(This is part I of a series. For Part II, click here). There’s no debate about it: Al Merrick is one of the most influential surfboard shapers of all time. And in less than a month, Merrick will be honored at the most excellent Boardroom Show in Del Mar, California, as part of its Icons of Foam series.
Merrick founded Channel Islands Surfboards, which I believe is the single largest surfboard producer in the world today. Al’s son, Britt, has continued to put CI boards underneath the feet of the world’s top pros.
But if you’re a surfboard collector in search of the genuine article, there are a few helpful ways to identify whether or not a CI board was actually shaped by Al, or if it’s one of the far more plentiful production versions that can be found in surf shops around the globe. There are a few vintage boards currently for sale online that I will be featuring below, to illustrate the variety of options available to would-be CI collectors.
Channel Islands Board #1: 6’1″ Vintage 1980s Channel Islands Thruster (eBay)
This is a classic 1980s Channel Islands thruster with great neon lams, and nice vintage touches like the glass on fins and then the logos along the rails. You’ll also notice a slight bump in the tail, which is a common template for CI’s 80s boards. I love these boards, and my personal opinion is that they are only going to become more collectible over time. The asking price for this board is $200, which might be a little pricey considering the condition, but isn’t outrageous. Link to the board is here.
However, Board #1 is not an Al Merrick hand shape. See below for a picture of the signature, which does not have Al’s name next to the distinctive fish icon:
Continue reading to see some examples of genuine Merrick hand shapes…
Channel Islands Board #2: 7’3″ Thruster Shaped by Al Merrick (Craigslist – Hawaii)
First, I’ll draw your attention to a board that is lurking within an otherwise innocuous post of all boards. It’s a 7’3″ thruster that’s going for a mere $100. The board is located on Oahu. Link here. Check out the signature, though: you can see the clear “Al” that segues into the fish icon:
Channel Islands Board #3: 6’8″ Flyer Model Shaped by Al Merrick (Craigslist – Ventura)
The seller of the third board is a little more hip to what’s going on. He’s asking $625 for the board, and the posting specifically mentions that this board was shaped by Merrick himself. You can find the listing here. See the picture below for the same view of the stringer. Again, there’s the Al name flowing into the fish. What’s interesting is that boards #2 and #3 both seem to have been shaped for the same person, even though they’re located in Hawaii and Ventura, respectively. It makes sense that “Bill”, whoever he is, would have been located in Ventura, close to Al’s Santa Barbara home base, and then spent his winters on the North Shore of Oahu.
Channel Islands Board #4: 7’2″ Thruster w/Channels Shaped by Al Merrick (Craigslist – Hawaii)
The final Channel Islands board is a 7’2″ thruster, also for sale in Hawaii. It’s interesting because it has channels, which you don’t really see on very many CI boards. The price is a very reasonable $250 for this board. Again, you can clearly see this board was shaped by Al himself, as indicated in the picture below. One interesting note: board #4 and board #3 are sequentially numbered. Board #4 is numbered 54314, and board #3 is 54313. I’m not certain this means they were made back to back, but if you click through the links, the two boards are consistent in terms of when they were shaped (guessing late 90s to early to mid 2000s, based on the logos).
Channel Islands Board #5: 6’1″ Vintage 1980s Thruster (No Longer for Sale)
The board pictured above came and went on Craigslist, which is why there is no link to the board. As you can see in the gallery above, there’s no “Al” on the fish design, which indicates this board was not shaped by Al himself. However, this is a great example of how these vintage boards with nice spray jobs can go quickly. It was listed at $485 and I’m guessing the board sold, based on the fact it is no longer listed. Another interesting detail of this board is the Shoreline Glassing logo. That indicates the board was glassed in San Diego. (Note: I’m told that this might be a separate Shoreline Glassing, which was actually based out of Hermosa Beach in the 80s.) Traditionally I’ve seen vintage CI boards with Bob Haakenson’s logo, as he is a local Santa Barbara glasser.