I’ve featured his work here a few times before, but I can’t help doing it again, because Jimmy Metyko is a must follow! His Instagram feed is a who’s who of the Santa Barbara surf scene back in the day, and he’s also a very talented photographer. You should check out a recent slideshow of his photos on Surfer Magazine’s website. This portrait of Al Merrick is simple and striking. I’m assuming it’s from the same shoot as the featured photo at the top of the page. Make sure you scroll through for the bonus shot of a young Tom Curren riding a Channel Islands shape.
The black & white Santa Barbara theme continues, but this time around we have a very clean Transition Era Yater hull / vee bottom board. Wish there were some dimensions listed on this bad boy. You don’t see these late Sixties Yaters everywhere, but I think they are among some of Renny’s coolest shapes.
Alan Casagrande is a talented artist who has a long history with Liddle Surfboards. I was blown away to discover that the board he’s holding in the picture is a Liddle. I can’t be sure but it almost looks like a sting! Either way the outline doesn’t have much in common with Greg Liddle’s famous displacement hulls.
And what better way to introduce a little color to this entry than by way of a stunning abalone inlay on a Yater Spoon? Abalone was once plentiful up and down the California coast, and I love how Bob Haakenson, one of Santa Barbara’s finest glassers, still uses it for special occasions. This is a subtle but awesome touch to add to a custom Yater, if you ask me.
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.
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.
(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.
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…