merits (if any) of a true FISH over 6' long in bigger surf

Aloha Swalylocks

I have been wrestling with a concept lately that I was hoping someone could comment on from experience.

Some backgound: I live and surf in Northern CA, where we get a lot of swell. I ride all kinds of boards, and have been enjoying my time on Fish shapes, both true and post-modern. I am 33 years old, and I surf every day. I weigh 160 lbs.

My question: I love riding Fishes, though I would never be able to ride one here on a wave over ceiling high, due to the amount of water moving around in our ocean. I think that a Fish design would perform great in bigger surf, and am considering riding a Fish over 6’ (maybe 6’6") in smooth, double overhead plus open ocean conditions. I know it sounds funny, but does anyone have or know of a larger Fish functioning in bigger surf (i.e. a Fish-gun)? OK, shoot me. I hate to write that, because that is not what I mean exactly, but I am wondering if anyone of average size has ridden a larger sized fish in double overhead waves?

I repeat, I won’t be able to ride my 5’8" in our surf because there is just too much water. I would get sucked up the face, over the falls, pushed out the back, and sucked over again.

Thoughts? Or more importantly, experiences?

Thanks for reading,


I’ve been only rideing fishes for the last five years… that said I have left myself little options when the surf goes over 6’. Fish boards tend to surf well in big waves but the problem that I have had is just getting into the wave when, like you said, there is a lot of water moving up the face. Because of the flat rocker in the fish as well as steep faces in bigger waves there can be problems for dropping in. After years of testing in all types of waves I can say that a true fish Brom/Lis 5’-5’11" maxes out at about 8’. Granted if you can get in to a wave your fine because of the wide fin base and hold that it provides. Another thing that I have noticed is when there is a lot of water moving up the face of a large wave the lack of rocker and bottom contact starts to be a problem. These factors create drag and some loss to the speed that fishes are known for.

My solution… this season after five years of exclusive fish rideing I picked up a 7’ gun for the 8’+ days at a local point break that will go nameless.

I agree with SX…after a point, for me right around overhead, what’s the point?

And sitting inside hoping to snatch an inside wave when it’s big out is not my cup of tea.

Gotta paddle against the rips, currents, and tide movements, gotta snake the crowd, gotta feel like I have the option of taking off semi early also.

Last week, I just got myself an 8’ x 19.55 Plumeria to handle the medium big days. I"m too old and weak to handle big days, so don’t want/need a bigger board.

Oh…forgot to add…every characteristic of a Fish is counter intuitive to surfing big waves…wide board, shallow fins, swallow tail is just about opposite a rounded pin, flat rocker, short-wide nose, short length.

But for the hundreth time…in 1976, I made a 8’6" x 18.5 SWALLOW tail, not a fish, single fin for Pipe work. Thought maybe the two pins would hold in on the air drops, but never had the chance to try it, and left it on consign at Surf & Sail, never bothering to collect my money. Small winter while I was there, for two months, and all my buds dragged me out to Sunset anyways.

I just finished watching the movie Sprout which features many different types of fish boards being ridden in perfect slightly overhead pointbreak surf. It seems that the more modern fish boards with 3 or 4 fins would hold better in big critical sections while the tweezers look like they would be far more difficult to control in a critical section (for the average non pro surfer). Is this the case? I know that both the modern and original fish designs are not for big waves, I am asking more in the comparative sense.

“true fish Brom/Lis 5’-5’11"” were kneeboards and are ridden in overhead surf all the time. it’s easier to catch

big waves when you have flippers/fins on your feet plus the lower center of gravity helps to… be true to the Fish and ride it on your knees or get a board that was made for bigger waves.

HI Kit,

I live in S.Diego, and I see people riding fishes in overhead surf all the time. I stores here you can easily find fishes in the 6.4-6.6 range.

From what I gathered (asking around), the quad fins are more versatile, and go a little longer, while the twin keel fins keep a more compact outline.

I’m thinking of making one for myself (that would be my first shaping experiment), 6.2, 22, 3.

12" wide buttcrack.

But I’m bigger than you are (around 185) and most likely a worse surfer, And I doubt I would exceed 6’-8’ on it ever.

I think my post mirrors what you said. As far as being true to the fish… I choose to stand not kneel. :b

Hey Kit.

I know exactly what you mean, and I’ve been asking myself the same question. The point is not, how big can I go on my little wee fish, but rather can you adapt the original fish concept to larger waves with more water movement and get the same drivey, flowing buttery feel that is so addictive about fish.

I had plans of experimenting with a drawn-out version of the fish template, slightly longer (6’4?), a bit narrower (19.5"?), but with the characteristic parallel rails and less than generous rocker, and probably quad fins. Btw I’m 6’1 x 175lbs and ride a 5’8 or 5’10 90% of the time.

It’s all on the drawing board at the mo due a slightly larger project (building my house), but I will pursue it in the future, and I’d be dead keen to hear about your progress.

Good luck, keep us posted


What about Mark Richards in the movie Free Ride, I think he rode a fish shape for everything then. Sunset contest, perfect Honolua Bay. He won alot, a few world titles back then. He still is making a newer version of them I saw an article somewhere lately. Check his website.

