Greetings, Shredderz! As always, it is late on Thursday evening, California time, which can only mean an incoming post about a vintage surf ad, courtesy of Sagas of Shred. This time around we have another tried and true classic: a Tom Curren Channel Islands Surfboards ad congratulating him on his third world title.
What’s interesting about this ad is the fact is the line about Tom Curren surfing his way to a title on “a laser generated Al Merrick shape.” I’m wondering if this isn’t a reference to an early version of a shaping machine. While Channel Islands employed a number of ghost shapers for years to meet demand, it would later become one of the largest surfboard manufacturers in the world, thanks to the use of shaping machines. I can’t say for sure whether this Tom Curren Channel Islands ad is specifically referencing that shift, but either way, it’s an interesting mention.
A few years back Surfline published a post wishing Curren a happy fiftieth birthday, and it contained the Art Brewer photo you see above. I’m almost certain this is the same board from the Tom Curren Channel Islands ad featured at the top of the page. You’ll notice the same Marui singlet, and I can only guess this came from the Pipe Masters during 1990. I’m not sure what advantages one gets from riding a “laser generated” surfboard, but it seems to work good enough for one of the greatest surfers ever at the sport’s single most iconic spot.
As always, thanks for checking out Sagas of Shred, and stop on by next Thursday evening for yet another vintage surf ad.
Greetings, Shredderz! Today we’re featuring a board from a label I haven’t written about for some time, but one that remains an all time favorite: Channel Islands Surfboards. CI is the label of Al Merrick, one of the most influential shapers of all time, thanks to collaborations with at least three surfers who are immediately recognizable on a one-name basis: Curren, Slater and Tomson. My first ever surfboard was Nineties Channel Islands thruster, and ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for the brand. Of course, this being a vintage surfboard blog, I love older CI boards, and you can imagine my delight when someone reached out with some photos of a beautiful Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull.
Click on either of the photos above to enlarge. Many thanks to Ryan, who shared the photos and story behind this sled. You can clearly see the double concave in the bottom (see the photo on the right). The double concave is one of the defining elements of Merrick’s Tri Plane Hull. Surfline recently ran an interview with Merrick in which he described the history and mechanics of the Tri Plane Hull design:
“Early on, the Tri Plane Hull was a big part of what I was doing. I started doing it in single fins. Actually, it was a take off on a Greenough bottom—not exactly like it, but a take off from it. I started using it on single fins then twin fins, and then on the thrusters. There was a lot of concave and curve about four inches from the rail, and then there was a double concave that went down between the fins. It was about lift and drive, giving it that extra punch, extra speed because [the concave] would straighten out the rocker through the center with the double concave. A bit of rocker through the tail, there was the vee back there so you had lift on either side. As you went side-to-side you’d get a little lift out of it, channeling the water between the fins. The Tri Plane was probably the most effective in the twin fins, but I used it in the Thrusters too. It was pretty popular with the guys and it gave the boards a lot more punch out of the bottom turn, and gave more drive to the board. It was probably a little easier [to ride] edge-to-edge—instead of having total concave across the bottom there was a lot of release on the edge of the board.”
Although I had never realized the Tri Plane Hull owed its history to Greenough, I can’t say I’m totally surprised, given Greenough’s near endless contributions to modern surfboard design. After a little digging I was able to find an example of a Sky Surfboards twin fin shaped by Michael Cundith. According to Von Weirdos, the Sky twin fin’s tri plane hull bottom was designed by Cundith, George Greenough and Chris Brock in the late Seventies. You can clearly see the resemblance between the Sky board and the Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull above.
I’m still a bit taken aback by the dramatic double concave bottom in Ryan’s board, pictured at the top of the page. I’ve seen a few other CI Tri Plane Hulls and they seem to have much subtler concave bottoms. However, it’s hard to tell just by looking at photos, and unfortunately I haven’t seen any of these boards from this post in person.
Ryan’s Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull doesn’t have the classic “Al / Fish” icon as part of the signature, but I feel pretty comfortable declaring his board an Al Merrick hand shape. One note about the dates and the numbering: Ryan’s board is numbered #6653. The Tri Plane Hull I posted about on Instagram, which you can see further up in the post, is numbered #6044 and was apparently shaped in 1978. I’d roughly peg Ryan’s board as having been shaped in the late Seventies or maybe the early Eighties — assuming Merrick numbered his boards in order during this era.
