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.

Orange County5/20
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.

Michel Junod Glider

Michel Junod is a legendary shaper in Santa Cruz who has been plying his craft for around fifty years or so. What I really like about Junod’s surfboards, other than their functionality, of course, is that they always look beautiful. His boards are often colorful without being too flashy, and have simple, aesthetically pleasing lines.

This board here, found on Craigslist in Santa Cruz, is a 9′6″ triple stringer longboard with an awesome turquoise color. I can’t seem to find a corresponding model for it on his website. Maybe it’s a mini-glider of sorts? The signature on the stringer indicates it’s a custom shape. Anyway, the Craigslist location says the board is located right off 41st Avenue in Santa Cruz, and I imagine this craft would be ideal for the numerous right hand points to be found nearby. Oh! And the best part is this board is listed at $450. That’s a great price (though there might be some dings, there’s one clearly pictured above the stringer, and the nose looks like it could use a little touch up), provided the condition checks out.

Check it out here.

Hobie Vee Bottom

Let it never be said that the good people at Shred Sledz HQ don’t appreciate history!

The v bottom surfboard – named after the deep “vee” shape in the tail – certainly has earned a place in the annals of surfboard design. I can’t say it’s the longest chapter, or the most widely read…but it is interesting, if nothing else.

The timing of this board unfortunately coincides with the death of Australian legend Midget Farrelly, the sport’s first world champion, which happened yesterday. Midget was one of the pioneers of the v bottom design. RIP Midget.

If you’re in the Santa Cruz area, you can check out this 8′2″ Hobie V Bottom on Craigslist. It’s pretty beat up in places, but I can’t see any glaring flaws in any places. As always, it’s hard to really say unless you’ve seen the board up close.

But man, more importantly, check out that tail and that crazy vee! Such a cool shape. There’s a guy at my local surf spot who has an old Surfboards Hawaii vee bottom that I ogle whenever I see it. Lately the shape has seen a bit of a revival with Bruce Fowler’s V Machine, which is sold at Mollusk and has attracted a bit of a cult following.

Anyway, check out the Hobie here.

Recent Mike Hynson Single Fin

Surfer or not, you have likely heard of “The Endless Summer”, filmmaker Bruce Brown’s timeless ode to surfing, and one of the few surf movies to receive equally rapturous responses from surfing insiders as well as the mainstream (alongside “In God’s Hands”, of course.)

Mike Hynson, one of the stars of “The Endless Summer”, went on to a distinguished career as a surfboard shaper. Hyson’s life is a compelling story of its own, sadly filled with more drama and lows than the movie that made him famous, recounted in an autobiography released in 2011.

What we have here, via Craigslist in San Diego, is a 9′2″ Hynson hand shaped board with a clear signature on the stringer. The signature includes the “Om” symbol, a favorite of Hynson’s. You can see another example of an excellent and clear Hynson signature here, via a board that was once on sale at peerless San Diego shop Surfy Surfy.

The best part about this listing? The board is going for a mere $525. I think this is a steal. There’s a 9′0″ on sale directly from Hynson’s website currently going for $1500.  Hynson is 74 and while he’s still shaping today, I think it’s likely that his most prolific days are behind him. Surfers and shapers don’t get any more legendary than one of the guys who starred in “The Endless Summer”. And most importantly, of course, Hynson’s pedigree as a shaper cannot be overstated.

Check the listing here.

Last of the Wildmen: Martin “Pottz” Potter

Whoever posted this little number must be dreaming about the price – $1,000 is a lot for a surfboard, no matter what! – but it’s still worth looking at the pictures. Located on Craigslist in Daytona Beach, Florida is a cool little Blue Hawaii ‘Pottz’ board, named after legendary former tour surfer Martin Potter and shaped by well-regarded Hawaiian shaper Greg Minami. This is different from the board most surf fans associate with Pottz – the T&C with the jagged green outline and yellow deck – but nonetheless still a fantastic memento from the surf industry of yesteryear. Check it out here.

Ben Aipa for Kimo’s Surf Hut

File this guy under things I have never seen before…

This is a 9′ Ben Aipa-shaped longboard with a logo from Kimo’s Surf Hut. The Aipa signature is definitely consistent with other signatures I have seen from genuine Aipa boards. I have never heard of Kimo’s Surf Hut before, but it looks like it’s a surf shop located on the eastern side of Oahu.

The board measures 9′ and it’s $550, available on Craigslist near Los Angeles. I think the asking price of $500 might be steep – especially since it looks like there could be some pretty bad damage on the nose – but it’s a cool example of a board from a well-known shaper with a very uncommon logo.

Craigslist listing here.

Aleutian Juice

Earlier today I was perusing some pictures of boards with channels, and I started thinking about how Shred Sledz has yet to feature anything from legendary Central Coast (CA) shaper Dave Parmenter. Parmenter is a former tour competitor and So Cal competitive surf rat who has gracefully transitioned into a career as one of the wisest (and most opinionated) men in surfing. Parmenter is famously prickly, but he makes beautiful – and functional! – surfboards (I’ve never met the man, but I imagine he would much prefer if I reversed the order of those adjectives).

What we have here (via Craigslist) is a 7′6″ version of Parmenter’s Stubb Vector shape, which is intended to deliver high performance in the guise of a hybrid / funboard. The best part? The poster claims this stick has never even seen wax, and it comes in at an extremely reasonable $350. Check it out here.