The MR board is a twin fin not a fish.You can ride a fish in DOH surf ,you just have to be a great surfer to do it.My friend rides this quad fish 6ft 3 in DOH heavy reef break sometimes.The only thing limiting a fish is YOU or I should say your fitness and ability.Tow in boards are what? 5ft 6 or so?Not too many guys can surf like Dan Malloy or Rasta on 5ft 6 fishes.Here is a pick of a 6ft 3 quad fish…

The question is NOT …“can it be done”! We all know Cheyne rode real Wiamea with his McCoy 6’ Nugget.

The question IS… “is there any merit”. For that , NO.

Fish are flat, wide, thick railed, short, short fins.

Big wave boards are well rockered, narrow in the tail, thin railed compared to fish, long for paddle speed and entry, and usually are finned to hold in totally positive.

For sure you can, but you can ride a 5’ Bunker board in 11’ Hanalei, if you want.

I once rode a 6’1" x 19 single fin the same day my 9’10" x 19 worked OK. See City Slickers.

Doesn’t mean my original choice was anywhere close to ballpark.


with all due respect, I think you’re missing the point. We’re not talking ‘big waves’ on a 5’8 x 21" twin keel, but rather can the fish design be very slightly tweaked to deal with larger waves - solid to double overhead with rips and lots od water moving up the faces - while still retaining the qualities that have so captured our imaginations.

Yes, a standard gun is the weapon of choice for bigger waves, and I have my 7’4 and 8’4 thrusters for semi scary waves, but I’m looking for a different feeling, a different way of riding solid waves.

It’s not about being stubborn and swearing by your one favourite flavour for all purposes.


Back in the mid/late 70s some riders in California (the name Les Bacon comes to mind) were seen riding longer “gun fishes” in the 7’0"-7’6" range. They were basically drawn out fish templates, slightly pulled in nose and tail compared to the shorter fishes, still retaining the twin keels. I don’t have any dimensions to give you but maybe this is what you’re looking for. I think Steve Brom was shaping them.

New Surfer’s Journal has a photo of Rasta on a 6’8 or so Frye fish…the wave is not DOH or anything, but the board looks sick…

As for riding a fish in larger surf, I travel to Puerto Rico every winter, sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s not. When it’s big (I’m not talking when Tres breaks, but normal good size Maria’s and Wildo) I tend to ride a 6’8 to 7’0 single fin.

I’m leaving on friday for 10 days and seriouslt thinking of only taking a 9’0 JT Diamon T and a 5’11 Mandala canard quad fish…no single. The reason? Because the single ALWAYS makes the drop and it feels safe. In short, I am bored. So the merit of the fish in larger surf for me is to test myself and make it work, which i know it will, having had it out in OH long period grounswell in full rubber here and seeing Malloy and others fishing out. This is not to say I can surf like Dan Malloy and Rasta, but I love the sensation of speed I get on my fishes and am on that trip right now.

Bringing swim fins, as well…

thanks to all for the input – I posted this a while back and saw that it was resurrected today. Since my initial post I have had the chance to experiment with my 5’8" and 5’10" in autumn surf of the solid overhead variety, and my initial thoughts were correct – some waves are too large to catch on a 5’8" for someone of every-man ability.

I have ridden thrusters for years and know that I can depend on them to catch said waves, but it just isn’t as fun. Foamdust’s comments intrigue me – a pulled in 6’10" or so Fish for waves of the double overhead and larger variety. Why? The glide, the extended high line, the speed and trim that modern thruster stilettos can’t provide unless you are talking Indo, Tahiti, or Backdoor. I am talking about slingshots and G forces on 15’ of open face.

The 6’9" Frye is intriguing as well – I saw the photo too and imagined the Gs off the bottom on a double overhead wall that this board would bring.

I will keep all posted if I do in fact get something along these lines out into the water.

Happy surfing,



“true fish Brom/Lis 5’-5’11"” were kneeboards and are ridden in overhead surf all the time. it’s easier to catch

big waves when you have flippers/fins on your feet plus the lower center of gravity helps to… be true to the Fish and ride it on your knees…" …Shiver me timbers, Captain Shipper ! WHERE did THIS come from ?? [imagine how big THAT wave looks from on your knees !!] …is that Ray Pino at BIG honolua …or, perhaps the original, Steve Lis, somewhere ? [ Now excuse me while I change me undies… ] ‘chip’

That’s Mike McGuire and I believe that is Sunset (definitely someplace in Hawaii). He is riding a Fish built by Alan “Bud” McCray, one of the foremost kneeboard shapers in the world today. The picture is from Bud’s website.

For other pictures of Fish in action in quality macking waves in Hawaii, Indo, and Oz (all kneeboarding, of course), go to Click on the photos link at the top of the home page. These pics will leave you with absolutely no doubt as to what a Fish is capable of when ridden as a kneeboard!

Clyde Beatty rides a 7’8" twin fin at the overhead and big strand. I’ve got pictures somewhere;search_string=Mike%20McGuire;guest=1180958#144317