The Origins Of The Single Splice
[Andrew Kidman on the Single Splice.]
'The Origins of The Single Splice' (6’7” x 19 3/8 x 2 ¾)
In the early nineties my brother was renting a fibro house on Ocean Street in Narrabeen. He knew I was into messing around with surfboards and called me to let me know he’d found a single fin under the house in pristine condition. It turned out to be a Brother Neilson, wide point forward, low rocker, down rail off the deck, a tucked bottom edge with flat to slight V bottom that ran out through the tail, standard issue for a board from the mid to late seventies.
[Brother Neilson board.]
I rode the board for the first time in some solid lefts at North Avalon. It paddled really well and hung in on some heavy drops. Most surprisingly was the way it hooked out of the top of the wave on my backhand. It was stiff at first, but when I got the line right and engaged the rail at the right moment the board drove through the bottom and top turn beautifully.
A couple of years prior to this, Dave Parmenter had built me a Widowmaker, a modernized single fin with smaller side fins. It was my favorite board at the time. The pure single fin of the Brother Neilson, with the flatter rocker had something else going on altogether. The feelings I’d had on the Neilson were so charming, it felt powerful to turn, unlike the Thrusters I was also riding, which were becoming incredibly sensitive and submissive as they dropped in size and width, as most shapers began to follow the lead of Slater/Merrick and Greg Webber/Herring as they explored extreme rockers and concaves – sending medium wave performance surfing through the roof.
I was actually bored with the feelings of these designs. I could virtually do anything I wanted on these boards, but I had no interest in following that ‘high performance’ line of wave riding. I liked to tube ride and go fast, to feel the board riding the wave, the subtle nuance, rather than the domination of the craft, the Neilson had some of these feelings I was after and I wanted more of them.
[Dave Parmenter backside cruise]
Time went on…I began spending months on end with Wayne Lynch, surfing the South West Coast of Victoria with him. Wayne was shaping and riding small and big wave Thrusters. Steven Cooney of Morning of the Earth fame had sent me a photograph of Wayne and his quiver that he’d taken in the late seventies. The foils on the boards were remarkable. They looked perfect. I asked Wayne if he would make me one of these boards. He laughed at the suggestion, calling them, “Shit heaps,” going on to say that, “boards are just so much better now.” I wasn’t so sure.
He did go on to tell me how great some of these boards actually went -- and how Reno Abellira actually shaped the board that he rode in the Jack McCoy short film A Day in The Life, and how that was a fantastic board. It was quite ironic listening to Wayne’s tales about these boards and the great rides he’d had on them, I could feel these boards from his stories, but I couldn’t feel them in real life. Talk about a carrot dangle.
[Wayne Lynch '70s quiver. Photo by Steven Cooney.]
It wasn’t until March 2006, when Dave Parmenter came down to Australia to visit Wayne, that I got another chance to bait the fish. Dave has always been an advocate of the single fin, bringing with him a 6’9” modern single fin that he’d shaped for his wife Claudia. The board couldn’t have been more perfect for the waves we scored on the trip: long walled, overhead point breaks and out to sea peaking Bombies. Wayne was impressed with the surfing Dave was doing. I could see a spark had been ignited in Wayne, so I asked him again if he’d consider shaping me a single fin. To which he replied, “No, if you want one, make it yourself, I’d be happy to watch you and tell you what to do. All the templates are there in the shaping bay. Reno’s template from the Day in the Life board is there.” I was beginning to see the light.
Dave and I drove out to Greg Brown’s factory in Torquay and got a blank. It was flat and nice and thick. The next day I began shaping the board with tutelage from Dave Parmenter and Wayne Lynch, what could be better? Wayne pulled the Reno template from the stack of templates he has and we combined it with one of Dave’s single fin templates that he’d brought down and ‘The Single Splice’ was born. The rest of the day was spent refining the shape with Dave, doing what I was told. Wayne coming and going, laughing and joking about the shape most of the time, but also taking a keen interest, it was an incredible experience.
[Dave Parmenter's outline]
When the board was done we took it back to Greg Brown’s for glassing and asked for a light glass job, to keep the board lively, so it wouldn’t have that dead feeling a heavy glass job can get on a shorter board.
A few weeks later I was back home on the North Coast when the phone rang. It was Wayne. He told me that he had the board I’d shaped sitting in front of him and that he really thought there was something in it, that it was valid and definitely worth pursuing. He told me just holding the board was bringing back so many good memories for him. It was a nice phone call, like an affirmation that what I was doing was right. I told Wayne, “I’m just interested in the feelings of single fins,” which he also thought was totally valid. Telling me, “Surfing is a very personal journey and you should follow whatever you’re interested in.”
The Single Splice is in its eighth year now. I still ride it whenever the waves get over four feet and up to eight. Or when I feel jaded and want to push the reset button on my surfing. I ride it with a fin that Terry Fitzgerald gave me. It goes fantastic in down the line barrels where you can move forward onto the thickness of the wide flat platform that is in the front of the board. It also turns on a dime, both on the forehand and backhand. It has this slight kick in the tail rocker that starts just before the fin, which is they reason I believe the board turns so well.
[Single Splice in full, shaped by Andrew Kidman]
[Catching Sparks, 6'7" Single Splice by Andrew Kidman, available at Pilgrim Surf + Supply]
[Electric Feel, 6'7" Single Splice by Andrew Kidman, available at Pilgrim Surf + Supply]
When I’m shaping the current Single Splices, I’m just trying to replicate this board. It’ll never be the same, but I do my best to true them in like the original, as the boards’ pedigree is quite profound and I believe it’s worthwhile attempting for provenance.
[Kidman cutting down on the Single Splice.]
[Single Splice heading into the tube.]
[Kidman's Splicey tight whip turn.]
[Kidman's Single Splice off the bottom.]
[Dave Parmenter single fin flow. Photo by Andrew Kidman.]
[Dave Parmenter off the top. Photo by Andrew Kidman.]
N.B.: Thanks Dave and Wayne for all your help, knowledge and inspiration.
- Words and archived photos by Andrew Kidman
See all of Andrew Kidman's boards available at Pilgrim Surf + Supply here.