Finally, Ryan’s board clocks in at 6’5″ x 20″ x 3″. Thanks again for sharing pics of this awesome piece of Santa Barbara surfing history, and if any of you Shredderz have some gems you’d like to see written up, you know where to find me!
Greetings, Shredderz! Today’s vintage surf ad — part of the Sagas of Shred series — features the Eighties surf scene’s version of peanut butter and jelly: Tom Curren and Channel Islands Surfboards. Never mind that the ad is technically an OP ad. I still look back fondly on Ocean Pacific’s run as one of the surfwear heavyweights, but I think we can all agree that the real magic is the union between Tom Curren and CI mastermind Al Merrick.
Now, the real question is this: is the board Curren is holding none other than the legendary Red Beauty? Red Beauty was the name of the Al Merrick-shaped thruster Curren surfed to victory in the 1984 OP Pro. The Red Beauty model is still available via Channel Islands’ website today.
To be honest, I’m not sure. I doubt the board in the ad is the Red Beauty. First of all, the ran ad in the February 1986 issue of Surfer Magazine (Vol. 27, No. 2), which means the photo was likely taken sometime in late 1985. This would date the ad to a good year plus after the 1984 OP Pro.
I also found the below picture online. You can clearly see the board Curren surfing below is very different from the one he was in the ad (the below picture doesn’t have the Tom Curren logo, for example), yet it has the same red rails. Either way, I think the red rails were a very common design for many of Curren’s boards over the years.
The other thing I love about the ad is the fact Curren is referred to as Tommy Curren. It seems like the Tommy name was favored by a number of Santa Barbara locals who grew up with Curren, and you’ll still see it pop up from time to time.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this post, and we’ll have another vintage surf ad for you next Thursday night as the Sagas of Shred train continues to chug along!
Technically I believe only one of these boards is vintage (that would be the Brewer on the bottom). This is far from a “classic” Brewer in the sense it’s an Eighties thruster, but hey, it’s got Dick Brewer’s name on it, and the airbrush is awesome.
Here’s Al Merrick posing with a Channel Islands Surfboards thruster that was likely shaped in the Eighties. From the OP sticker I’m guessing this has to be one of the boards that Tom Curren rode en route to a US Open victory. You don’t hear much about Al these days, as his son Britt has taken the reins at CI, but it’s great to see an update!
I hate to start off with one of my own posts, but this time it’s important. Sadly, Charlie Bunger, one of the true OGs of the New York surf scene, passed away earlier this month. The only reason I included my own post is, well, it’s my favorite photo of a Bunger surfboard. RIP to Mr Bunger and thoughts and prayers to all his family and friends.
If, like me, you have an obsession with both Skip Frye boards and their opaque pricing, you’ll also enjoy the post above from Bird’s Surf Shed. (Roperized, for those who are unfamiliar, means the board was fixed up by San Diego local Joe Roper, who runs one of the better-known repair shops in town.) The Modern Machine is a G&S model, not a Skip outline, which Joel Tudor referenced in another recent Instagram post. Anyway, the G&S / Skip Frye board was listed for $1,200, which seems extremely fair to me.
A post shared by Matt Biolos (@mayhemsurfboards_mattbiolos) on
Is this pushing the limits of vintage? Maybe. Do I care? Not one bit. I hardly ever write about high performance thrusters — mostly because I can’t surf them! — but I am an unabashed fan of Matt Biolos and his Lost Surfboards label. I’ve never met the dude but he seems knowledgeable without being the least bit pretentious. Anyway, this board has some nice history, as it not only involves Mayhem, but also Reno Abellira and Herbie Fletcher.
Jimmy Metyko is a photographer who has been sharing some real gems on Instagram lately. I urge you to give him a follow. He has chronicled some of the great moments in California surf history, with a particular focus on Santa Barbara and legends like Tom Curren and Al Merrick.
