track towards Shipsterns Bluff. Triple-stringer, flat-rockered 6'8" under his arm, two fins off the tail - not your usual Shippies stick.
Yet it worked for the big fella. And it impressed me enough to dial up Simon Jones, Torren's shaper, and ask what went into that board and why. As is often the case, that was merely the starting point for the conversation.
(All photos are framegrabs from Lost Track Atlantic: Episode 4)
Swellnet: I got a real surprise watching the end of Episode 4 and seeing Torren surfing double overhead Shippies - a very different wave to anything else in the series. How did you approach shaping that board?
Simon: The main thing I did was pull a bit of volume out of the nose of the board. Other than that, I really didn't change that much at all.
What about the tail? Torren’s boards have a fairly wide, round tail, a lot of volume there and that’s not something you want in slabby waves.
Well, that board was longer. That one was 6'8",whereas the most common ones that you see are kind of back around 6'6". So they do get a little pulled, they do get sort of stretched out a little.
Did Torren tell you that he was planning to surf Shippies?
And have you ever shaped a board for a wave like that before?
No, not really. Well, some of the shorter boards I've done for him have been for really slabby conditions - like waves that are sucky, slabby, with uneven textures in them. I'm pretty familiar with those waves, just not in the realm that Shipstern's is in.
The one thing that did concern me was the step there. We discussed that, and I remember just saying, ‘make sure you're really on the back foot for that’. He has to be because the boards are flatter, but I also think the flatness helped his positioning for when he was actually approaching the step.
What was the theory behind taking the volume out of the nose?
Oh, that was because you want a board to fall into waves. You don't necessarily want to be a hard object paddling the waves; you want it to almost just get sucked into a wave, like a body surfer or something.
And depending on the wave, if you've got a short window that you have to approach the takeoff, you kind of pull more volume out of the nose of the board so that it falls in quicker. There are a few other things to consider, like the surfer, et cetera., but that was a situation where, yeah, we pulled some volume out of its thickness, and a little bit out of the width too so that it did fall into the wave.
Ordinarily, Torren will walk around on the board a little bit. He's known for that forward shuffle that he does, but Shippie's is not a wave that lends itself to that style of surfing. So there's probably less need for volume further up anyway, isn't there?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you want the board to knife into the wave easily, like that fall that you have where your toes aren't as strong as the engagement you have through your heels and back end.
So you need to reduce the nose area so it's got as much control as possible.
What were your thoughts when you first saw the footage of Torren riding that board there?
What were my thoughts? We watched it a couple of months back. Ishka sent me some footage and I was just in awe of his capacity to front up and do it.
What about that water footage, looking back in, and you could see the board knifing in. You could see the rail engaging in very steep sections of the wave. That must have been gratifying.
Yeah. It is. I mean, over the years we've done a lot together, and I was pretty confident that the rail shape that I had in mind was going to do the job needed to hold in. There's some footage at Nias from several years back, where he’s riding it significantly overhead on a 6'1".
That was a rail shape that I'd been doing for many years anyway, but it was interesting when I saw that Nias footage, like essentially riding a pretty tiny board, and the hold that it had. So I was pretty confident that it was going to hold in. The one area where I was hesitant was the lower nose entry. Because everyone's obviously riding pretty much contemporary shortboard widths, and usually around 6'4" I think that they’re riding out there when paddling in.
Obviously the noses have a little bit more hook to avoid catching, but he seemed to negotiate that easily.
Yeah, he did. He did. I was waiting for a time when the flatness of the board might catch him out, but it didn't happen.
Yeah. Interesting thing with that flatness, too, that it tends to kind of bulldoze their way through quite a lot of interference in the wave face. Especially having the board weighted a bit more. So if it does catch the uneven water across those leading edges, they don't tend to lose speed, they just kind of keep going.
The momentum carries them through.
Yeah. And so the feeling underfoot is pretty secure.
This was new territory for the design. What are your thoughts on the design itself: Do you feel that what you're building, and also the whole long-railed twin fin movement, is something new, something truly unique?
(Very long pause)....Oh look, any kind of human endeavour involves picking fruit from here or there. A lot of the ideas that I put into my boards, they’re a culmination of many years of building boards, looking at other people’s boards, feeling them, surfing them, all that sort of thing, so I wouldn't say I've invented the wheel or anything like that. Like, one of the earliest influences that still remain in my boards are the kneeboards rockers of the late '70s and early '80s. They're single fin rockers.
Also, the shaping that Greg Clough was doing in that same period, where he was doing round pin twin fins. I always remember those boards, especially the ones he made with Barton Lynch. I thought that the surfing Barton was doing on them really stood out. And the boards themselves, they just looked correct.
I don't know whether you can say it’s unique. We all pick up the things that stimulate us, yet at the same time I think outright copying is just rubbish. Individuals should move forward on their own path, maybe picking up influences from here and there, but it’s how you put all those things together.
...I don’t know. I'm certainly not the first person in the world to make a twin fin with channels. I just provided my particular take on it.
Well, Simon Anderson wasn't the first person to put three fins on a board.
Five or so years ago I thought the twin fin was a dead end design, limited only to fish and the odd retro board, but what's happening between yourself and, say Gary McNeill and a few other shapers, is that there are green shoots on an old idea. It's really invigorating to watch.
It is. It's exciting times, for sure. I think probably out of all of it, I'm just really grateful and appreciative that I can be a part of it. It’s all collaborative, you know. Like all these things we’re talking about are super collaborative. If it wasn't for Ryan [Scanlon - needessentials founder] making the wetsuits and funding the films, this stuff would still filter out into the world, except now all those bits and pieces are put together in this movie, and it’s huge. For us all to sit down and watch all those films, it's just an incredible thing.
It’s a real mix of talent, hey? Ishka with his filming, Torren with his surfing, you with your shaping and...
And I'm gonna have to mention Murray Patterson and Headland too.
Of course! The music was incredible.
So in regards to your question about being unique, I think collaborations are the most powerful things. Sure you can have individuals playing their part, but nothing happens in isolation, there’s always a supporting factor. Same as in board design or with this movie.