When the tour peeps have hung up their jerseys (for good or a short interlude between comps), an unassuming funster has been taken from the stable and given unbridled attention. Galloping along oceanic pastures on their favourite-shod steed: twinnies.
Parko confirms this phenomena during a recent interview on Surfing Life TV: “I haven’t ridden a normal 6’0” performance shortboard for so long. I’m now just surfing for enjoyment.”
Dingo has been riding twins for the last few years. Kerzy has been going nuts on them, let alone Steph, Mick, and then Bede on his curved-channel twinnies. But what makes the modern twinnie so rippable when their older namesakes seem to fall by the wayside? Surely twinnies haven’t changed since MR was dominating? The answer is heaps.
If you’ve jumped on a modern twinnie lately, you’ll notice a few significant differences. Each shaper has their own twist on it, but a few things will give away the modern twinnie. Pulled in tails, fins closer to the tail, low rails, concaves, and curve channels, these are a few elements that make the modern twinnie more accessible to the regular Joe or Josie. Twinnies are generally tough to surf because they are too loose and twitchy in the tail, making them hard to control. Still, when the tail is pulled in, and the fins are set back, this goes a long way to alleviating these problems as well as allowing them to be surfed faster and loser. Along with using a small trailer or stabiliser fin, these changes bring back the twin-fin fun.
The real question is, when will we see the twin fin used to full effect in ’CT events? We know when the surf gets over ten feet, everyone is scratching to find longer gunnier boards. Still, we haven’t yet seen people reaching for the fast lose twinnies in crumbly mushy surf. With the new design having heaps more hold and drive, the speed will surely be attractive to these top-level competitors. So, twin fins, are they just another board in the long line of retro throwbacks. Or was there really something in the design when MR put four back-to-back world titles together on his famous twin-fin design? To find out, we talk to twin-fin connoisseurs Andrew “Andy Mac” McKinnon, who was then, and Josh “Kerzy” Kerr, who is now.
My recollection is the twin-fin design landed at the end of 1970, when surfboards were at their smallest after the demise of mals. Although the original paipo board in the ’60s had two small fins anchored on the back corners, it was more of a belly board [the first bodyboard]. And we don’t want to confuse things with the fish design, because they are their own unnatural beast and, to be honest, are just short mals.
The slab-shaped, wide round nose and square-round-diamond tail that Michael Peterson rode in Morning of the Earth were ideally suited for this new design. The shortboard revolution was now in full swing with boards under six foot, like Ted Spencer’s kite design. However, most slabs were spinning out with a forward fin.
In ’71, I pulled a Ken Adler-shaped twinnie off the rack that was 5’6” and won the Queensland State Junior Surfing Title at Snapper from PT and Rabbit. There were more backhand roundhouses than at Sideshow Alley. By 1972, the twin was dead and buried, replaced by the single-fin pintail anywhere between six- to seven-foot long.
The twin fin was frowned on as not the real thing, and while they were loose for quick turns, they lacked the long directional drive of a single. That was until 1976, and the Free Ride generation was busting down the door on the North Shore. A design that Mark Richards, Reno Abellira, and Dick Brewer worked on a whole new twin-fin collaboration Thus, the 6’4” Flyer with its swallowtail—a mini-gun twin fin—arrived and a whole new version was born again.
This lethal weapon of choice would secure four consecutive world titles. Everyone had resisted the twinnie and allowed MR to rule the roost. No one came close, bar Cheyne Horan who stuck to his Lazor Zap McCoy until the end. And then big Simon Anderson, driven by utter frustration, created the thruster in ’81. Once again, the twin fin was gone for all money. MR semi-retires from chronic back problems. The stocky triumvirate—Tom Carroll, Tom Curren and Occy—took over with power, fins out, and rail surfing to a new level. That opened the door for Kelly and then Andy to continue to dominate on the stock-standard thruster, albeit with experimental twists from Slater here and there.
