Vintage Al Merrick Surfboard

Greetings, Shredderz! The weekend might be coming to a close but we’ve still got some heat for you before Monday rolls around. Yes, what you see here is a gorgeous vintage Al Merrick surfboard. Even better, the board has a beautiful airbrush courtesy of artist Bernie Tsao, and some other cool bells and whistles. 2019 marks the 50th year of Channel Islands Surfboards, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that incredible milestone than with a genuine Merrick hand shaped vintage stick. Many thanks to Shred Sledz reader Hanh, who was kind enough to pass along the photos you see here.

Make sure you click the photos above to enlarge. The absolutely killer vintage Al Merrick surfboard you see above measures in at 6’3″ x 20 1/4″ x 2 3/4″. It has double wings that end in a round tail, and a cool channel bottom that is accented by a killer airbrush. I love any and all vintage Channel Islands boards, but I have a particular soft spot for the single fins and the twins, which seem to be a bit more unusual. According to the board’s current owner, the board was shaped in 1983. The CI hexagon logo on the deck is a sticker, so I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the CI logos during this era. By contrast, check out the CI hexagon logo on the bottom, which is a simple and uniform grey.

The airbrush, as you can plainly see, is ridiculous. I love the way it follows the contours of the channel bottom. You don’t see a ton of vintage Channel Islands with elaborate artwork, but I love everything that’s going on here. The airbrush was done by a gentleman by the name of Bernie Tsao. The board’s owner tells me that Bernie got his start making boards with David Pu’u, and did stints with folks like Bob Haakenson before moving to Kauai, where he lives today. By now you may also know that I’m a sucker for old school fins, and this vintage Al Merrick surfboard certainly does not disappoint in that department.

I’m intrigued by the channel bottom on this vintage Al Merrick surfboard. There’s another Eighties CI with a similar bottom that can be found on the excellent Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook Group. In addition, the board featured in this post looks similar to an earlier Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull single fin I wrote up. Buggs has also featured a cool CI twin fin on his Instagram with a very similar looking bottom.

Last but certainly not least, you know I had to go deep on the Al Merrick signature. The board clearly has Al’s hand-written signature, versus the simple fish design that can be found on many stock CI boards, which were shaped by production shapers. It also has a “Shaped & Designed by Al Merrick” laminate, which you don’t see a ton. For more on identifying Al’s signatures, check out these earlier blog posts here and here. I’m not sure when exactly Channel Islands started using shaping machines to assist in their production. CI’s use of production shapers, however, goes back to at the least the Seventies, when folks like Bob Krause were producing boards for the venerable label.

Thanks again to Hanh for providing the pics of this sweet vintage Al Merrick surfboard, and I hope you enjoyed checking out this stick!

Social Media Roundup: Autumn Advancing

Greetings, Shredderz! By now you may know the drill: keep scrolling for some of my favorite surf and vintage surfboard-related Instagram posts in recent memory.

Can you believe the venerable Channel Islands brand has been around for fifty years?! It’s a bit hard to digest. Hint hint, there might be some cool Al Merrick boards coming up on the blog soon, so stay tuned for that.

How cool is David Nuuhiwa?! Definitely way cooler than me, and probably cooler than you, too (no offense). I’ve seen lots of pics of Nuuhiwa in some truly out there get ups, and I really dig this relatively conservative look in contrast. I wish I knew more about all of Nuuhiwa’s work with different surfboard labels, which the caption briefly covers.

Bob Hurley shaped for Lightning Bolt…who knew?! This thing is gorgeous, though. 1979 single fin with an incredible color combo and Bolt logo on the deck.

Donald Takayama was a member of the storied Jacobs Surfboards surf team before he made a name for himself as a shaper. I’m mostly used to seeing pictures of Takayama from when he was older, but it’s a blast to see some photos of him from his younger days.

Dave Rastovich with an Andreini edge board! Marc Andreini is one of my favorite shapers (in fact, I have a 9′ Serena sitting next to me as I type this entry), and Rasta likely needs no introduction. There’s a great Surfer’s Journal article on some George Greenough edge boards that Rastovich surfed at Cloudbreak. Stoked to see Andreini and Rastovich continuing to explore Greenough’s designs together.

