Twin-Fins: They Mostly Sucked

You spin me right round baby right round

Just posted the EOS twin-fin page, which sent me back, reluctantly, to the mousse-tipped and cocaine-dusted years of my late teens. Here’s what I remember best about twin-fins. They mostly sucked. Yes, MR ripped on ‘em. Dane too. And young Martin Potter. The rest of us struggled. God, we struggled. Off the bottom, twins were as reliable as a wet paper bag. Top-turning, you get a little foam between the fins, you might as well be riding a unicycle up there. All those 360s we did on twin-fins? Half were accidental.

On the plus side, all of sudden we were going 25 percent faster than we ever had on single-fins. And if you did manage to work out the twins’ complex and hypersensitive control functions, you could whip that thing up and down a defenseless small wave like a frat boy snapping freshman asses with a bathroom towel. Style didn’t much come into it. The point was to do damage. “Rip, tear and lacerate,” as the great MR himself put it.

My first session on my first twin-fin was a massive rush; almost a drug experience; speed and more speed, and a not-totally-unpleasant loss of control. Then I spent the next three years, with varying degrees of success, chasing the tiger. I would make this design work. I would figure things out. Mowed through dozens and dozens of boards. The next one, I told myself, with blinkered teenaged optimism, would be the one. And yes, a couple of those boards were close.

But no. Not really. Not if the surf got over five-foot. Not if it got hollow.

The tri-fin, for me, in a way, was an admission of defeat. My first tri-fin didn’t feel special at all. It felt reliable. Steady. Kinda stiff, actually. I went back to twins for a couple of months, which was pointless, sighed, ordered another tri-fin and stuck with it. (This was all taking place in bubbling little Southern California shorebreak waves. My counterparts in Santa Cruz or Haleiwa or Cape Town must have been climbing onto their new tri-fins like drowning men into a lifeboat.)

It didn’t take long. I learned to ride, then to love, my three-finned boards. Never set foot on a twin-fin again. To this day I have muscle-memory flashbacks, still tinged with embarrassment, of all my twin-fin pratfalls, the spin-art bottom turns and banana-peel off-the-tops. Whatever bits and pieces of good surfing I managed in my life, it was all done on tri-fins. Five times a day I kneel and bow down reverently in the direction of Narrabeen and Simon Anderson.

But my heart, or my youth, or whatever is left of my sense of rebellion—all of these things are connected, still, to the twin. Simon’s Thruster guided surfing back to center. Literally. The three-fin design was a logical, necessarily, timely design. It made sense. It moved the sport forward. All the twin-fin did, really, was napalm the single-fin. But for pampered beach kids of the late ’70s, that was enough. It felt like a revolution, and for two or three years there we cared no more about our flapping arms and spin-out turns than those dusty X-tripping first-adaptors at Burning Man cared about the order and precision of their dance moves. Ridiculous, now, looking back on it. But so totally great in the moment.