Meanwhile, Kingscliff’s underground ripper Asher Pacey was shredding on his own ultra-short twinnie dominating the Superbank. Pacey competed in the juniors and was an active team member for Kirra Surfriders but was seen mainly as a soul surfer like Dave “Rasta” Rastovich. Rasta broke new ground at Lagundri Bay, Nias, when he airdropped into ten-foot stormy barrels with ease.
Still, no interest from the ’CT crew who rusted onto their formula: Don’t go past go thrusters. Were they fearful the judging panel might underscore them?
Was it out of boredom, older age, or nothing to lose when former World Tour surfer Josh Kerr showed up to show what’s old is new again and started the conversation? Will anyone on the World Tour dare ride a twin fin in competition? Maybe it will come down to a shootout at Trestles for the world title showdown amongst the top five (by the time we go to print we will know).
However, when it comes down to aerial surfing, it’s debatable that twins can hold a flame to thrusters. And airs win heats and finals.
The last time I had to ride a thruster was in the champions trophy event in the Maldives [2019 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy]. That was about two years ago now, and then, it was two years before that in a WSL event. Other than that, I’ve caught a couple of waves on Sierra’s board here and there, when I’d broken a board in Indo and didn’t have a spare board. So I grabbed her one. [He laughs the way any dad who steals his daughter’s board might.] That wasn’t by choice; I haven’t chosen to ride a standard shorty since I got off Tour.
I love the creativity you can have on the open face. I was such a wave snob on my standard shorty. To be motivated to go surf, it had to have speed and power and some pocket. Now I don’t care what it’s like, even if it doesn’t have that. So, I just love the thought of that and the creativity and options it gives you if you have an open-face wave, whether it’s steep, fat, flat—it doesn’t matter.
It’s probably a combination of both board design and the number of fins, for sure, but just being able to go out to the open face and not lose speed. The third fin would lose their momentum to get back. When on a twin fin, on those pen-face pockets where there’s not much juice, you can still drive through it. It doesn’t want to slow down. So, it’s like that feeling of freedom. I also really do like the feeling of how much distance you can carry off your bottom turn and trying to get that timing right to do it still in a vertical pocket. Not always go out to the flat open face, because it wants to take you out there with a flatter board and only two fins. And try and time it to still get that nice steep part of the wave.
The main thing we are doing with twinnies at Album is combining modern designs of concave and twin-fin placement. Then combining that with a retro feel with a flatter deck and flyers and volume up the front and a flatter rocker and still having the modern touches with concave and rail design. Most of the boards that I want to rip on have a narrower tail. I’m not a big fan of width in general, even though I do go short. But if I want to go and rip, that little bit of narrowness is excellent. So, you can still lean over on rail and push off your rail and still be super delayed to go to the other rail without having too much width to kind of dull it all down. I enjoy that. But my boards now are only slightly wider and thicker than what I was surfing on Tour, but plenty of volume for paddling and gliding.
When it comes to seeing them back on Tour, if I was back on Tour at Bells Beach, I would definitely not ride anything but a twin fin. I think the wave itself limits the high-performance element. Not just the wave but the conditions with the winds and everything like that. That wave you really need to carry distance through your turns down the line, even though it’s flatter open face wall. With a thruster, you start the bottom turn. You can’t get to the open face in time, because the waves are Southern Ocean groundswells. They are moving quickly. Still, they might not be top to bottom hollow, but they are moving across the reef quickly out there, so you need to carry distance and momentum. So, if there was a wave on Tour, you would want to bring the modern twin fin to, it is definitely Bells. I think it would just look lightning fast and really zippy compared to a lot of other competitors, if you got comfortable on a good one for sure.
Andy Mac has firsthand knowledge of twin-fin history: he surfed the highs and lows of world title losses and wins in the era when twin-fins were first employed on the world surf stage. Half a century later, Josh Kerr is part of a new era: the comeback or revival of an underappreciated fin setup: the twinnie. If you’ve been surfing a thruster for the last while, why not get on a modern twinnie? Go Kerr-azy, and have some goddamn fun. Yew!