Al Merrick Signature Breakdown (Part II)

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

Channel Islands Group Pick (Hills Above Refugio) 1975.jpg
Awesome old Channel Islands Surfboards ad that pre-dates the famous hexagon logo. There are some really funky 70s shapes in there, including some stings, a lightning bolt, and some winged pintails. Source unknown.
Channel Islands Jack Meyer Airbrush 1
Vintage Jack Meyer airbrush. Are those dorado? Pic via Joshua Speranza & Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook Group
Al Merrick Signature 1970s
I have never seen an example of a signature like this one. Check out the additional signatures from Bob Haakenson and Dave Johnson. The fish icon has a unique thick outline. Pic via Joshua Speranza & Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook Group

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

Channel Islands Single Fin 1971 7'3".jpg
Channel Islands 1970s single fin. There is an inscription on the stringer, but it’s unclear whether or not Al signed or shaped this board. Pic via Mollusk Surfboards

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

Al Merrick Stamped 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.

Al Merrick Signature Laminate.jpg
Look at the Al Merrick “signature” on this board. You can clearly see that this was intended to be a laminate, and not any sort of evidence. Moreover, this particular board has the “Al / fish” combo signature on the stringer. Pic via Douglas Pearson on Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook Group.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Picture at the top of the post by Jimmy Metyko. Pic via The Surfer’s Journal

 

Vintage Channel Islands Surfboards Ad from 1970s: Sagas of Shred

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:

Vintage Channel Islands Surfboard Ad 1970s.jpg
Vintage Channel Islands Surfboard ad from sometime in the 1970s. The ad originally appeared in Surfer Magazine

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!

Sting by Way of Santa Barbara: Vintage Channel Islands Surfboard

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.

bob haakenson
Classic Bob Haakenson logo; pic via sufermind.net

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.

bob-haakenson-for-ci
The Channel Islands family with some incredible looking boards

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.

Channel Islands Logo

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”).

channelislands77
Pic via Stanley’s Surf Logos

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.

How to Tell if Al Merrick Shaped Your Channel Islands Surfboard

(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.

Channel Islands Board #1: 6’1″ Vintage 1980s Channel Islands Thruster (eBay)

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:

s-l1600 (37).jpg

Continue reading to see some examples of genuine Merrick hand shapes…

Continue reading “How to Tell if Al Merrick Shaped Your Channel Islands Surfboard”

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (3/12)

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.

17200945_10158873785070643_3110777362919337231_n (1)
See below for link to the original post)

Via Vintage Surfboard Collectors (Note: it’s a closed group, so you’ll have to request access).

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.

Longtime Donald Takayama team rider and collaborator Joel Tudor posted this old Takayama ad.

DT at stone steps riding a scorpion 1969 @surfboardsbydonaldtakayama

A post shared by Joel_tudor (@joeljitsu) on

 

 

Shred Sledz Presents: Thursday Grab Bag

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.

Stussy Shortboard on Craigslist (San Diego)

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.

Schroff Blaster on eBay (Texas)

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.

Channel Islands / Al Merrick Tri-Plane Hull Quad Fin on Craigslist (Houston)

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.

Takayama Funshape Thruster on Craigslist (San Diego)

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.

Ke11y & Al

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.

Pictured here is a 7′2″ Al Merrick board that was ostensibly shaped for Kelly, which you can currently find for sale on Craigslist in Hawaii.

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:

image

Photo via Channel Islands Surfboards Blog

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):

image

Photo via Channel Islands Surfboards Blog

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.

image

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.

image

Photo courtesy Firewire Surfboards Blog

For some more eye candy, here are three shots of Kelly, taken over the span of almost 25 years (!!!), that show how his equipment at Pipeline has evolved over the years:

image
image
image

Top photo via Jeff Divine; Middle photo via Bielmann; Bottom photo via Red Bull

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.

image

Photo by Sherman, via Surfing Magazine (RIP)

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.

You can find the board here.