Shaper Interviews

Mark Richards: Twin Fins & Super Twins


mark richards super twinThe twin fin surfboard design is a great choice for small to medium sized waves lacking power. It originated in California in the late 1960s, but the true potential of the twin fin was not revealed until Mark Richards (MR as he is known by fans) revolutionized performance shortboard surfing on a twin fin in the late 1970s, winning four straight world championships in the process.


MR spent a month working with legendary shaper Dick Brewer on hand shaping technique in Hawaii during the winter of 1976/1977. With the proper technique MR went to work on shaping a reborn version of the twin fin, later named the Free Ride Twinfin. The twin fin surfboard offers increased speed and maneuverability while also being more stable than a single fin. This board design also produces a looser board than your trusty thruster. You will see a twin fin setup on a traditional fish or a more modern shortboard shape. MR believes this board’s performance was directly responsible for his competitive surfing success.

A recent development is the addition of a smaller trailing center fin for added stability. MR calls his version The Super Twin. To fully understand the performance characteristics of a twin fin went straight to the source: MR himself. He continues to shape surfboards for his MR label ranging from twin fins to high performance longboards. His new Super Twin takes a new approach to a classic design so we needed to catch up with the Australian based Richards. 



retro MR fishSurfScience:  You transitioned to a twin fin set up in the late 1970s, leading to four world titles. How did a twin fin allow you to surf differently than on a single fin?


Mark Richards: I was frustrated on single fins because with the narrow tail I couldn't get the performance I wanted in small surf. Except for Hawaii there was no waiting periods for the events so they ran regardless of the conditions and most of the time it was small and sloppy. The extra tail width of the twin fin gave me more flotation and the twin fin configuration produced a faster looser and more responsive performance, which allowed me to really attack a wave. You could come off the bottom a lot harder which allowed you to really come off the top of the wave hard. I feel the board really opened up the opportunities for improving performance in the top 1/3 of the wave. 


SS: It has been said that a twin fin is best for mediocre surf, yet you obviously showed how a well designed twin fin can perform admirably in high performance head high waves. What design characteristics does a shaper need to focus on to maximize a twin fin's performance in the water?


MR: I believe a well designed twin fin will work in any conditions from slop to perfection up to 6'. A good twin doesn't solely rely on one element of its design, it is a combination of rockers, outline tail shape, fin positioning, and fin shape. The two most important elements on my twins were the hard resin edge which ran from nose to tail  and the concave fluted wing on the bottom. These two elements reduced the slide aspect of the twin fin giving it more drive, direction and holding power.


SS: Looking at toe-in and cant, is there an ideal placement?


MR: Fins have to be definitely angled in and leaning out significantly. Fins placed parallel to the stringer and with no lean out do not work...they track.


SS: Who should ride a twin fin? What can he expect?


MR: Anyone who is looking for a board that is loose fast and high performance in small surf would enjoy a twin fin, but bear in mind if you are jumping off a thruster on to a twin fin they can feel very loose and slidey at first. You definitely need a few surfs and some perseverance to get the hang of them.


SS: The Super Twin is getting great reviews. How does this perform differently than a thruster?


MR: I absolutely LOVE my Super Twin. Even though I am totally spoiled and have every one of my models in my quiver it is the board that I would choose if I had to pick only one. It combines the best elements of the looseness of a twin fin and the drive of a thruster. If you were comparing it to a thruster they feel looser, faster, and more alive and compared to twin fin you would say it is the same feel but with more control.

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