Santa Cruz Royalty: Freeline and the Mel Family

Today’s post is going to be a relatively short one. Usually I like to go a little more in-depth, but it’s late and there’s more to life than cool surfboards (only kidding).

If, like me, you occasionally surf in Santa Cruz, you have no doubt heard of Peter Mel. Peter can currently be seen on computer screens everywhere as a commentator for the World Surf League. He became a fixture in the nineties surf scene thanks to his standout performances at Mavericks, the legendary NorCal big wave proving grounds.

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Peter Mel charging Mavericks in the late 1990s. Photo by Rob Gilley, via Surfer Magazine

Peter’s father, John Mel, owns Freeline Surf, a local surf shop in Santa Cruz that has been an integral part of the surf community there since it opened in 1969. (Peter Mel has a son, also named John, who is an up-and-coming ripper in his own right!) In addition to running the shop, John Mel is a well-regarded shaper who was recently honored by the Boardroom Show‘s Icons of Foam Series.

Pictured at the top of the page is a John Mel / Freeline surfboard that is currently for sale on Craigslist in Santa Cruz. The Craigslist poster estimates the board is from the late 70s or early 80s, and the 2 + 1 fin setup is an unusual touch for board from that era. I’d almost call it a fish, given the wings and the swallow tail, were it not for the fin setup. And check out the paint job, which has a Larry Bertlemann Pepsi feel to it. I’ve never seen that particular version of the “Freeline Design” logo located on the rails, either.

As a bonus, here’s an old John Mel / Freeline Designs ad I found on the Surf Channel. I love the “Knee Machines” reference.


And yes, John Mel rips.

John Mel in Fiji. Pic by Wilcox, via US Blanks

If you’re interested in the board, you can check it out here.

Santa Cruz Throwback: Rick Noe

Given that I call Northern California home these days, I feel obligated to shed light on some shapers from this neck of the woods – particularly when considering the platform afforded to me thanks to Shred Sledz’s worldwide notoriety as THE destination for verbose posts about old and obscure surfboards. Look, when you have a reader base that extends into the single digits…it’s practically a duty to give back.

Noë Surfboards is based out of Santa Cruz. The label was originally started by Rick Noe, who sadly passed away in 2004. However, Noe Surfboards continues strong today thanks to Rick’s son Buck, who shapes boards for some of the best surfers in the Santa Cruz area. For a moving look at the history and the heritage behind the brand, you should check out Noe’s website.

The board pictured here is for sale in Sebastopol California on Craigslist. The only dimensions listed are 7′4″, and it has a classic 70s single fin / diamond tail design. The board looks like it is in incredible shape, and I can’t get enough of that Steamer Lane logo and the sweet airbrush. If I had to guess, the board pre-dates the Noë brand as we know it today. According to Stoked-n-Board, Noë Surfboards was started in 1970, so I would guess this shape is from sometime in the early 70s. The seller is asking $400. On one hand, that is pricey for a used board, but on the other, this is an unusual board from an extremely well-regarded Santa Cruz shaper that is also in great condition.

Check out the board here if you’re interested.

Haut and About

Doug Haut is a well-known shaper in Santa Cruz. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, Surfer Magazine did a nice little write-up on him that you can find here. He also runs Haut Surf Shop.

Haut was recently inducted into the Shaper Hall of Fame (which, ironically, I couldn’t find), and in an accompanying Instagram post, Marc Andreini called Haut the best shaper he has ever known.

Sounds like Haut isn’t one for the spotlight, but nonetheless, in honor of this recent accolade, here’s one of his older boards, currently available on Craigslist in Haut’s very own Santa Cruz.

The gun measures in at 8′2″ and it was shaped sometime in the 70s, hence the absence of a leash plug.

Check out the board here if you charge Steamer Lane during the bigger days and you’d like to give a nod to one of Santa Cruz’s most famous shapers.