Background and the Fish Surfboard History
It is historically accepted, the Fish surfboard was invented about 1967 in Southern California. The birthplace of the Fish surfboard, also known as the swallowtail surfboard or split-tail surfboard, was a town called Point Loma. The story of the Fish-shaped surfboard, as strange as it may seem, begins with a broken surfboard and evolved into modern fishtail surfboards.
Steve Lis, a now-famous surfboard designer, found a longboard shape surfboard that was snapped in half. He used the four-plus feet of the nose section, glassed up the broken end as the tail, and used it as a kneeboard. This board was quite like the black ball beater surfboards of today. A wide nose, low rocker, blunt tail kneeboard that was soon to evolve beyond Steve’s wildest imagination. This was a beater board in the roughest sense of the less than a complimentary title.
What was to become the Fish Tail surfboard started life as this primitive, yet fun, kneeboard. Steve took it out around all the famous surfing beaches in San Diego County California. He had a blast at the beach and reef breaks, on all of his local surfing grounds. Kneeboarding on the proto fish surfing board was a blast!
Pre Modern Era Proto-Fish Surfboards
To be clear, similar designs had been made in balsa wood by Bob Simmons in the late 1940s. His mini-Simmons was very similar to the Steve Lis half of a longboard design. The Lis board was not the first split-tailed surfboard and clearly not the first twin-fin. Factually, many super-short twin-fins were already in the California surf in the early ’70s. Steve Lis had not yet combined both the split tail aka swallowtails and the twin-fin into what we now know as the Fish surfboards.
Tweaking the Kneeboard
Realizing he might be on to something, Steve made a few of these wide blunt nose quasi-kneeboards and let his local surf tribe test them out. These kneeboard surf riders took them into the shore break aka shore pound area and rode them hard. They were stoked and the tweaking of the prototype of what would become a standard in the surfing world rocketed forward. The Twin-fin Fishtail surfboard, like many of the great American Inventions, is a garage creation akin to the Apple PC.
Enter Jeff Ching, who borrowed Steve’s 4ft 7in board and proved a kneeboard sized wave riding vehicle could be a standup surfboard. Ching paddled out and popped up and stood on the first fish standing surfboard wave ride. Based on Jeff’s input Steve made him a longer 5ft 5in Fish Tail surfboard and, as they say…the rest is history.
Swallow Tail Surfboards Become Champions
Soon after, in 1972 at the World Championships, in Oceanside California, Jim Blears and David Nuuhiwa rocketed to victory in waist-high surf on twin fin fish surfing boards. This is the moment Fishtail surfboards were recognized as the go-to surfboards in every surfer’s quiver for those days of smaller waves or sloppy surf conditions.
Once the fish surfboard was proven in the World Surfing Championships, surfboard shapers jumped on the Swallowtail twin fin bandwagon. These innovative Southern California surfboard designers developed new shapes and sizes of the Fish surfboards. The more Swallow-tailed boards that were seen in the water, the more that were being pumped out at an increasingly accelerated rate. Trial and error refinements by literally dozens of surfboard shapers quickly found the sweet spots and best performing technical specifications. The Fish surfboard had become mainstream in the surfing world.
The low rocker from nose to tail added speed and easy paddling that helps launch the rider in weaker waves. The greater width, blunt nose, and wide tail create more surfboard volume, hence better flotation at slower speeds. These fishtail surfboards were magic.
Fish Surfboards Go Mainstream
So, the Fish shape surfboard was added to the surf lineup on beaches worldwide joining longboards, shortboards, and funboard surfboard styles and shapes as a favorite of the international surf tribe. Today, many versions of the Fishtail surfboard exist and it seems, more are developed every year. Finless surfboards and quad fins and wide shaped both long and short lengths. Soft Surfboard fish and even exotic hybrid materials are part of the modern Swallow tail surfboard. These fish shape soft top surfboards are wide and easy to learn to surf on.
Of all the fish surfing boards the soft surfboards have become the most popular. Considered one of the most versatile and best soft top surfboards fish surfboards are prevalent on beaches across the globe. This makes the foam surfboard fish a favorite of surf schools and one of the best beginner surfboards. When buying a surfboard the fish shape is always one to consider split tail surfboard as they are among the best beginner surfboards available. You can find a Fish surfboard to fit nearly every surfer and surfing wave condition. Any decent Surf Shop nearby will have fish in their inventory. Versatile, performs well in Big Wave Surfing and in America’s Atlantic Mushy East Coast Surf, the Fish surfboard has a place in the Quiver of each and every serious wave riding surfer or one seeking the best beginner surfboards.
Although no single surfboard style or design can be perfect in every condition, or for every surfer. The Fish surfboard or swallowtail comes as close to perfection as any.