Talking with Neal Purchase Junior, it's clear the renowned Queensland shaper is a firm believer in the design-world adage that form should follow function.
"I don't like to see crazy or wacky shit with no thought behind it, just for the sake of being weird," Purchase says. "I like to see function."
Purchase's Duo model--a voluminous egg with two raked single-fins that curve backward from parallel fin boxes--may look like "wacky shit" at a glance, but the design is no gimmick, and Purchase has made believers of surfers like Jared Mell, Harrison Roach, Chippa Wilson, and many others.
The parallel-finned design is a product of Purchase's unique perspective on shaping and surfing. As a second-generation shaper, he knows his way around a planer, and as a surfer who's featured in acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Kidman's surf movies, he also has the wave-riding talent to put his designs through the paces. Purchase came of age in the '90s, when the mainstream approach to surfing and board design was largely one-dimensional, buthas spent the last three decades branching out.
After years spent shaping and experimenting with Steve Lis-style fishes, Purchase had a nearly two-year monogamous relationship with classic single-fin designs. It was during that period of single-fin exclusivity, he says, that he began to grow increasingly interested in marrying some of the functional aspects of one-and two-finned designs; specifically, he wanted to balance the speed-generating capabilities of twin-fins with the finesse allowed by single-fins.
"Single-fins do a lot to smooth out your surfing and make things simpler," Purchase says. "But I like that extra turbo that a twin-fin gives you."
Using a blank with slight rocker and a template similar to his popular quad-fin model, the Quartet, Purchase went to work fashioning a 6’0″ x 21″ x 2-1/2″ prototype. He drew out a slight single concave up front and a more pronounced double concave through the back, then slapped down a pair of parallelsingle-fin boxes, both sitting 3 inches from the board's stringer and 7-1/2 inches from its rounded thumbtail. To fill the boxes, he chose two standard 6-1/2-inch fins with flat foil.
Footage of Purchase riding the very first incarnation of the Duo shows the goofyfooter drifting low toward the flat bottom of a mushy Indonesian left-hander before swiveling his weight over his inside rail and gracefully ascending the face to deliver explosive top turns.
"I kind of nailed it straightaway," he laughs, remembering those first sessions.
Purchase's stylish highlines and ability to casually generate speed will look familiar to anyone who has seen him surf single-fins in the past. But, as Purchase explains, the Duo allowed him to harness and use that speed more easily, which is why the design quickly became his go-to "99 percent of the time" he's in the water.
"The Duo's best attribute is being able to sit really tight in the pocket and have control at high speeds," he says. "There's none of the sketchiness or slide-y-ness that you get with a typical twin-fin. I've done a lot of tube riding on them and they feel incredible. The depth of fin helps, but also because the fins are so far from the rail, you've got two fins in the water at all times, whereas on a thruster you might only have the two inside fins in the water. You don't even have to think about slipping out."
Sunshine Coast standout Harrison Roach has been riding Duos for nearly as long as Purchase has been making them. But, like many surfers, Roach first approached the board with a healthy amount of skepticism.
"When I first saw it, I was like 'What the f–k?' because it just looked so weird," says Roach. "But it really works. A lot of people might think it's some kind of a gimmick, but it doesn't take you long to realize how special it is. It lets you draw lines and hold trim like the classic-style boards that I really love. You get all those subtle, beautiful moments in between maneuvers, but with the ability to still lay it on a rail."
Since building a prototype, Purchase has continued experimenting with the design, trying out different fin sizes and foils, finding that fins with flatter foils allow for more drive. He's also played with fin placement, moving the fins closer to the rails, as well as adding cant and toe. However, "the simpler, the better" has become his mantra when it comes to building Duos, and he often returns to the 6-inch spread (3 inches off the stringer on both sides) and parallel orientation. From Purchase's perspective, there's no sense in overcomplicating a good thing.
"I get a lot of satisfaction out of surfing these boards," says Purchase. "This is the kind of surfing I've been looking to do my whole life."
Main Photo: Burgess
[This feature is from SURFER 58.1, “Evolution,” on newsstands and available for download now.]