Extraordinary Boards - Mark Richards 1980 twin fin

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

This is the first of an ongoing series which will largely showcase boards held at the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay.

In 1980 Mark Richards won his second world title. He'd go on to win two more, giving him four consecutive titles, a feat that wouldn't be surpassed for many years. And though MR won all his titles on twin fins, the boards he rode through the back half of 1980 represent the pinnacle of twin fin design. They were also among the last blast of innovation before Simon Anderson threw three fins to the wind and the surfing world adopted the Thrsuter en masse.

In 1980 there were ten contests on the world tour, four of them in Australia. The Aussie leg opened the tour and when it was over Mark Richards was easily leading the ratings. MR came third third at the Straight Talk Tyres contest at Cronulla, bagged first place at Bells, took another third at the Stubbies, plus a fifth at the Coke Surfabout.

In May MR went into his bay and shaped two boards to take with him on the rest of the tour. No typo. Two boards, hand shaped, for the whole tour - bar Hawaii of course. This board is one of those two. It's 6'4" x 19½" x 2 ½" and MR stretched the surfer/shaper tag to a vigorous new length: he shaped the board, glassed it, polished it, and then he did the finish coat too.

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“The design evolutions of the twin fins from 1978 onwards were very slight changes to an already proven design," says MR of this board. "By 1980 I was reducing the nose area and adding extra width and curve in the tail. One inch out of the nose and an extra half inch of width in the tail compared to the ’78 resulting in a much cleaner, sweeter outline curve. Thickness was being reduced and there was a definite increase in bottom rocker with slightly more nose lift and increased tail lift."

"The combination of these changes resulted in improved performance, a much livelier feel and quicker rail to rail transitions.” With the slightly pulled swallow tail, flyers with flutes, tucked under rail, and V bottom through the rear, it'd become the template for the 'classic' twin fin.

In 1979 Mark Richards opted out of the South African leg of the tour, a move driven less by politics than flagging personal motivation, with Paul Holmes from Tracks noting MR was "temporarily burned out on the contest scene". It says much for MR's dominance that he could have a mid-year hiatus and still win the world title, which he did when the tour moved to Hawaii in late '79.

But back to 1980. MR had a world title on the mantelpiece, was a runaway ratings leader, and had just shaped two of the best boards of his career. He flew to South Africa in career best form.

22-1.jpgThe Gunston 500 was held in early July and MR again came first beating Hans Hedeman in the final. MR backed up that win with another at the Hang Ten International, this time beating Cheyne Horan (incidentally the Hang Ten was where Derek Hynd lost his eye when his legrope recoiled).

While in South Africa MR teamed up with Rabbit and Cheyne for a South African Surfing Association teams event which they won, putting MR on an invincible streak through South Africa.

“I look back on that month in South Africa as possibly the pinnacle of my competitive performance,” says MR. “I had such confidence because of how well the board was handling that I felt like I couldn’t lose a heat!”

With a commanding lead, MR skipped Brazil and headed to Hawaii for the final two contests, the Pipeline Masters which he won, and the World Cup where he came second. He'd won the world title, his second in a row, convincingly. In 1979 he'd won by just 160 points, yet the difference in 1980 was over 2,000 points.

1980 was the height of surfing's innovation period. The years between 1978 and 1982 have been called surfing's second transition period, when boards went from singles to twins to thrusters. Yet innovation wasn't just limited to design, surfers also experimented with materials and construction to gain that added edge. Says MR: "By this stage I was also experimenting with combinations of 4 and 6 ounce glass, instead of all 6 ounce, so the boards were coming out a lot lighter."

1980-retro-044.jpgThe results of this were telling. Both of the May 1980 twins were snapped: the board above during a session at Merewether, while the other board, the one that MR considers his real magic board, was broken into three pieces, something he'd never seen happen before (see image at left).

The colour scheme on MR's 1980 twins captured the cultural moment. Surfers were shucking off the earthy tones of the Country Soul period, favouring the flurorescent colours of New Wave. A change that's inseperable from the birth of professionalism and its concomitant values of being noticed.

“Whether deliberate or accidental, this board represents really intelligent use of colour in the competitive environment," says Craig Baird, the curator of the Australian National Surfing Museum. "If you look at the board, each rail, the bottom and the deck are all different colours. You get a flash of colour which changes as the board is turned. MR was a conspicuously colourful competitive presence in an age when talking yourself up was seen as uncool. Thing was, he had the ability to back up all that colour with outstanding performance in the surf.”

