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California Surf Museum
223 N. Coast Highway Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 721-6876
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Surfer Shapers

Steve Lis

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.


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