Tyler Warren – artist, shaper, surfer. It’s a loaded title but nothing trivial or opportunistic about Tyler’s multifarious existence. His house in Capistrano, Southern California is customised for his various creative passions – neatly divided between curated rooms, for his living area, art studio and shaping bay or ‘fun zone’ as Tyler likes to call his creative spaces.

Take a moment to glance at some of Tyler’s surf-themed prints online and you get an immediate sense of authenticity – the waves and the board-riders immediately look like the work of a surfer. You quickly find yourself drawn into the often boldly coloured artwork, riding the wave or enjoying the moment alongside the illustration’s subject. While Tyler exhibits his work, in the past he’s also been commissioned to produce commercial work for the likes of Rip Curl. When you look at the finishes and sprays that feature in Tyler’s boards, it’s easy to see how his artistic inclinations easily spill over into the shaping bay.   

At 32 Tyler has been making boards for more than 15 years and gives himself license to explore just about any kind of design. His mini-Simmons inspired twin fins have been one of his most popular models and he’s one of the few shapers who have been capable of taking some of the world’s best on a retro tangent. Just consider the list of surfers who have ordered Tyler’s boards – Joel Parkinson, Tom Curren, Creed McTaggart, Lisa Anderson, The Gudauskas brothers, Dylan Graves, Jack Freestone, Jamie O’Brien,  Kolohe Andino, Koa Smith, Wade Goodall, Tony Moniz and Joel Tudor. Even Kelly Slater borrowed one of Tyler’s boards off the Gudauskas brothers just to see what the fuss is all about.

Perhaps Tyler’s capacity to sell modern pros on his designs hinges on his own surfing ability. Exceptional and distinctive on everything from a log to a performance thruster; Tyler has a knack of making you go, ‘Wow, I wonder what that guy is riding; because he’s sure making it look good."

Although he travels extensively, most mornings you will find Tyler trawling for waves somewhere between San Onofre and Trestles. While his surfing varies from craft to craft his goal is generally always the same – to be riding the best board for the conditions of the day – or at least the one he knows he will have the most fun on.        

Tracks: You mentioned that your first board was actually a twin fin?

Tyler: My first board was made in around 1980. It was a channel bottomed Bruce Jones, 5’8” winged swallow. It was like a relative had it laying around and gave it my dad and my dad gave it to me.

So everyone around you would have been on thrusters? 

I was young, I didn’t really know anything about surfing too much. I think I was nine. I rode it in a couple of contests in high school. I think I made the semis on it once. Yeah, it was around 96, so that was at the height of thin, chippy shortboards. 

So at what age did you start experimenting with making your own boards?

When I was 14. Then I made about a board every year after that. My first twin fin I made was my ninth board… I made it for this girl, but it went good so I kept it and made her another one. I was about 22 then. 

What was the influence for that first twin fin?

That was a mini-Simmons inspired, swallow-tail soap. They were so different to what people had been seeing and they were super-fast and drivey and kind of anybody could ride them I guess. Those were kind of like my hot item for the first 100 or so boards I made, I guess. But I tried a lot of variations of boards and then riding different twin fins from other shapers. I’ve kind of always been keeping my mind open and trying other stuff. 

Tyler drives an MR Twin back to the source with lashings of style. Photo: Swilly

When did you realise that shaping was something other than just a backyard hobby and you could supplement your living with it?

I guess once people started ordering them and buying them… 

Was the so-called ‘ride everything movement’ starting to generate a following around that time?

Yeah, I think around early 2000. People have been experimenting more with boards, but people always have been if you really look into surfing. I think surfing is always constantly evolving – different shapes and concepts and different ideas.

When people think about surfboard evolution they probably think of the evolution of the performance thruster, but other board types, like twin fins, are also still evolving?  

Yep, for sure. And you can tell on this trip. For a lot of them, that concept of board hasn’t been made before. They’re all pretty ‘fresh fish’.   

So the modern twin is really borrowing from a lot of different influences rather than just being a straight replica of something from the 80s? Is that something you like to do with your boards?

Yeah, I usually like to modernise it. Maybe the rails are thinner or more forgiving; deeper concave, putting little hips in the template – different bottom contours. I’ll get inspired by old boards but it’s not like I’m replicating something. I try and make it work even better you know.

What sources do you get your inspiration from?

Movies, photos templates, pictures, books, friends… I’ve always just loved surfboard design in general since I was super young. When I was 12 I use to draw boards all the time and fins and always look at magazines. I think I just loved looking at different board collections or people’s quivers. It just interests me.

a bit of light-hearted fun in a Maldivian curl. Photo: Swilly

Tell us about one of the boards you rode this trip?

I think I probably rode the blue one the most. Because we didn’t have big waves it was pretty shreddable for the wave size. That was basically a classic fish nose with a Simmons tail and then I put this moon tail in it just for a different look other than a swallow. It kinda provides grip. The fins on that are kind of like a smaller version of the original soap fin, but they’re still massive fins. They’re like a nine-inch base and about 41/2 inches tall. The nose entry is a slight roll into a single concave and then a spiral V out the back, which is the bottom I’ve been testing a lot. Single six ounce glass job.

What’s the function of the spiral V?

It creates speed, lift and also makes it looser.

Tell us a little more about the fins?

They’re made out of marine ply. They’re pretty far back, about 41/2 inches off the tail. Those boards you’re not really doing too much vertical surfing but you go really fast and push really hard.  For me I just want to go really fast, draw good lines and do big carves.

Have you got to put them a little further back because they are not as tall from base to tip regular twin fins?

Yeah, exactly. And the tail’s so wide too that you loose your drive if they’re too far up.

How was the sensation jumping from your board to the MR twin fin?

Yeah, it was fun to ride the MR because that wave had a really tight little pocket backside; it was fun to mix it up and try something different. It felt skittish at first but then I figured it out.  Had a couple of fun waves.

Do you think the average surfer can benefit from having a twin fin in the quiver?

Yeah, for sure. I think a lot of progressive shapers – the boards they’re making – the average surfer is usually riding pretty average waves, some boards don’t really allow you to have fun. But a fun twin fin or a board with like a wider tail or less rocker. Just a more forgiving shape can allow a surfer to have a better time, which I think is important. 

You can see the full 'Fresh Fish' feature in the Tracks Annual, on sale now!