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.
Island Trader Surf Shop is a great shop in Stuart, Florida that happens to sell some pretty rad vintage boards. They don’t update their blog frequently, but when they do, there are some great gems. (I’m partial to this Harbour Rapier and this transitional Hobie board with a tiger stripe spray.) Back to the shot above: this looks like an old Weber Surfboads ad. I love the floral print inlays on the decks, and the “WEBER TEAM 67 PERFORMER” is a sweet looking board that must have been made for team riders back in the day.
If you’re sick of reading about Al Merrick and Channel Islands surfboards on Shred Sledz, I’ve got terrible news: it’s not about to stop any time soon. Without any further ado, here is an interesting vintage Channel Islands surfboard I have come across recently.
The board pictured above was originally posted to Craigslist in San Diego (link here). The asking price is $500, and even then you can see that considerable repairs have been made. The seller had the deck to the board completely refinished, as you can see in the pictures.
I can’t believe I’m typing this, but the board looks to be a Channel Islands interpretation of a classic sting design. It must be from the early days of the storied CI brand, given that the sting was invented in the 1970s. In the last picture you can also see the super old school Bob Haakenson logo. Haakenson is a long-time Santa Barbara based glasser who did a ton of work for Channel Islands. See below for an example of a classic Haakenson logo.
I found an excellent entry from Fiberglass Hawaii’s blog that features an in-depth interview with Haakenson and some cool trivia (did you know Haakenson came up with Surfboards Hawaii’s storied “Model A” while he was one of their team riders?) Link to the blog post can be found here. In the blog post, Haakenson claims that he started glassing for Al Merrick and Channel Islands in 1973, after returning from a stint in Hawaii. Therefore I’d guess the funky CI sting at the top of the post has to be sometime from the mid-70s or later.
The Fiberglass Hawaii post also includes an incredible picture from Channel Islands Surfboards’ early days. I am fully comfortable with saying that I would do some truly reprehensible things to get my hands on the boards in the photo, which can be seen below. Note the red board in the front row, which looks to be a similar riff on a sting outline, albeit with an extra set of wings before the tail.
The board pictured at the top of the page has a pretty rare logo, as well. Here’s another pic of the same logo, but from a different board, that shows the design a little more clearly. Note that this logo does not appear on Stoked-n-Board’s entry for Channel Islands.
There’s a more common variant of this pill-shaped logo, which includes a landscape and some sailboats. See below for the version taken from Stanley’s Surf Logos. Note that in the pill logo above, it reads “Santa Barbara – Ventura”, whereas in the sailboat logo below, the order is reversed (“Ventura – Santa Barbara”).
Anyway, I think my Channel Islands obsession is starting to veer into uncomfortable territory, even when considering that I maintain a vintage surfboard blog in my free time.
If you’re interested in checking out the Channel Island sting, the Craigslist listing is found here.