[This feature originally appeared in our June 2017 Issue, "Influencers," on newsstands and available for download now.]
When the forecast calls for steep, barreling conditions, most people opt for high-performance boards they know will work: something in the 6’0″ range, heavily rockered, with three fins, maybe four. But when Torren Martyn arrived at the departures terminal of the Brisbane Airport for a recent swell chase to the South Pacific, his board bag wasn't stuffed with the kind of quiver you'd expect.
I met the lanky, 6’2″ Byron Bay native in front of the check-in counter. With his shoulder-length hair pulled back into a bun, he was crouched over his board bag, shifting gear around to redistribute some weight. The forecast for the island we were heading to promised thick, double-overhead tubes breaking over a shallow offshore reef. But the contents of Martyn's travel quiver—two channel-bottom twin-fins, one a 5’4″ moon tail and the other a 5’8″ round tail—suggested we were heading to a playful California pointbreak, not a heavy reef pass.
"All twinnies?" I asked, peering into his bag.
He glanced up and smirked. "I don't even own a thruster anymore," he said.
Over the past few years, Martyn has been making a name for himself by ditching stock-standard shapes and hunting down hollow waves on unconventional craft. In his 2016 feature-length web edit, "Lost Track," which documented his circumnavigation of the Australian coastline, Martyn put on a twin-fin clinic, demonstrating how alternative boards don't have to be relegated to gutless, mushy fare. Throughout the film, Martyn rides an assortment of '70s-inspired twin-fins combined with modern design elements like contemporary channel bottoms and tail shapes, which allowed him to push the limits of a traditionally squirrely design in everything from perfect South Coast drainers to the square slabs of West and South Australia. And with plenty of style to burn.
"Twin-fins have become a common craft for a lot of surfers, but I think people get really surprised when I surf a heavy slab on a twinny," Martyn explained. "But that's the thing: I wouldn't want to be on anything else when I'm out in bigger waves. And it makes sense. If you've got a big ol' fin and a nice rail line on the side of the face, it's going to work, right? You can push them pretty hard."
But Martyn hasn't always been drawn to unconventional shapes. He didn't grow up experimenting with interesting mid-lengths or mimicking the soul-arching ways of Joel Tudor or Alex Knost. In fact, before 2014, Martyn had never set foot on a twin-fin. Ever since his mother bought him a chippy 5’5″ Town & Country from a local pawnshop when he was eight years old, Martyn had never veered far from the traditional shortboard.
Then, in 2014, Martyn crossed paths with Simon Jones, shaper for Morning of the Earth Surfboards, who was commissioned to build a board for Martyn for a Tracks magazine feature. Soon after, Jones shaped Martyn a 5’7″ channel-bottom twin-fin, which he took to Indo for a few months. He was instantly hooked.
"I took that board, along with three thrusters, and I ended up riding the twinny the whole time," said Martyn. "I couldn't even believe it. I originally got it as a fun, novelty-type board, but it worked in all sorts of waves over there. I had brand-new thrusters and I didn't even want to ride them. It was such a free, fast feeling. It challenged me. I don't want to say that I ever got burnt out on shortboarding, but it was really refreshing to ride something new."
Martyn's willingness to take the twin-fin to new levels will no doubt imprint the next generation of surfers, who now have more options than ever in terms of board choices and open-minded idols to follow.
"Back in the day, you had to wait for a film to come out on cassette, and that's all you got to watch for awhile," explained Martyn. "The only types of movies I was introduced to were films like Trilogy and Fanning the Fire. But now, thanks to social media, kids can access a huge amount of web clips and videos. Not only do kids have more board options to experiment with, but they have more freedom to choose who they want to watch and follow, rather than just emulate what's been put in front of them.”
[Photo by Chachi]
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