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Simon Anderson: The Unassuming Champion

Don’t be surprised if you never hear Narrabeen native Simon Anderson spin a lengthy yarn about his success surfing the waves at home and abroad.

“My throat gets a bit scratchy when I talk too much. It’s a result of board making, all the dust,” he says.

“I had no aspirations, no ambition so much. I just wanted to surf, surf as good as I could and it just happened. I was in an area that was a hotbed of surfing talent and was focused on inter club contests. I had simple aspirations and it just led where it led.”

A local legend, Anderson can be credited for starting a new era in surfboard design and wave riding when he invented the three-fin thruster in 1980. He had left school a decade earlier and started shaping at Shane Surfboards in Brookie.

The three-fin design may be standard for most surfboards nowadays but it’s potential to push the limits of high-performance surfing wasn’t always clear. 

“The key for me with shaping is that it’s always been a personal experience. The chance to make a board for yourself that allows you to surf somewhere different on the wave,” Anderson says.

“The inspiration for the first thruster came from MR whooping our asses on the tour on a twin fin. I’m a big guy and I needed something loose and fast, but controllable.

To get on the thruster for the first time felt amazing. It was clear to me that I was onto something and I really thought that the rest of the world would agree as it let you connect through turns and keep your speed. Even though that sounds simple today, that was an incredible new dynamic in surfing that I was super excited about but it took a little bit to convince other people.”

He had to refine his original design and put it to the test in front of thousands at the 1981’ Bells Beach and Pipe Masters – he won both titles.

“Each generation has their superstars and the Northern Beaches has had many incredible surfers over the years.

“We felt the pressure of being the next generation after Nat Young and Midget Farrelly, and all those incredible icons of Australian surfing. And it seemed like there was no chance that we could live up to the standards that they set and the things they achieved. But somehow each new generation does all right.

The future for the surf community, I think it’s as bright as ever.” 

At 66, Anderson is an elder of the local surfing community but is as keen to be involved as ever.

“I still have a mission of trying to make boards that will improve my experience and I still like to stay in touch with high-performance surfing,” he says.

“I got a couple of local guys at my local beach that I make boards for. So yeah, I’m essentially still doing the same thing.” 

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