How to surf a twin fin

How to surf a twin fin will be one of your first questions, once you agreed with me on „Why you should buy a twin fin“!

Why do I tell you how to surf a twin fin?

I’ve been surfing all kind of boards, but I spend more time on a HP (high performanc) shortboard, then on any other board. And I only really got into it a few years ago. There are definitely other people out there with much more experience than me, if it comes to the question of how to surf a twin fin! Unfortunately I couldn’t find a helpful article to guide me along the way. Maybe that was even a blessing? The journey of learning was, and still is, a lot of fun. How ever, I tried to give you five ideas that hopefully help you to enjoy the process of learning “how to surf a twin fin”, as much as I did.

And if you have something to and, or a lesson #6, #7 or #8, please be so kind and share with all of us in the comments… Thanks.

Let’s go

I had a couple of different grovler boards, fish or some short but high volume boards like an egg or biscuit . But I never really liked any of them. Maybe I had the wrong fin setup, or maybe the board I bought was too much for my abilities. But I’ve never kept them long. Instead, I went back to surfing Mini-Malibus and foamies when it was small. Or I just didn’t surf at all.

But most important:

Don’t think a fish or twin fin is only a small wave board!

But as surfing is so much about feeling the ocean in different ways, I was looking for a different feel and not just a small wave board. (If you have the right HP shortboard, you can surf it in small waves and don’t need a fish for that.)

surfing mini malibu ©thefreesurfer.com
An agile Mini Malibu. Maybe the most fun you get out of bad waves…

Finding the right (fish) board is another story. But once you found your first perfect twin fin, you have to learn how to surf it!

I personally found it ideal to surf the fish on very clean conditions. The wider nose of a fish get easily stuck in bumpy waves, where a HP shortboard just cuts through. But it’s all a matter of getting used to it. If it’s clean but too tiny to surf it with your normal shortboard, you can probably surf it with the right fish. Same if the wave is a bit bigger but too fat and flat. But just learn how to surf a twin fin, and you’ll find out in what conditions you like it most. As we know from watching people like Torren Martyn, there is really no wrong wave for a twin!

Your ideal twin fin

Finding YOUR ideal twin fin is of course a very personal and individual journey. But here are some ideas to put you in a direction.

Your twin has around 10-15% more volume than your allround shortboard (you can surf it with the same amount of volume, but why would you?). That should make it very easy for you to paddle and catch waves. As it has very little rocker, you need to get used to that in your take off first. But thanks to the extra volume, you’ll be on your feet earlier. Plus, you probably want to surf your twinny in fat and mellow waves. If the drop is very steep, I guess you grab your HP shortboard. So get used to the extra speed you in your paddling and use it to take off early. Try to stand very low after the take off. That will help you to trim the board and put it in the right angle, so that you don’t nose dive and go over the handle bars. That’s already your first lesson. 

Lesson #1

Stay low and place your fish in the face of the wave without nose diving and without catching rail.

I recommend to take it easy in the beginning and go a few steps back in your surfing career. After all, you’re on a twinny for the feeling and the fun of the ride, and not for your most radical manoeuvre ever!

So enjoy the ride and try to really feel your board.

Just cruising down the line… nothing fancy.

You will feel the difference between your twin fin and a thruster as soon as you do a little turn. The (now missing) center fin gives you a lot of hold in your turns. And this is one of the interesting aspects while you learn how to surf a twin fin. You really have to feel your board and adjust your style and technique to it! And this is why I said, go a few steps back in your surfing career. Sure, as soon as you know how your twin works, you can push it hard and try to surf it the way you surf your HP shortboard. But then you have to ask yourself again, why are you on a twin fin after all?

Lesson #2

Just cruise!

how to surf a twin fin ©thefreesurfer.com
Lesson #2: Just cruise ( Picture: tattvaboards)

Feel your board and start pumping. No rail to rail surfing, just pump it and feel the speed. Once you’ve speed up too much and you’re about to run out the wave, do (try) a cut back.

Your board has more volume than what you’re used to. Let it do the work and enjoy it!

Of course you can work your board, or you can let it do it for you. Move your back foot a bit forward and stand slightly more upright than you usually would. Keep your weight centred over the middle of the board and use the whole planning area of it. But keep in mind that your board has less rocker and a wider nose than usually. SO make sure to keep the nose out of the water. Just a tiny bit over the surface but don’t dip it, or you go flying!

Lesson #3

It’s not a close out, it only asks for a floater.

You (and the person dropping in on you) will be surprised how easily and far your fish can float.

Your fish is much wider than your HP shortboard. Doing a floater is surprisingly easy! And so is surfing out of it again.

If you’re not on that stage of surfing yet, learn to do it on a foamy! No shit, it’s super easy! So doesn’t matter if you learn how to surf a twin fin, if you’re on a Mini Malibu or a foamy. All of them allow you to take off early and generate speed easily. DO IT! What looks like a close out wave is your perfect opportunity to learn a proper floater! At least if you can get into the wave early enough. 

