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.
Greetings, Shredderz! Welcome to the latest installment of Sagas of Shred, Shred Sledz’s very own ode to some of the greatest advertisements from surfing’s past. Today we have a very special feature for you: an old Pat Curren Surfboards ad taken from an issue of Surfer Magazine published in the 1960s.
Nowadays it might be easiest to think of Pat Curren as father to Tom Curren, who was the most famous American surfer to come along before the seemingly never-ending reign of our current king, the inimitable Robert Kelly Slater. But before Tom sent tongues wagging at the Op Pro, Pat Curren had established a career as a big wave charger and a well-regarded shaper.
Pat Curren surfboards are still extremely collectible, and they’re also not very easy to find. SHACC — the Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center — has a blog post featuring an awesome Pat Curren spear, as they call it, that has been crafted entirely out of balsa. If you have a chance, I highly recommend the blog post, as it has a bunch of fantastic old pictures of Pat Curren shaping some of his designs.
At first I wondered if the smiling grom in the ad to the left might have been Tom Curren himself. Considering the ad ran in 1963, however, either this is a different grom, or simply the second-most impressive thing Tom Curren has ever done, behind the impeccable surfing he displayed on his first-ever wave at South Africa’s J-Bay.
By now, faithful Shredderz, I believe you know the drill: check back in next Thursday for Sagas of Shred and some more wonderful relics from surfing’s past.
A Channel Islands Tom Curren Al Merrick shaped personal rider!
Season’s Greetingz! I hope each and every one of you is having a great holiday season. 2017 has been a wonderful year for Shred Sledz, and as we draw things to a close, we have a truly special board brought to you by one of our earliest readers. When it comes to high performance shortboard shapes, Al Merrick is a man without peer. Thanks to Merrick’s collaborations with not one, but two of the all-time greats, the Channel Islands steward is the closest thing to Phil Jackson that surfing has to offer, minus the Zen Master’s disastrous third act at Madison Square Garden (can you tell this blog is written by a Knicks fan?). Even if Al Merrick had only worked with Kelly Slater, the eleven world titles won on Channel Islands boards would have been enough to reserve a spot on the Mount Rushmore of surfboard shapers. But years before Kelly even qualified for the tour, Merrick was the Obi Wan to Tom Curren’s Luke Skywalker, providing the sage advice and cutting-edge shapes that helped propel the young Californian to three world titles and a legacy as one of the most influential surfers of all time.
Channel Islands Tom Curren Model
Simon Anderson invented the thruster in 1980 and won the prestigious Pipe Masters the next year, putting to doubt any lingering questions about the validity of his new tri-fin design. And while Anderson invented the thruster, one can argue that Tom Curren is the surfer who best defined high performance surfing during the 1980s — aided, of course, by a quiver of Al Merrick-shaped Channel Islands sleds.
Channel Islands capitalized on Curren’s competitive prowess by releasing a number of Tom Curren signature models. The Red Beauty is a replica of the board that Curren surfed in the 1984 OP Pro held at Huntington Beach. The Red Beauty takes its name from its airbrushed rails, as seen below.
Many consider Channel Islands Surfboards’ Black Beauty model the definitive Tom Curren Al Merrick shape. The Black Beauty model is still sold today. Black Beauty is the nickname for the board that Curren surfed on the way to his maiden world title in the 1985 / 1986 season, so named for black airbrushed rails. Most famously, Curren rode the board to victory in a semi-final heat against nemesis Mark Occhilupo in the 1986 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, which is regarded as one of the finest heats in competitive surfing.
At some point during the 1980s or 1990s, Channel Islands released a branded Tom Curren model. There are a few different variants of the Channel Islands Tom Curren model, as I have seen examples of the board with channels on the bottom, and some without. From what I can tell, though, all of the Channel Islands Tom Curren models have a bump squash tail and a thruster setup. I suspect the Channel Islands Tom Curren models were mass-produced, but I’m not certain. (See here for a quick rundown on how to identify Al Merrick hand-shaped boards.) Pictured below is a killer example of a Channel Islands Tom Curren model that was originally sold on usedsurf.co.jp.
