Steve Lis was born in San Diego in 1951. He was raised in San Diego, and started surfing at the age of 10 in 1961. He shaped and designed a stumpy, blunt-nosed kneeboard in his family garage in 1967. The 5'4" kneeboard featured flat-rocker with a split tail with twin fins. This design was called “the fish.”
“I liked to ride pintails but my swim-fins hung over the side and created drag. So I designed a split-tailed board with the width to support my fins, but at the same time preserve the characteristics of the pintail,” said Lis to the late Gary Taylor, a local writer, in a 1973 interview. This design opened a new phase of tube riding, radical cut-backs, and better performance on fast, small waves.
Steve Lis’s design was used almost exclusively in Point Loma’s reef breaks. Slightly larger versions were used by stand-up surfers Mike Tabeling, 1971 U.S. Champion David Nuuhiwa, and 1972 world champion Jim Blears. In 1976, the twin-fin fish was introduced to Australian pro Mark Richards by Hawaiian Reno Abellira. In 1976, Mark Richards’s adaptations to Lis’s original design popularized the twin-fin design to mainstream surf culture.
Steve Lis still shapes fish boards and lives on Kauai in Hanalei, Hawaii.