Any true surfer today knows the value of a twin-finned surfboard. These are the culmination of style and graceful performance, granting surfers the ability to draw unique lines down the face of the wave with effortless speed and drive. But the twin fins surfboard wasn’t always the celebrated design that it is today, and no one knows that better than the Patron Saint of Twin Fins, Mark Richards.
Merkel/A-Frame | Markrichardssurfboards.com
Mark Richards was born in Newcastle, Australia in 1957. Growing up, his father was both a surfer and the owner of the first surf shop in Newcastle. Mark was influenced by his father and started surfing at six. Richards became something of a prodigy when he joined the national team for the World Surfing Championships when he was only fifteen years old. At eighteen, he won two pro contests in Hawaii. At the age of 22, bringing his own redesigned twin-fin surfboard and a polished turn-focused style, he won his first world title and repeated this feat for the following three seasons.
The Twin Fins
Grishka on the MR ,1983/4 Fistral, Alex Williams | Wave-lucky.blogspot.com
In the second half of the 70s, surfboards were decreasing in size at an incredible speed. Surfers’ attitude towards wave-riding changed, deeming that if you wanted to win, you were expected to maneuver well, hitting the lip of the wave as often as possible, and not just cruising along the line. The single-fin boards were the overall choice for big, hollow waves, but when the swell died off, contests would run into smaller wave conditions, where that kind of board doesn’t live up to the judge’s expectations.
As an avid competitor, Mark Richards was aware of the single fin’s limitations with surfing through small waves. He found inspiration in the boards of Reno Abellira and then made them all his own under the tutelage of shaping guru Dick Brewer. Richards realized that the combination of a twin-fin setup and increased lift from a wider tail would allow for faster and more responsive surfing. This design would also propel the board enough to attack the lip section of a wave, even under smaller wave conditions.
Jeff Divine | Surfer.com
It was during the 1978 World Championship that he debuted his twin-finned surfboard. There he showed the world how his design was perfect for the gliding, swooping turns that made him famous. It was also instrumental to the four straight world titles he won beginning that year, becoming the first professional surfer to win multiple world titles.
More than just a design leap, the range of maneuverability provided by the two surfboard fins design also led to a leap in levels of performance, consequently planting the seeds for yet another fin to be introduced at the beginning of the 80s.
Today, Mark Richards is still based in Newcastle, Australia. He has a surfboard manufacturing business and spends most of his time mowing foam and trying to get some time with the waves. But there is no doubt that he has changed surfing with his innovation.