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!
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…
I’ve written about Christian Fletcher before, and I will never, ever get sick of his old logo, which manages to be both an act of visual rebellion as well as a time capsule for the day glo SoCal surf scene of the 1980s and 1990s. This is an interesting example of a Fletcher board, as apparently it was shaped by pioneering Aussie shaper Nev Hyman, who founded what would later become Firewire Surfboards. The other Fletcher boards I’ve seen have been signed by California shapers like Randy Sleigh and Chris McElroy. This board was posted to the excellent Vintage Surfboard Collectors group on Facebook; click through the link for the rest.
Finally, here’s a bonus shot of Fletcher — pre-tattoos! — and a McElroy shape.
Ryan Lovelace is a talented shaper based in Santa Barbara. He posted this picture below recently, which shows an early George Greenough sailboard with an edge board design. Edge boards have come into vogue lately, thanks to shapers like Marc Andreini (Andreini), Manny Caro (Mandala), and Scott Anderson (Anderson).
Speaking of neon boards from the 80s and 90s, I’ll never, ever get sick of old Channel Islands boards. This guy on Instagram posts a bunch of sweet boards, and he has a collection of vintage Merricks that makes me sick with envy. Check out his feed for more.
Greetings, Shredderz! As always, here’s a collection of some rad boards that have popped up on the radar lately. Today’s post has a heavy 80s flavor to it, so if you’ve got a thing for neon, stick around and start scrolling.
If you don’t have a soft spot for 80s Stussy surfboards, then this is NOT the blog for you. This one has a bunch of sun damage, and the $1K price is steep, for sure, but these boards simply aren’t that easy to come by. This one has some rad artwork, and a very clear hand signature you can see in the picture above. I’d be very curious to see what this board ends up going for.
The 80s parade continues! This board is in excellent condition. Part of the reason why it has held its color so well is that it was apparently sprayed white. The poster claims this is one of the first 700 boards Peter Schroff shaped. I’m curious about that, given that Schroff used a standard script logo before the black and white grid logo seen above. In any case, it’s a beautiful board, and while bidding is low (<$70 now), I think you’ll see this one climb by the time the auction ends in four days.
This one is SO close to being an exemplary collectors board. First of all, you can see that it is an Al Merrick handshape – check the clear “Al / Fish” combo signature on the listing. It also has such great logos and branding, like the “Channel Islands” script running down both rails, and then a nice “Quad Design” logo on the bottom. But you can also see where repairs were made to the board, and the nose looks blunted as a result. It’s not necessarily a terrible deal at $200, either, but man, this could have been added to the Shred Sledz Signature Collection with just a few tweaks.
This is kind of a funky Takayama board. I’m not sure what model it is, exactly, which is part of the mystery. And check out the logo on the bottom, which is not one you see every day. If you click through to the listing you can see that it has DT’s signature in pencil on the blank itself, meaning it’s not one of the newer boards where his signature has just been stamped on. Board is listed at $890.
Now, I realize that 2004 might not be everyone’s idea of vintage. And you know what? That’s totally fine, because I happen to be the guy in charge of this very blog (mostly because no one else wanted the job, but I digress).
Still though, when it comes to Kelly’s personal boards, especially those that were hand shaped by legendary shaper Al Merrick, the Shred Sledz editorial staff is more than willing to bend the rules a little bit.
Everything seems to match up. First, the K logo clearly indicates the board above is a Kelly Slater model that was produced during much of his time with the Channel Islands brand. While the K Board was released to surf shops as a signature model, towards the end of Kelly’s stint with CI, he simply applied the logo to a variety of designs. Here’s a shot of Kelly’s quiver from the 2011 Hawaii season, via the Channel Islands blog, that shows the K logo on a wide range of boards:
The other interesting thing about the board pictured in the first set of photos is the fact that it has a thruster setup. Nowadays, Kelly’s boards, like those of most pros, sport a five fin setup that allows toggling between a standard thruster fin configuration, and then a quad fin config for when the waves get bigger and more critical. Here’s a shot from 2014, towards the end of Kelly’s tenure with CI, that shows a five fin setup (though note the K logo is gone):
The tri fin setup indicates that the board in the first set of pictures is an older one. There’s a date on the stringer that says 2004, which sounds about right, given that the five fin configuration didn’t become popular until a few years afterwards.
