Santa Cruz Royalty: Freeline and the Mel Family

Today’s post is going to be a relatively short one. Usually I like to go a little more in-depth, but it’s late and there’s more to life than cool surfboards (only kidding).

If, like me, you occasionally surf in Santa Cruz, you have no doubt heard of Peter Mel. Peter can currently be seen on computer screens everywhere as a commentator for the World Surf League. He became a fixture in the nineties surf scene thanks to his standout performances at Mavericks, the legendary NorCal big wave proving grounds.

Orange County5/20
Peter Mel charging Mavericks in the late 1990s. Photo by Rob Gilley, via Surfer Magazine

Peter’s father, John Mel, owns Freeline Surf, a local surf shop in Santa Cruz that has been an integral part of the surf community there since it opened in 1969. (Peter Mel has a son, also named John, who is an up-and-coming ripper in his own right!) In addition to running the shop, John Mel is a well-regarded shaper who was recently honored by the Boardroom Show‘s Icons of Foam Series.

Pictured at the top of the page is a John Mel / Freeline surfboard that is currently for sale on Craigslist in Santa Cruz. The Craigslist poster estimates the board is from the late 70s or early 80s, and the 2 + 1 fin setup is an unusual touch for board from that era. I’d almost call it a fish, given the wings and the swallow tail, were it not for the fin setup. And check out the paint job, which has a Larry Bertlemann Pepsi feel to it. I’ve never seen that particular version of the “Freeline Design” logo located on the rails, either.

As a bonus, here’s an old John Mel / Freeline Designs ad I found on the Surf Channel. I love the “Knee Machines” reference.


And yes, John Mel rips.

John Mel in Fiji. Pic by Wilcox, via US Blanks

If you’re interested in the board, you can check it out here.

Leave a Reply