California Classic: Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull by Al Merrick

Greetings, Shredderz! We’re featuring a board today from a label that is near and dear to my heart. My first ever board was a 7’4″ Channel Islands thruster, purchased when I was a young grommet in the late 90s. I still have it, and no, I’m never selling it. Ever since then I’ve had a fondness for the Channel Islands label. That affinity has only grown the more I’ve learned about Al Merrick’s long and illustrious career. CI is still going strong today, and after a stint under the Burton Snowboards umbrella, Channel Islands is once again independently owned by the surfers — head shaper Britt Merrick, various executives, team riders and employees — who make it all possible.

The board you see above is a Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull that was shaped by Al Merrick. Thanks to Jon Kitamura for generously sharing the photos you see here. Like so many other advancements in surfboard design, the Tri Plane Hull is based off a bottom contour originally developed by George Greenough, with an assist from Aussie shaper Michael Cundith. See here for my writeup of another CI TPH model, which has some more detail about the design.

Merrick started shaping Tri Plane Hulls as single fins, and eventually applied the bottom contours to twin fins and thrusters. I’m not sure when the board featured here was shaped, but my guess is early 80s, or maybe late 70s. The board has a clear signature from Al himself on the stringer, along with the dimensions (6’8″ x 20 1/4″), minus the thickness. I have yet to find a reliable method for decoding Merrick’s serial numbers, and for what it’s worth, this one is #6279.

The CI Tri Plane Hull pictured in this post is a beautiful board that’s chock full of great details. Check out that subtle blue resin pinline on the deck (stay tuned for the matching vintage fin.) I’m a sucker for all the old school CI logos and branding. The “Tri Plane Hull” laminate on the deck is really rad, and I love the different color palettes for the hexagon logos on the deck and the bottom. The logo placement on the bottom is absolutely top notch — they need to bring back that double logo hit along the rails.

I love seeing these earlier Channel Islands boards with classic 70s design elements. You can clearly see the beak nose and the wings in the tail, which seem so distant from the finely tuned thrusters for which the CI brand is best known today. The original fin is gorgeous, too.

Last but not least, it’s always great to see a Channel Islands board bearing evidence of Bob Haakenson’s craftsmanship. For decades now Haakenson has been one of the standout glassers in the Santa Barbara area, and he worked with Channel Islands for decades, starting in 1973. I don’t believe he works with CI any longer — which isn’t surprising, given that they’re said to be the largest surfboard manufacturer in the world — but Haakenson still glasses Renny Yater’s boards after all these years. You can follow Bob Haakenson on Instagram here.

Thanks again to Jon for the photos of this stunning stick and I hope you enjoyed checking out this Channel Island Tri Plane Hull as much as I did.

Photo at the top of the page by Guy Motil and via US Blanks.

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