Speaking of the signature, you can see Al’s trademark Al / fish signature, as well as the name Kelly written into it. This makes me all but certain this is a board Al shaped himself for Kelly. See below for an example of another Al / fish signature. It follows the same format as the pic in the set at the top of the page.
Example of another Al Merrick signature
Finally, the interesting thing is that this board, given its location and its size, was probably crafted as a step up for Kelly’s winter months in Hawaii. It seems practically outdated now, given that Kelly routinely surfs sub 6′ boards at macking Pipeline. Here’s a picture of Kelly about to paddle out at the 2016 Pipe Masters with one of his new Slater Designs boards. You can see Kelly’s 2016 board is well short of 7′2″. One of the biggest innovations in surf craft in recent years has been the downsizing of equipment in serious conditions. Leading the charge, of course, is none other than the shiny headed G.O.A.T.
Nowadays, of course, Kelly is working on Slater Designs, his own line of boards produced in conjunction with the good folks at Firewire Surfboards. Slater Designs offers some cutting edge, high performance shapes that were created via collaboration with high profile shapers like Daniel Thomson and Greg Webber.
For many of us, however, Kelly and Channel Islands / Al Merrick will forever be an enduring combination. And the board that’s being offered for sale, at a steep $2,000 dollars, might just be a collector’s item one day. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can’t imagine there are that many genuine Merrick boards shaped for Kelly that will be up for grabs. Kelly is the greatest surfer ever – and the most influential – and one could make that same argument about Al Merrick and shaping as well. So it’s interesting to wonder if boards that represent this pairing will only become more valuable and meaningful over time.
I continue to be amazed at the availability and price of genuine Al Merrick hand shaped boards on Craigslist. They’ll routinely pop up every few weeks or so with little to no fanfare.
Part of me wants to scream from the rafters: people, this is Al Merrick we are talking about! The man shaped boards for Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren and Kelly Slater, just to name a few! And he hasn’t really been shaping them since, either.
This board, which is available on Craigslist in Santa Barbara, was purportedly one of Al’s own personal riders. It looks like it’s still in great condition, though you’d have to strip off the wax to really get a good look.
The real feature here is the signature on the stringer. You can see this is a genuine Al Merrick shape because of the way he signs “Al”, with the “l” in his name transitioning into the fish shape. There are many Channel Islands boards that have a fish on the stringer, but you want the ones that have the clear “Al” written.
Otherwise, I love the subtle neon colors and the old school script logo on the nose. These Channel Islands boards are my absolute favorite, and it’s an added bonus that this one was apparently owned by Al himself!
Oh, and the best part…this thing is only $300! Granted, you’re going to want to check out the board and make sure the condition is as good as promised, but either way, if this is truly a board Al shaped, that makes it a pretty attractive collector’s item. I can’t help but think that prices on these Merricks are going to skyrocket within the next few years.
As longtime Shred Sledz readers know by now, Channel Islands is a surfboard brand with a special place in my heart. Many moons ago, as a wide-eyed and bushy tailed grommet, I plunked down a fistful of dollars bills earned from an old-fashioned manual labor summer job and bought my first surfboard, an oversized Channel Islands board I still own today. Putting aside my own soft spot for nostalgia, Al Merrick is a legend and someone whose contributions to modern surfboard design cannot be overstated. If you’re in the San Diego area there’s a nice old-school Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull single fin up for grabs on Craigslist. The dimensions are listed at 6′9.5″ x 20.5″ (with nothing listed for thickness). The poster claims this board is from the 70s, which looks about right to me. Stoked-N-Board’s entry for Channel Islands surprisingly doesn’t have any info on the Tri Plane Hull single fin model, which is surprising, given that these seem to have been somewhat popular back in the day.
The million dollar question, of course, is whether or not this Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull was shaped by Al Merrick himself. My guess is no, but I can’t be sure. Merrick has been known to sign his boards with an “Al” in front of the fish icon. This board, as you can see in the pics, only has the fish. I have heard conflicting reports. My guess is this: the “Al” accompanied by the fish definitely signifies a board shaped by Merrick himself. I also believe it’s possible that boards that only boast the fish icon on the stringer could be handshapes – especially from this time period, before the brand became huge – but there’s no way to verify.
The price for the Channel Islands Tri Plane Hull is $500, which is a bit steep. Otherwise, it looks to be in decent condition, and the owner seems to be the rarest of Craigslist posters in that he has provided decent pictures of the board. There are some dings on the bottom – shout out to the black paint job for making that clear – but otherwise it looks like it’s in great shape.