The Long History Of The Modern Twin
Once considered a redundant design, relegated to museum piece by the Thruster, the twin fin has had a modern resurgence.
In fact, it’s had a number of resurgences.
First, the fish revival of the nineties, then the retro reboot of late-70s twins, and more recently - and arguably the most fascinating of all - is the interest in longer-railed twins.
As opposed to late-70s twins made famous by Mark Richards’, which sported double-flyer swallowtails, this latest iteration of twins has a wholly different planshape. For one, they have a narrower nose than their MR counterparts, plus more parallel rails, and down the back they’re distinguished by pintails, or rounded pintails. Channels are another difference; they’re under most modern versions but were seldom seen on late-70s twins - Byrne Surfboards clinker channels notwithstanding, but we’ll hear more about that shortly.
The design was popularised by shapers such as Gary McNeil and Simon Jones, spreading through the more accepting lineups of Byron and Noosa, but they’re now present everywhere. Even those arbiters of hifi surfing, JS Industries, have a rounded twin in their quiver - the Big Baron - so it’s safe to say we’ve hit saturation point.
As is the way with surfboard design, Swellnet likes to dive into the historical records, paddling our way upstream, where we can dips our lid to the pioneers of various designs. We’ll do the same for the twin pintail shortly, but first we called up Gary McNeil to provide an overview of the design.
“I’m a child of the eighties,” says Gaz after we’d exchanged pleasantries, “and surfing then was all about power. How hard can you turn?!”
“The problem was, I loved my twinnies too," says Gaz, noting the twins propensity to spin out.
Before he was an in-demand North Coast shaper, Gaz was a hot Wollongong surfer, often photographed by Mick McCormack at the ledges and points of his hometown. While most around him were on Thrusters, Gaz surfed a twinny despite their shortcomings.
“Those early twins had three things wrong with them,” explains Gaz. “They had too much vee, the deck was too flat giving them boxy rails, and the fins were so splayed out they were hard to control.”
On the latter, Gaz has a bit to say. “Phil Byrne was miles ahead of his time. MR had the four world titles, and they can’t be discounted, but what Phil did with clinker channels is to bring some control back to the tail and that thinking can be found in modern twins.”
Gary made what he calls his first modern twin fin back in 2006. It was a moon tail twin with torus channel for Dave Rastovich. Rasta promptly ignored the board for a year, then, when he remembered he had it, rode the board once and was hooked for the next three years.
In 2006, surfboard design was in one of its more cautious stages. AI and Kelly were trading world titles, their equipment was refined but unadventurous, the ‘shorter board’ revolution, as exemplified by Slater’s Wizard Sleeve, was still a year or two away.
I asked Gary what motivated him to go against the grain and shape something unlike the order of the day. He was quick with his answer.
“Two things, mate. The first is that I’ve always liked twinnies and I wanted to make one that would hold. The second thing is that I just wanted to do something that was different.”
Rodney ‘Weasel’ Bedford
In 1978, Weasel was the South Australian state champion and shaping under the Sunrise label. He headed west to Margaret River for the Aussie titles, then continued on around Oz, stopping six months later at Byron Bay to glass at Sky Surfboards under Michael Cundith where he saw his first twins. Weasel liked what he saw.
“Everyone else was doing singles, but Michael did twins with a belly concave, which reduces rail thickness. Most twinnies had a flat deck and were fairly meaty in the rails, but Michael’s weren’t.”
Weasel suggests reduced rail thickness as one of the greatest developments in board design. “It just allows you to get the rail into the water easier, which then allows the board to do all these things we want it too.”
Heading back to South Oz, Weasel started up Lipstix, which he ran for a few years before shaping under Cutloose, then spending some time at Gravelle, moving on later to 100% Surf. It’s at Lipstix, however, that Weasel’s story intersects with that of the modern twin.
“That Lipstix board you’ve got a photo of would’ve been shaped around 1980, or maybe even 1981,” explains Weasel.
“I shaped plenty of swallowtail twins back then,” says Weasel of the years 1979 to 1983, “but I also shaped many pintail twins too, and that was all to do with my surfing. You see, I struggled surfing twin fins on my backside.”
“I’m a goofyfooter and I was spending a lot of time at Cactus, and once it got over a few feet I couldn’t control the tail of a twin fin. Reducing the tail area, making it a pintail, was my solution to that problem.”
“I made it so the tail would hold in.”
That same solution was sought by Gary McNeil in 2006 and is evident in all the modern twins currently being made.
Nick 'Maz' Masarin
Like Weasel, Nick Maz is another shaper who roamed far and wide. He began shaping in the early-70s with his Buddha Sticks label, then Maui Surfboards, and later shaping for Living Water. Nick was also a highly sought after ghost shaper for many Gold Coast labels.
However, Nick didn't merely roam to physical locations, he also allowed his imagination to take him to new places, always toying with unique ideas and concepts. If something hadn't been done before then he was willing to give it a go.
“Some of the boards I’ve made over the years aren’t pretty,” laughs Nick. “But then everything that’s new looks weird, doesn’t it?”
“It’s always been the way with me; I don’t want to copy someone else's ideas, so I’ll work with what they’ve got but put my own spin on it.”
That mode of thinking led Nick to shape the Living Water board, pictured below, in the late-70s.
“At the time I was shaping a few twins with swallow tails, but I knew how they went, so I wanted to experiment with different tails - see how they rode.”
“I shaped twins with swallowtails - did plenty of those - but I also shaped them with pintails, round tails, and even did a square tail. I also dropped channels into some of those twins."
Nick's unrelenting curiousity drove him to create a board that, in both planshape and features, carries the DNA for the modern twin.
Though his shaping output has slowed, the channel twin is a board he still works on - his Instagram feed is testament to that - yet very few people realise that this modern design was first made by Nick four decades ago.
Off The Wall surfboards
While researching this article, we came across the following board in an Instagram post - see pic below.
The board was made in South Australia under the Off The Wall label, and most likely shaped by an American named Harry Connors. Further investigation, however, led nowhere.
It'd be nice to know what thought processes drove Harry to mix a rounded pin to a twin fin config, not just bucking the design trends of the day (the board looks late-70s), but presaging them by many decades.