In late 1977, Australian pro Mark Richards introduced his version of the twin-fin, a pivoting small-wave board that helped Richards win four world titles, which in turn made the twin-fin the hottest board of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Simon Anderson a fellow professional maintained a high position in the world rankings, finishing 15th in 1979 and sixth in 1980, but he struggled with the hard-to-control twin-fin, and in 1979 began thinking of ways to modify the design. He’d been shaping surfboards since 1972, had founded his own Energy Surfboards label in 1975, and had developed into one of Australia’s most respected board designers. In October 1980, he noticed fellow Narrabeen surfer/shaper Frank Williams emerging from the surf with a small half-moon fin near the tail of his twin-fin as a stabilizer. Asking Frank “what does it do?” Frank responded it stabilises the Twin Fin. This inspired, Anderson immediately where upon he made himself a square-tailed board with three like-sized fins, all smaller than those used on a twin-fin.
He called his new design the Thruster, as a slightly racy play on words and because the third fin in fact added thrust to the board’s turning capabilities; he then set out to convince the surf world that the tri-fin was superior to the twin-fin. Anderson scored back-to-back wins at Bells and the Surfabout in 1981, then finished the season by winning the Pipeline Masters. Mark Richards again won the championship—Anderson chose not to compete in about one-third of the scheduled events for 1981, and finished #6—but the shambling, straw-haired surfer from Narrabeen was clearly the breakthrough performer of the year, and twin-fin surfers the world over began converting to tri-fins. He finished 11th in the world in 1982, 19th in 1983, then quit the circuit.
Throughout, Anderson remained a plain Aussie bloke, never veering, as Phil Jarratt phrased it, from “the pursuit of ordinariness.” Aside from his wave-riding, Anderson called no attention to himself whatsoever, with the notable exception of his alcohol-fuelled post contest banquet speeches, which consisted mainly of cutting deadpan gibes toward the surf industry, other surfers, and mainly himself. He later joked somewhat bitterly about his failure to patent the tri-fin design, thus missing out on perhaps millions of dollars in licensing fees.
Anderson was named the “Surfer of the Year” by Surfing magazine in 1981, and inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame in 1989. Surfer magazine listed him as the eighth most influential surfer of the 20th century; he was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 2001.
He continues to live near his home patch with his beautiful wife Sharon at Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and still shapes and innovates under the Simon Surfboards label. Thrust, his autobiography, written with Aussie surf journalist Tim Baker, came out in 2011.
Today 95% of the boards made have this Thruster fin design!
- Cheyne Horan was born in 1960, a dedicated competitor and self-proclaimed advocate of individualism and innovation. Throughout his life, he stayed true to this mantra of not 'following the crowd' and as such he surfed very different craft to what most professionals were riding. In doing this he forged a…
- Mark Richards was born (1957) and raised in Newcastle, an industrial city located 100 miles north of Sydney. Ray Richards, Mark's father, was a surfer and used car salesman who, in 1961, opened Newcastle's first surfboard shop. Mark had a peculiar surfing style: knees often braced together, hunched shoulders, long arms…