Paddle as hard as you can, take off early and start speeding down the line immediately. Doesn’t matter if this is for 50 meters or only two! As soon as you see that the wave is going to close before you, press the tail down and have the white water come under your board. This will give you lift and you’re on top of the wave. From here, you have to change the direction of the board and come down with it again. It might feels weird in the beginning, but it will give you some enjoyable and soft wipe outs. Enjoy the process and the progress! The bigger the board and the faster you go, the easier it will be. This in theory. Now go out there and try. And as you now know, you don’t have any excuses anymore… the waves will be good enough to learn a floater!

If you already know how to do a floater with your shortboard, it will be much easier with your fish. Just get used to the slightly different feeling. You will be surprised how far you can float and that a little close out section in front of you is not the end of the wave with your twinny! 

Lesson #4

Stand tall while cruising, stand low while turning.

Waves so small and weak, I wouldn’t even paddle out with my shortboard. But still a lot of fun with the right equipment.

Once you got used to surfing down the line and to pump your board up and down the face of the wave, you want to do a cut back. Otherwise you’re going too fast and too far and end up outrunning the wave! It helps to have your center of gravity as low as possible while surfing a turn. Especially on a wider board.

When you pump down the line, your front foot is where it would be on your normal shortboard. But your back foot should be more forward. This results in standing more upright as said before. As soon as you outrun the wave (as you hopefully surf faster than you’re used to), you want to do a cutback. Put your back foot as far back as you possibly can (one of the reasons why I surf even my twin with a tailpad. It makes it easy to feel where the board ends and to put more pressure on it). Bend very low and use your arm to rotate around it. Make sure to keep your center of gravity low and more over the back part of your board. And don’t forget to keep the eyes on the price. That price would be the white water. Look where you want to go, keep the hand you’re rotating around low (or even in the water), and use your other hand to lead toward the point of the whitewater, where you want to hit. Leading with the hand of your outside rail, your arm and shoulder will follow. And so will the rest of your body and the board.

Hit the whitewater as high up as possible and surf out of the rebound. Here again as in lesson #3, it will be much easier to surf out of the white water with your fish than with your shortboard. Same as on the floater.

Lesson #5 

Turn it hard.

How to surf a twin fin, how to do a lay back turn
Waves so bad, you would usually stay dry. Or you buy a fish, become more creative and have fun.

Well… that brings us back to the question if we even have to turn a twinny hard or not?

Up to you. But if you want, you can. Here you will really feel the fins. Starting with the bottom turn, you have to surf it gentle in the beginning and feel what it is doing. If you just lean into the turn as you would with your thruster, you probably fall or at least feel awkward. Get lower than you would usually do and simply enjoy the phase of learning. You might need only one bottom turn to have it dialled in, but most probably a few sessions. If it feels too loose, try keel fins. Or the other way around… if you feel like a fish should be much looser, try more upright fins. It makes a huge difference.

The top turn is basically the same.

Learn to feel it, and love to feel it.

More important, keep in mind that you surf a different board that asks for a different kind of surfing. If you’re learning how to surf a twin fin, you have to find the line that matches your board. It won’t be the same line as a HP shortboard or Longboard has. And think about alternative ways of surfing your turn. If you just lay into it as you would with a HP shortboard, your board will most probably start skimming and sliding. Learn to control it and smile. Or get away from the kind of turn every new age trick pony does! Yes, if it comes to HP surfing, there is a right place and a right movement for your arms, shoulders and everything. But you’re not on a board that requires such surfing! So place your back arm on the “wrong side” of the board and try a “drop wallet turn” like 30 years ago!

You’re out there to have fun and not to spray harder and surf more vertical than everyone else… or you should be on another board. 

Remember: You’re on a fish to enjoy the ride. At least that is my idea…

Mikey February, possibly the most stylish surfer of our time.

Btw: I still enjoy most to surf my HP shortboard and the line I surf with it. Surfing a twin fin is an ideal addition for me. I love to surf it, if the waves are not steep enough to surf my shortboard the way I want to surf it. It is also my weapons of choice if the waves are super small/ weak or on a semi closeout beach break.

Aside of this, I’d say that surfing a different kind of board, choosing another line and another style, makes you think more about your surfing. And this might be the key to become a better surfer over all? Thinking about what your board does under your feet, and why, gives you a better understanding. And this in comparison to surf in autopilot will help you to progress a lot.

Or maybe you don’t even want to become a better surfer? Maybe you don’t even want to become a high performance surfer? Or you’re simply realistic enough to know that you never will surf a very vertical line…

Maybe you enjoy cruising along the face of the wave and that is good enough for you?

how to surf a twin fin
Nothing wrong with that…

So why would you struggle with a small shortboard? Maybe finding the right fish or hybrid board is all you need to have fun and be happy in the water? Nothing wrong with that…

I’ll see you out there flying down the line with a big smile in your face…

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