I know nothing about twin fins
He eventually selects the smallest board in his quiver for his maiden surf. It’s “between 4’3 and 4’6”,” he thinks. A tiny little coffee table slab of a thing with a big, wide square-tail and no rocker to speak of. “What fins should I ride Asher?” he asks Asher Pacey, with the deference of a disciple consulting a guru. Asher, ropey-limbed and sun-kissed beneath a sweep of sun-bleached blonde, has already been roaming the Maldivian atolls for three weeks, working as a surf guide on the Liquid Destinations charter boat we are aboard. A cache of sponsors support his peripatetic twin fin existence and his eyes gleam with the contentment of one who has figured out how to be a fish-riding, surfing gypsy, while most of the western world are still floundering between nine and five. Asher is the veteran of multiple Maldivian sojourns and has many of the waves in the region dialled. As the crew prepare to make their first leap into the blue, he readily
dispenses the necessary intel’ on the break. “This right has a really fun wedge on the take off but not that much of a wall, so you kind of want to get your work done early.” Meola doesn’t waste time scratching into a few transparent side-bends on his slab. Any doubts about his capacity to carve on a twinny are soon dismissed as he begins weaving all over the dreamy little rights like a kid whose been handed a new orange crayon to play with. “This board is sick,” he bellows as he returns to the lineup. “I wasn’t even sure it was going to work.” Four waves in Meola can’t suppress the aerial instincts and he’s already trying to manifest a backside back-flip on his new craft. The right offers enticing little pockets, but the dreamy serenity offered by the translucent water is soon spoilt by a jet-ski driver who is towing a beginner surfer across flat water just beyond the line-up. The prized twin fin glide is disrupted by the ribs of water washing through from the jet-ski wash and it becomes clear how easy it is for one inconsiderate sea-jockey to ruin a session. A few heated words are exchanged as the ski roars into the channel, but by now the crew is fixated on a left in the distance that coils and zippers with empty seduction. The tender is summoned and moments later Matt, Chippa Wilson, Robbie Rickard and Asher have laid claim to an empty, left line-up off a palmfringed island. The left is a complete drag race – haul in, leap to your feet, knife a rail and hit the gas. Twinnies are supposed to be fast and if any wave is going to test that proposition immediately, it’s this one. Surfing front-side, Meola and Chippa quickly find the full throttle, sweet spot for their rides. “They’re breaking the sound barrier out here,” exclaims the filmer, Tyson Lloyd, who is standing in chest-deep water doing his utmost to keep the surfers in frame as they blur past. “I can’t believe how much speed Chippa generates,” marvels Asher as he zones in on Chip’s malleable frame bending and compressing down the line. In the line-up pro surfers pay very close attention to what their peers are doing. This kind of cross-referencing
defines the possibilities of a given wave and session. Once a benchmark is set nobody wants to look obsolete when the footage and the photos are reviewed later. Freesurfers never have to win a heat, but that doesn’t mean they don’t compete. Chippa is riding a Neal Purchase DUO, which features two big fins, placed four inches apart. Paddling over the shoulder of a set wave, I watch him hook down the line, whip the board at the lip, and take flight at maximum velocity. The two large fins project beyond the lip, swing through the air like unhooked talons, before gripping the face again. What’s striking to the onlooker is that he exits the weightless move with as much, if not more, speed than he goes into it with. It’s not a big or technical punt by Chippa’s standards but it’s a totally functional air, performed at maximum velocity, on a board inspired by an era when that kind of approach was surfing fiction. By the end of our first outing it’s clear that Matt and Chippa are in no way bound by some preconceived, classical notion of how a twin fin should be surfed.
Chippa Wilson jamming on the ‘Duo’ brakes at the end of the straight.
Tim Laurie is in his sixties and doing this! Matt Meola setting the aerial precedent for our twin fin odyssey.