Finally, Pat Rawson is well worth the follow. Despite having a resume that any shaper would envy, Rawson is still going strong. He shares a lot of posts on his modern shapes and the details behind the boards, rooted in his deep knowledge of the craft.
Before we start, I’d like to make one thing clear: this might be a free country, but Shred Sledz is a blog that will not tolerate any slander of Tom Curren whatsoever. This is non-negotiable.
That said…I’d like to know who at OP in the Eighties thought it would be a good idea to cast Curren as a would-be heartthrob for these advertisements. Again, in case the previous paragraph wasn’t clear, the blame is being laid squarely at the feet of the once-ubiquitous surf brand, and not with the most stylish regular foot of all time.
But this is marketing malpractice! Why is the picture of Curren gazing off into the distance approximately eight times the size of him ripping on a signature Channel Islands Al Merrick stick?
And while I’d like to be outraged by the Ocean Pacific ad featured above…at the end of the day, I can’t bring myself to truly dislike it, no matter how ridiculous the photoshoot might be. In fact, if anyone knows where I could find a version of the shirt Curren is rocking in the ad, I’d definitely be interested (though I don’t think I’m capable of actually pulling it off).
As a palate cleanser, please enjoy Tom Curren’s first-ever wave he rode at Jeffreys Bay. Curren famously refused to visit South Africa for years, due to his objections to Apartheid. This footage was shot by the legendary Sonny Miller. Fast forward to the 1:43 mark to see some truly virtuoso level surfing:
As always, thank you for reading, and check back next Thursday for more Sagas of Shred.
Al Merrick’s greatness is undeniable. What else is there to say about the guy who shaped boards for Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren and Kelly Slater, and forever changed high performance shortboards? As an added bonus, every interview with Merrick indicates that his talent was matched only by his graciousness and humility. I continue to be amazed that Merrick’s hand-shaped boards aren’t in higher demand. I wrote an earlier post about how to identify a genuine Al Merrick signature. The post focused on boards made between the 1980s and 2000s. Today’s post will feature Channel Islands surfboards made during the during the brand’s early years (1970s through early 1980s), some of which pre-date the brand’s now-famous hexagon logo. Continue reading below for an unnecessarily detailed journey into the boards from Al’s early years…
Channel Islands Mid 1970s Single Fin: Al Merrick Signature
This might be one of the coolest vintage Channel Islands boards I have ever seen. First, check out the Channel Islands ad above, which was taken sometime in the mid-1970s. You can see that none of the boards in the ad have the now-famous CI hexagon logo. Second, the swallow tail board with the fish airbrush is clearly visible in the center of the ad. The airbrush was done by Jack Meyer, who was a Santa Barbara legend in his own right. Miraculously, this board has survived, and it belongs to the owner of Pig Dog Surf Shop. You can find the original Facebook post about the board here, which has many more pictures and info. The second picture is a close-up of the stringer, where you can see an Al Merrick signature with his full name, in addition to longtime glasser Bob Haakenson. The fish design, which appears on so many of Al’s boards, has an outline, which is unlike any other example I have seen on a Channel Islands board.
Channel Islands Early 1970s Single Fin: Inconclusive Al Merrick Signature
Pictured above is a Channel Islands single fin that was dated to 1971. This board originally appeared for sale at Mollusk Surf Shop. It is currently for sale on SurfboardHoard.com (link here). There is an inscription on the stringer, and you can see a closeup here. It’s difficult to make out anything in the inscription other than the fish design, which is a near constant presence on CI boards. The verdict: it’s difficult to say whether this is a genuine Merrick handshape, given the lack of an identifiable signature.
Channel Islands Single Fin and 1980s Tri Plane Hull Twin Fin: Al Merrick Signature with Full Name
Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I found this picture. If it belongs to you, let me know so I can give credit where it is due! I believe the board above was made in the late 1970s or early 1980s. You can see the Channel Islands hexagon logo on the bottom. According to Stoked-n-Board, the hexagon logo wasn’t introduced until 1979. This board looks extremely similar to a Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull model I wrote about almost a year ago. There is a clear signature on the stringer that has Al’s full name. The serial number is #6106, compared to #5374 on the CI Tri Plane Hull. The glassed-on wooden fin is interesting: I haven’t seen any other CI boards with a similar fin setup.
