Stab Magazine | Is The Fish Surfing’s Most Misunderstood Design?

Is The Fish Surfing’s Most Misunderstood Design?

As with any F-you, people either take offence or pay it respect” — Harrison Roach.

Words by Stab

Indonesian barrel videos don’t excite me anymore. 

 The days of being thrilled watching figures tuck inside Indonesian tubes are over for me. It’s a desensitisation thing. The new norm is grabbing a flight over in the midst of a swell and dropping into flawless stand up barrels and our feeds are filled on a daily basis with the results. 

What does catch my attention is someone doing it differently.

Australian shaper Thomas Bexon dropped the above video on his Instagram a few weeks back and it caught my eye. Harrison Roach jamming a 5’5” Keeled Fish through thundering Nias. The footage, well, speaks for itself.

It got me thinking, Is Harrison touching the ceiling of the twin fin’s capabilities? Or, perhaps expanding its performance potential? I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some input from the man himself.

“The fish represents a different set of values and ideals to that of the modern shortboard,” Harrison tells Stab. “I think it’s seen by some as a bit of a fuck you to the mainstream, probably because it’s not made to rip and tear. And as with any fuck you, people either take offence or pay it respect. It thrives in glassy overhead conditions, like this day. The fish in its traditional sense is not a weekend warrior board.”

Harrison Roach Nias2
Breaking the twin’s fun board mould, with Harrison Roach and meaningful Nias.

Harrison focuses on the origins of the board: “What you consider to be a fish might not necessarily be the same for me. The fish I’m talking about is based off the Steve Lis kneeboard, later coined the fish during late 60’s and throughout the 70’s”.

Leaving me wondering, where did the fish get lost? How did the stigma of a twin only being a board for kooky retro dudes arise? And what made people start riding them in the wrong conditions?

I approached Bexon for some info on Harrison’s board and why he is calling them “one of the most misunderstood surfboards” ever. I asked Doc (Mr Bexon) why he made such a claim against the twin fin and if he could expand some more on the boards real purpose:

“In good down the line waves a keel fish is hard to beat for speed and drive due to its rail line and rocker,” says Bexon. “Also the added bonus of area you get for effortless speed.  I guess there has always been a misconception that ‘cause they are short and wide they are good grovel board’s. If you want a grovel board get a wider tail round square thruster. The negatives are when guys try surfing them in messy beach breaks, waves that are misunderstood for suiting a fish…it’s good now, compared to 15 years ago, when it was only kooky retro guys riding fishes.”

Harrison Morocco Woody Gooch
“The fish in its traditional sense is not a weekend warrior board,” says Mr Roach. (Photo by Woody Gooch)

The advantage is how it fits nicely in the pocket, avoids grabbing rail in critical sections and gives a chance to draw out turns on hollow waves. The big problem I see is people over shooting turns or trying to hack at the lip as if riding a thruster on sloppy beachies and then having no control of the tail. 

For me, Tom Curren’s part in The Search sticks to mind. That one footed layback he pulls off is iconic, partnered with the way he rides top to bottom, paving the way for a new style to birth in the early 90’s and what I see as the ideal approach to riding a twin. 

Asher Pacey, revered twin enthusiast, told Stab whilst anchoring up in the Maldives: “There’s no doubt there is an assimilation between the fish style board and smaller less threatening waves. Generally a small wide fish will be good for general recreational surfing but a more refined fish with a drawn out outline and tighter fin placement will transcend the common perception… The added amount of foam underneath you gives an advantage which can allow you to roll in with a little added enthusiasm.”

Two guys worth mentioning in this exploration of twins are Torren Martyn and Tyler Warren, who ignited an empty cloud break earlier this year

Both Martyn and Warren ride more progressive style twins, with multiple channels and tighter pulled in tails. This pair surf more high lines, classic open-faced cutbacks and less maneuvers in the curl. Cloudbreak is arguably one of the heaviest waves in the world and these two looks exceptional without a center skeg.

We are seeing guys push past the boundaries where only thrusters could scoop under the lip of these heavy waves. The twin is now being boxed in a category of its own, giving surfers speed and control through critical sections on heavy waves.  

Ryan Burch, who has a rich history in eclectic surfboard design and style originating in San Diego, has spoken of the functionality of the board in the past.

“For me, the fish is the most dynamic of the smaller boards,” Ryan explains. “It can skate through flat gutless sections, or it can drive through stand up barrels. I have been taking a liking to riding 5’3” fishes in sizable surf. You can use the combination of the straight rail and basey fins to propel you anywhere on the wave.”

Is the twin now the gap between performance boards and something thicker? A board capable for navigating hollow, serious-sized waves?

For me, I can see why people are so drawn to them and why I like surfing one, they carry speed better than other boards, they paddle like a log, I can stay tucked under the curl and take the high line the whole way.

Burch Twinfin ED SLOANE 2
Ryan Burch releases his keels. (Photo by Ed Sloane)

But I see where the stigma comes from, though. And guys need to be looking at this board with less of a “that’s a good weekend board,” outlook and more of a “this board will be right for this wave,” mentality. 

It could be your next quiver addition if you give it a chance, but if you already own one start looking at your twin after checking the surf instead of before, see if it’s actually going to suit the conditions. Don’t take it out because it’s the only board in the car.  

The twin fin will thrive for you if you give it the right wave. Until you have tried it in good waves, you won’t understand its potential. Ultimately, they allow you to have confidence in fast hollow waves and gives you time to draw your line and hold it.

“You won’t find me grovelling on a fish at a windy shore break, this board thrives in over head, glassy conditions,” says Harrison.


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