Vintage Channel Islands 80s Thruster (Perhaps a Shaun Tomson Merrick?)

Shaun Tomson Pipeline

Greetings, Shredderz! I hope your weekend will be chock full of tasty waves and even better company. Today’s post focuses on a board with some interesting bloodlines: a potential Shaun Tomson Merrick. Spoiler alert: it’s a sick board, but I am increasingly skeptical that it was shaped for Tomson. Nonetheless, this is as good an opportunity as any to take a closer look at the collaboration between Shaun Tomson and Channel Islands founder Al Merrick.

Tomson originally hails from South Africa, but he has taken up residence in the Santa Barbara area. Tomson and Channel Islands go way back. The Encyclopedia of Surfing claims Merrick began shaping boards for Tomson as far back as the late 1970s.

Shaun Tomson Merrick Twin Fin 1980.jpg
Shaun Tomson surfing the first-ever twin fin shaped for him by Al Merrick in 1980. Photographer unknown. Source: Shaun Tomson Twitter

The relationship between Shaun Tomson and Merrick continues to this day. 2011 saw the release of a Shaun Tomson Merrick collaboration model called “The Warp” that was designed for older surfers. Tomson tweeted about a new Warp-X model he had shaped for him before this year’s WSL J-Bay event (though it appears it was crafted by Al’s son Britt, who has taken the reins at Channel Islands).

The focus of today’s post is a sweet 1980s Channel Islands Al Merrick board that can currently be found for sale on Craigslist in Santa Barbara. You can find a link to the board here. (Pictures below via the Craigslist post.) The board bears the logo for defunct Instinct Surfwear, which Tomson founded and continued to ride for during the 1980s. In addition, according to the poster, the lams on the board are all beneath the glass, meaning that this board was created for a team rider.

The board also bears a clear Al Merrick signature, indicating it was hand-shaped by the man himself. (See here for an earlier post on how to identify boards that have been shaped by Al himself.)

Channel Islands Al Merrick Signature.jpg
Clear evidence of a Merrick hand shape — look at the unmistakable “Al / Fish” design above the stringer.

Now for the bad news: I can’t find any evidence that Tomson ever rode for Aleeda Wetsuits. In fact, the only photos I have been able to find show Tomson with O’Neill stickers on his boards. As mentioned earlier, the Aleeda and Instinct logo lams are beneath the glass, so this is not a sticker that was added after the fact. In conclusion, I think it’s possible the board pictured above is a Shaun Tomson Merrick, but I think it’s unlikely. If anyone has more definitive info, I’d love to know more.

Tomson also had his own line of surfboards, but I am not sure of the production dates for those boards. These boards were branded with Tomson’s name. There are a lot of other funky Tomson boards too, such as a co-branded Tomson / Surf Line Hawaii board, which you can see here.

Shaun Tomson Surfboards.jpg
The degree of difficulty on the old pastel boat shoes move goes way down when you have a world championship to your name. Shaun Tomson, looking dapper while showing off one of his surfboards. Pic via Vintage Surfboard Collector UK; photographer unknown.

Either way, the board in question is a great example of a genuine 1980s Channel Islands Al Merrick handshape. Not everyone loves the neon airbrush, but at the very least, it is what they might call era-appropriate. Check out the board here if you’re interested, and may the Gods of Shred smile upon your weekend!

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