See above for an example of an early 1980s Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull twin fin that also bears Al’s signature with his full name, and not the “Fish / Al” combo that is common on later Merrick shapes. If you don’t follow Buggs on Instagram, you should! The serial number on this board is #6383, dating it a little after both of the single fins mentioned in the above paragraph.
Channel Islands Single Fins: “Stamped” Al Merrick Signature
Finally, we have some surfboards that I simply don’t know how to classify. The picture above comes from a late 1970s / early 1980s CI single fin that I wrote up earlier this year. The more I look at the signature above, the more I am convinced that this is simply a laminate. The “Shaped By” is obviously printed, and the signature is either printed or is in dark ink, unlike most of the examples above. Even though I believe the signature above is a laminate, I think it’s still possible the board was hand-shaped by Al. I’m just not sure.
For example, see the board pictured directly above. It is an odd combo: it has a signature that is an obvious laminate, but it also has a clear Al hand signature on the stringer. I believe the board above was likely made during the early 1980s, right before the thruster took off, but I’m not certain.
How can one tell whether or not a board was shaped by Al Merrick? Well, I hate to even say this, but it depends. There are many examples of early Channel Islands Surfboards that do not have a clear Al Merrick signature, but were still shaped well before the brand shifted to mass production of its designs. I suppose it’s possible that Merrick employed ghost shapers, but I can’t say for sure. One trend is also clear: during CI’s early days, Merrick had a habit of signing his board with his full name, before transitioning to the “Al / fish” combo during the 80s and the subsequent years of his career. If you have additional information, please let me know!
See “How to Tell if Al Merrick Shaped Your Channel Islands Surfboard” here.
Greetings, Shredderz! I’d like to welcome you all — yes, all five of you — to a brand spankin’ new series: Sagas of Shred! If, like me, you enjoy the nostalgia from #throwbackthursday but find yourself endlessly confused by hashtag culture, then this is the right place for you. Sagas of Shred is a weekly series, posted every Thursday, that will highlight a small piece of surf culture from the days of old. Today’s post focuses on a vintage Channel Islands Surfboards ad from the 1970s, which you can see below:
This is the first evidence I have seen that Channel Islands produced a sting design in large quantities during the 1970s. We featured a CI sting in an earlier post, but at the time I had assumed this was probably a one-off design. I have only seen a Channel Islands 70s sting for sale once before. I am guessing CI only produced a sting for a few years during the 70s. If you have one in your possession that you’d like to see featured here, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Shred Sledz’s undying love of vintage Channel Islands boards is well-documented, so I’ll spare you the breathless prose. Let’s get right down to brass tacks: pictured above is a 1970s 7′ Channel Islands single fin that’s up for grabs for $250. It’s listed on Craigslist in LA, and you can find the listing here.
I think this is a pretty good price, with the enormous caveat that there’s no real way to know the board’s condition without seeing it in person. From the pics that were provided, though, it doesn’t seem like there are any glaring issues. These 70s CI boards are pretty rare. Mollusk has a vintage Channel Islands single fin from 1971 that’s currently listed for $450, though the price has dropped recently. The board pictured here looks to be in better shape than the Mollusk board, and I also prefer its airbrush.
Then there’s the other $64K question: was this board shaped by Al himself?
I actually have a picture of the signature on the board, which you can see below.
You’ll notice the example above is very different from the ones I provided in an earlier post I wrote about how to determine whether or not a board has been shaped by Al Merrick. However, I think that the guidelines I offered in my earlier post mostly apply to boards that were shaped in the 80s and afterwards, when CI’s production started to ramp up. My guess is during the 1970s, production was low enough that Al probably shaped a lot of these boards himself. Conclusion: I tend to think the 70s single fin at the top of the page was likely shaped by Al himself, but I’m not 100% sure. (If anyone from CI is reading and has some thoughts, please drop me a line!)
Anyway, while people were off this weekend dropping serious coin for some grails at the California Gold Surf Auction, this is a chance to snag a serious board for a lot less cash. Check out the link here.
Note: This post was edited on 5/9 to include a picture of the signature from the board.