Photo at the top of the page is David Nuuhiwa. Photographer unknown; source is David Nuuhiwa Surfboards page on Facebook.

Social Media Roundup: March Madness

Aloha, Shredderz! This entry is being written from beautiful Hawaii. More on that later! In the meantime, enjoy a selection of some recent social media posts from the wonderful world of vintage surfboards.

I’ve posted many of Jimmy Metyko’s photos, and as long as he keeps publishing great ones, I don’t see any reason to stop! Metyko’s photographs documented the Santa Barbara surf scene during Tom Curren’s rise, and the results are amazing. Here’s a shot of Al Merrick posing alongside two of his creations. This must have been sometime during the early to mid Eighties, given the thruster and the twin fin, and I like how the photo gives a clear idea of the rocker on both shapes.

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The name Fletcher means “arrow maker.” As with everything in life, there are times when you’ll make a u-turn and be led into the wrong way. But I think, overall, I’ve been pointed towards the right direction ——————————————————————————— (📷: Flame) #astrodeck #theoriginator #since1976 #wavewarriors #adrenalinesurfseries #thethrillisback #sideslipboogie #surfhistory #surffilm #fletcherdna #genepoolofcool #herbiefletcher #dibifletcher #artist #inventor #performanceart #wrecktangles #wallofdisaster #archipelagos #bloodwaterseries #thebiglick #caseofarrows #rvca #rvcasurf #flame #tbt @dibifletcher @astrodeck @wavewarriors @fletcherdna @rvca @rvcasurf @surfer_magazine

A post shared by Herbie Fletcher (@herbiefletcher) on

Here’s a great photo of Herbie Fletcher taken by the late, great Larry “Flame” Moore. I love that Fletcher is putting one of his surfboards on a rail. There’s also some great trivia, which I had never realized before: Fletcher means arrow maker, hence the arrow logo on Herbie’s shapes!

Here’s a killer shot of Carl Ekstrom taken by Jon Foster. I was actually shocked when I read the caption — I just assumed this photo was far more recent than forty three years ago! Ekstrom is widely credited with inventing the asymmetrical surfboard back in the Sixties. Most recently Ekstrom has been collaborating with Ryan Burch. I’d love to know the back story behind the board featured in Foster’s photo! The photo at the top of the page features Carl Ekstrom posing next to one of his asymmetrical designs in the Sixties, and was originally found on the San Diego Reader website.

Last but not least, here’s Skip Frye posing alongside one of his signature fishes. How about that killer airbrush!

Weekend Grab Bag: Tri Plane Hull Twin Fin & More

Greetings, Shredderz! The weekend is almost over, and right before the buzzer we’ve got another installment of the Weekend Grab Bag. Keep reading for a selection of cool vintage surfboards that are listed for sale online.

Channel Islands Al Merrick Tri Plane Hull Twin Fin (eBay)

I absolutely love vintage Channel Islands surfboards. Considering it’s probably the most famous modern surfboard label of all time, I’d expect to see more vintage CI sticks pop up. As you can see the board was shaped by Al Merrick himself — see here for an earlier blog post I wrote on the subject of Merrick hand shapes. The CI Tri Plane Hull twin fin measures in at 5’10” x 20 1/2″ x 2 5/8″. I think the board is way overpriced considering the condition — click through to the link to see close ups of the damage — but it’s still a cool stick.

Donald Takayama Flo Egg Thruster (Craigslist San Diego)

I’m tempted to snap up this one myself! Here’s a lovely 7’2″ Donald Takayama Flo Egg with a thruster setup. I can see this board being a versatile and fun every day rider. The seller is asking $700 for the board. You can clearly see that Takayama signed the board in pencil on the stringer. The newer Takayama boards that are produced nowadays have an image of Donald’s signature, indicating that this one was shaped by the man himself, though it’s unclear to me whether or not he used shaping machines for his later boards. Either way, for $700 I think this is very nicely priced.