According to MR, 1980 was the pinnacle of twin fin design. "In the evolution of a board design, there are high points, where you feel that you have it as good as it ever will be. Even though I feel that I designed some great twin fins after 1980, if I was asked to choose one twin fin to be stranded on a tropical island with perfect surf, I would take a 1980."

Unbeknownst to MR, significant design changes were afoot. The second place getter at the Pipeline Masters was Simon Anderson who just two months earlier, in October 1980, had his first surf on a Thruster and would soon prove its merit by riding it in competition.

But that's another board for another time....

Postscript: MR rode this board in Storm Riders. The section features MR surfing Merewether in his silver and orange wetsuit. It also shows the wave that snapped the board.

This board and many others equally as important are exhibited at the Australian National Surf Museum.

Comments

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 3:02pm

Legend and to think that my favourite board at present is a twin fin. Still life left in the design. More of a worry is I can remember all this stuff clear as day but can't remember stuff last week!

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 3:23pm

MR twins are currently going crazy in the vintage surfboard market...selling for over $2000 for just a ghost shaped design. Asking price for this era shaped by him I've seen listed as $7000...

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 4:02pm

Yep. Second only to MP as Australian holy grail boards

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 3:41pm

Gotta love that silver wetsuit,human lure.Good times for sure.

simba

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 4:10pm

What would the fin placement be ..at least 1 inch closer to stringer than todays twins ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 5:32pm

They're pretty narrow, eh? I'll see if I can get MR to answer.

toneranger's picture
toneranger's picture
toneranger commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 5:05pm

jeez,thanks for the good news CRG. About 2003 i was thinking my current thruster wasn't quite catching waves like it used to.[my problem,not surfboard] so i dragged out my old MR 1980 Twin fin and started surfing it again.it was a 6'4 but i thought i still needed a bit more length so i traded it in for a 7'2.got $300 for it. If only..........

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 6:31pm

And RIP Marc Hunter.

1173

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Monday, 15 Aug 2016 at 9:00pm

No disrespect to any surfer in particular ! 1978-1982 Surfing's 2nd transition period ? Bigger truth be known to locals as more than half local boardriding clubs folded.Lost their best young surfers to punk bands. Coke a cola jockstraps were left branding HERO sticker boards flapping wings in family feud reruns.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Tuesday, 16 Aug 2016 at 1:19am

Never mind the grainy VHS look, you can instantly tell the era from the body position in the picture for the clip. You just never see pro surfers there anymore. The weight distribution, the arm flail...

MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin commented Tuesday, 16 Aug 2016 at 7:11am

A true gentleman both in and out of the water. Still makes boards where "foam is your friend" for the 60+ surfer. Check out his Lone Ranger Super Twin 2 model

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Tuesday, 16 Aug 2016 at 10:53am

Q? Which 70's/80's Gold Coast 'eagle eyed' rad goofyfoot @ forefront of twin fin shaping/glassing... rode vibrant expert fluorescent 'MR' rainbow renditions('not' knockoffs !) (Clue 1)... Shielded initials D.B. (Clue 2)...Nicknamed Vege ! (Clue 3)... NBBR trophy holder. (Clue 4)...Shaped twin fins for Derby > Sky 'T&C' swirl range'. Answer for those keen to know can be fished out of surfresearch. Out of respect it's Veges story to tell...+ he gifted me boards so conflict of interest that letz you guys' answer. Good luck! Vege was hands down best twin fin shaper round these borders.(Tubeline)Tony Dempsey and (Pipedream) Zapper could also twofold a twinny to hone more power.

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer commented Tuesday, 16 Aug 2016 at 4:08pm

Who hasn't had a 'magic carpet board'?

I had a 5'10" round tail single fin in 1980 with 4 channels (medium) running through a step in the last 1-2" of the tail. Amazing board and I felt it could and did go wherever I wanted it to go. Fond memories indeed. Sold it (naively) in the thruster revolution of the early 80's and I then entered/wasted many years (about 10) in the wilderness on numerous thrusters that had heaps of drive, but were stiff and/or just straight out cantankerous. Took me a long time to find one that recaptured most of the feel I had lost from that 5'10" (thanks Mitchell)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I had the same experience with motorbikes. Rode heaps (ie 100's) of bikes courtesy of my job back then, but the best bike I ever rode by a long shot was a Laverda Jota. The bike and my brain and body were as one on the road. I could put it to within 1" of where I wanted to be; effortlessly, and riding it was like being in a floating dream.

So if you find a magic carpet, hold onto it, whatever it is, as it may not come by again.

I'll tell you about the Audi A4 another time....

Fred

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 16 Aug 2016 at 8:58pm

Most affable Aussie legend surfer of all time ?