HANDS ON Board Builder Profile: Marlin Bacon

Marlin Bacon has been crafting high performance wooden fins, and he can barely keep up with demand. They’re light. They’re strong. And they have caught the attention of the San Diego surf community as well as us here at SURFER. I recently test drove a board with Marlin’s wooden performance fins and was impressed. Here’s a quick look at the face behind the fins.Scott Bass

WISDOM: 46 Years

GROMHOOD: Newport Beach

SURFING STYLES: MR; Hugh Johnson; Schroff; Pottz

FAMILY TREE: Peter Schroff was a definite influence. But honestly I had no one take me under their wing in the traditional sense of mentoring. If somebody would let me watch them shape I considered that mentoring and I was stoked. Gary McNabb is a shaper who comes to mind. He was always really cool about letting me watch.

Peter St. Pierre from Moonlight glassing is by far my biggest influence when it comes to surfboard building. Actually not just board building, but everything. And I mean his character. His business sense. He’s just a good person. And I hope some of that has rubbed off. He’s someone I respect immensely.

Interestingly, my biggest influences come from contemporaries like Brian Syzmanski. He and I can bounce ideas around in the parking lot for an hour and we both gain from it.

LEARNING CURVE: I started sanding boards at Moonlight. The hands on approach inherent in sanding boards gave me a good sense of feel. Moonlight is where I really learned the bulk of my skill set. Moonlight is where I fine tuned my craft. The thing is, I’ve been in the trenches. I can build a board from start to finish, and most of my ‘Marlins’ are start to finish boards.

FIRST ORDER: My first custom order was an 8’6″ mini-longboard. 1989. It was board #6. Clear with a 2+1 fin setup.

MATERIAL MOJO: The “101” fin is a performance wood fin made out of primarily bamboo. I’m also sourcing Paulownia too. Bamboo is very durable. Wood fins have sort of wrongly been pigeon-holed as a “retro” fin, which of course isn’t the case. But that’s the perception so I put the “performance” label on my fins to counteract that perception.

With the “101” fin you get unidirectional flex along the grain. That’s a fancy way of saying that the grain goes one way and one way only. This allows for the tip of the fin to flex but keeps the body and base of the fin solid. The twist at the tip of the fin means the fin won’t stall through turns. The fins have a unique dampening effect that helps the board ride smoothly. I liken it to getting the best characteristics from both a Cadillac and a Ferrari. You get an exceptionally smooth ride of a Cadillac, but with the acceleration and quickness of a Ferrari.

THE MARKETPLACE: I’m not particularly threatened by China. I don’t know. I’m not seeing a drop off in work. I’m working hard to not get in that position. But I think it is hurting some of us. The custom surfboard market is not going away. It’s about customer service and a good quality product. I see the market place in terms of shifts rather than production drop-off.

My main concern is piracy. Products like FCS plugs being copied, and more recently South Bay board builder Michael Zippi’s ZippiFish was knocked off. In my eyes, brand thievery is a scary thing. Intellectual property being knocked off – that’s a worry.

Click here to visit Marlin’s website.