Local Motion Pat Rawson Thruster with Pottz Airbrush (eBay)

I absolutely love this board, which was shaped by Hawaiian master Pat Rawson for the Local Motion label. The airbrush on the vintage surfboard you see above is an unmistakable tribute to Martin Potter’s iconic artwork. Sadly, as much as I love the board — and the colors and Rawson’s pedigree are unimpeachable — it’s priced in the stratosphere. I love the different colored glass on fins, too.

Thanks for checking out the Weekend Grab Bag and tune in for some more goodies later this week!

Social Media Roundup: Santa Barbara Edition

It’s the first Social Media Roundup of 2019, and today we’re focusing on some recent posts that delve into the rich history of Santa Barbara surfing. Alright, enough from me, and onto the pics…

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This is a photo of an early eighties shaping machine – Al Merrick. I wish I would have shot more of Al actually shaping. Using film back in the day to shoot in the shaping room, you really needed to spend time setting up lights to do well. It is a room design to absorb light not bounce it. Film and cameras just did not have the ability to capture motion in that type of lighting conditions without some form of strobe. Very much different than the cameras now. The full lighting setup took too much time and when shooting Al or any shaper in high demand, you were stopping production, literally. Shooting Al was usually a 30 minute disruption max with one hand held strobe. Al was always great about it, never pressured me to hurry. The rush was always self imposed. This shot is outside of the old factory. It’s an insurance shot in case the one strobe did not render anything desirable. • Shaper, board, and rider • @cisurfboards #almerrick @curfuffle #tomcurren #surfboards #surfboardshaper #surfboardshaping #surfphoto #surfphotos #surfphotographer #surflifestyle

A post shared by Jimmy Metyko (@metykojimmy) on

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.

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ABALONE SPOON YATER LOGO

A post shared by Bob Haakenson (@haakenson_fiberglass) on

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.

Photo at the top of the page by Jimmy Metyko; via Surfer Magazine.

Vintage Channel Islands Single Fin With Jack Meyer Airbrush

Alright, Shredderz: it’s time I come clean. The board featured below is one of my absolute favorites since I have started writing this blog. First and foremost, as some of you might know, I am a card carrying Airbrush Aficionado, with a healthy appreciation for all and any spray jobs — the more outrageous the better. The board featured here has an absolutely killer Jack Meyer airbrush (RIP). Meyer, who was born in New Jersey before making his way out to Santa Barbara, made a name for himself as one of the best known airbrush artists before his untimely passing in 2007. Second, the board featured in this post is a vintage Channel Islands Surfboards single fin. CI might be one of the world’s largest surfboard brands, but I am continually surprised that its vintage boards aren’t in higher demand. (Shred Sledz has written a lot about vintage Channel Islands boards in the past.) Anyway, the board below is the best of both worlds: it’s a 1975 Channel Islands single fin, complete with an amazing Jack Meyer artwork on the bottom. Many thanks to KC, who purchased the board and was kind enough to take the awesome photos you see here.

The Channel Islands single fin pictured above measures in at approximately 7’2″ x 20.5″ x 3″. As you can see in the photos, the surfboard features an incredible and intricate Jack Meyer airbrush on the bottom, with Jesus standing over a surf spot. The spot is Government Point at the west end of Cojo Bay, located in the infamous Hollister Ranch. The fact the airbrush is an ode to the Ranch isn’t surprising when considering both Channel Islands’ and Jack Meyer’s Santa Barbara ties.

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Close up of the lineup on the board. This is Government Point in the Hollister Ranch.

Hollister Ranch via HollisterRanchListings.com
Lineup shot somewhere in the Hollister Ranch. I can’t say for sure if it’s the same spot featured on the board. If you’d like to invite me to surf at the Ranch to do some research for this post, my schedule is wide open! Pic via Hollister Ranch Listings

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The board features an original Channel Islands Surfboards logo — no iconic hexagon design to be found here — and a mysterious reference to Pepper Adcock.

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There also a subtle, light purple pin line on the bottom of the board, which I think is the perfect minimalist complement to the detail-packed Jack Meyer airbrush.

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Close up of the stringer. There is no Al signature on the board. I believe the board was likely shaped by another Channel Islands shaper at the time.

I believe the board is not an Al Merrick hand shape. There is no Al signature on the stringer, just a serial number next to the fish outline, which is a staple of Channel Islands boards even today.

I was actually able to find a very similar looking board on Instagram, which you can see below. Sadly, this is the best quality picture was I able to find. If anyone has any ideas on the whereabouts of the other Jesus board, please do let me know!

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Here’s a similar Jack Meyer airbrush from another vintage Channel Islands Surfboard; this one shaped in 1976. Pic via the Vintage Surfboard Collectors Group on Facebook

Last but not least, the story behind the board is equally interesting. Somehow the board found its way to a pawn shop in South Dakota. The then-owner took the board to Orange County this summer while on his way to the Long Beach Motorcycle Swap Meet, and decided to throw the board on Craigslist. The rest, as they say, is history. I am also delighted to report that the board has found its way back to Jack Meyer’s family, in no small part thanks to KC’s efforts.

What can I say? You’re probably better off skipping the text in this post and just looking at the photos, because Meyer’s artwork says far more about this special stick than whatever description I might be able to muster. More than anything else I am stoked that the Channel Islands single fin in this post is with the Meyer family, where it will no doubt be properly appreciated and cared for.

Thanks to KC for sharing the pics and the story behind the board and I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I liked writing it!

Note: Post updated to correct the name of the spot in the airbrush to Government Point, and not Cojo Point

Tom Curren Channel Islands Ad

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.

Tom Curren Pipeline Art Brewer 1990 via Surfline.png
Curren cranking off the bottom. I’m almost certain this is the same board as the one pictured in the ad at the top of the page, which I’m guessing was taken at the 1990 Pipe Masters. Photo by the peerless Art Brewer and via Surfline.com

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.

Channel Islands Al Merrick Tri Plane Hull

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.

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Here’s a neat Sky Surfboards twin fin with a tri plane hull / double concave bottom designed by Michael Cundith, Chris Brock and George Greenough. Merrick, in turn, took inspiration from Greenough when designing the Tri Plane Hull. Photo via Von Weirdos

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.

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Here’s another example of a Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull single fin, likely from the late Seventies or early Eighties. It’s hard to say for sure, but the double concave looks far less pronounced on this board than on Ryan’s single fin above. Pic via an old eBay auction.

Anyway, returning to Ryan’s board, it has a very clear Al Merrick signature on the stringer, which I have reproduced below. (For more, you should also check out an earlier blog post I wrote about how to identify Al Merrick hand shapes.)

Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull Al Merrick Signature .jpg
Close up of the signature on Ryan’s Tri Plane Hull. You have the fish design, and in a somewhat unusual touch, a full “Shaped by Al Merrick” signature.

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.

Channel Islands Surfboards Tri Plane Hull Bob Haakenson Logo
The Bob Haakenson logo is a welcome sight on any vintage Channel Islands stick!

It’s always worth noting that surfboard production involves more craftsmen than shapers. Bob Haakenson is one of Santa Barbara’s most distinguished surfboard glassers, and I always love seeing his logo on old Channel Islands boards. I recently had Haak repair a vintage Andreini single fin for me, which I’m still thrilled about, but that’s a subject for another post entirely.

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!

Tom Curren, Ocean Pacific, and Channel Islands Surfboards: Sagas of Shred

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.

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Curren about to launch into another beautiful bottom turn.

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!

 

Social Media Roundup: End of Summer Edition

Greetings, Shredderz! You know the drill: here are some of the coolest boards I’ve seen on Instagram lately. Keep scrolling for more…

Renny Yater. Jock Sutherland. Pipeline. And yes, a red high density foam stringer to top it all off. This thing is clean and mean!

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.

I recently wrote up an early Energy Surfboards / Simon Anderson / Frank Latta thruster, but featured above are three of Simon’s personal riders. Super cool stuff.

Meanwhile, Simon Anderson also shaped for Shane Surfboards early on. Here’s a very interesting wing pin setup.

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!