Tom Curren Al Merrick Contest Board
The real reason behind this post is the emergence of a truly special board: an honest-to-goodness Tom Curren Al Merrick hand shape. First, a quick bit of background on pro boards. Pro surfers go through surfboards faster than Kobayashi mows down a pack of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Sponsored surfers receive dozens of boards a year, then ruthlessly whittle down their quivers to a handful of magic sticks that will be counted on to perform during high pressure contest situations. Surfboards made for pro surfers boast high performance but super light glass jobs, and as a result, most boards that achieve keeper status are surfed until disintegration. Generally speaking, whenever pro boards pop up for sale, looking brand new and sporting recognizable arrays of laminates, it’s because they weren’t part of the regular rotation. This isn’t to pooh pooh any of these boards — they are still awesome! — but the point is that it’s rare to find boards that belonged to pro surfers that also were surfed on a regular basis.
The board you see pictured above, however, is the real deal: a board shaped by Al Merrick and surfed by Tom Curren. This board is currently owned by Matt Johnson, an early Shred Sledz reader (thanks Matt!), who originally posted the board to the Vintage Surfboard Collectors group on Facebook. You’ll notice the laminates reflect Curren’s sponsors at the time — Ocean Pacific, Rip Curl wetsuits (ah, the innocent days when pros had separate clothing and wetsuit sponsors!), Channel Islands / Al Merrick, and The Surf. The spray job along the rails is a Tom Curren staple, including on his Red and Black Beauty surfboards. The Tom Curren Al Merrick personal rider above has a bump squash tail, which you can see in the third picture, and a glass job from Santa Barbara glasser extraordinaire Bob Haakenson.
You’ll also notice that the stringer bears Al’s distinctive “fish” signature, along with measurements. The board is pretty narrow, measuring 18.75″ at its widest point, and the rails clock in at 2.75″.
Oftentimes, dating a board can be inexact, at best. Luckily, there is a whole bunch of photographic evidence with the Tom Curren Al Merrick board pictured above. The board was surfed in the summer of 1988, and likely made around the same timeframe. Unlike many pro boards, Curren actually did work with this bad boy! In fact, Tom Curren surfed the Al Merrick shape to victory in the 1988 Marui Japan Open, held at Habushiura Beach on Niijima Island, over Gary Elkerton. For the next stop on the 1988 / 1999 ASP Tour, the Gotcha Pro at Sandy Beach on the South Shore of Oahu, Curren took a second-place finish, losing to Derek Ho in the finals. See below for some pictures from a 1988 issue of Surfer Magazine:
You can clearly see the board is the same Tom Curren Al Merrick shape featured here, from the fade to black airbrush on the rails to the placement of the logos. The pictures on the left are from the 1988 Gotcha Pro — note the sleeveless pink singlet on Curren in both pictures. (And need we even point out that Derek Ho’s two-tone stonewash boardshorts are incredible?) The picture on the right is Curren surfing during the 1988 Marui Japan Open.
So why did Curren ditch a board that propelled him to first and second place finishes to begin the 1988 / 1989 ASP season? Your guess is as good as mine. But given Curren’s reputation for mysteriousness and gentle unpredictability, it’s only fitting that he would turn his back on a magic contest-winning board. Either way, it’s a thrill to document such a special surfboard that represents the Curren / Merrick pairing, one of the few duos that truly can lay claim to having changed the sport of surfing.
As always, I cannot thank you, my readerz, enough for your support. Looking forward to sharing some more stoke in the New Year.
Greetings, Shredderz! Here to take you into the weekend is a celebration of one of California’s finest board builders, one Harry “Skip” Frye. Don’t forget to check out the latest issue of The Surfer’s Journal for a comprehensive look at Skip’s personal quiver. In the meantime, here are some social media selections showing off Skip’s shapes…
I wrote about this Skip Frye single fin when it was posted on Craigslist…and I’m still kicking myself for not buying it! This is the only Frye I have seen with a Select Surf Shop laminate, and it’s got a sick little wing pin outline to boot. I’m glad that it found a good home with Buggs, who runs Surfboard Line. The board has been fixed up and looks better than ever. Make sure you scroll through all the pictures!
Taylor Knox owes his long career to his powerful rail surfing. It’s difficult to imagine him laying these gliders into his patented spray-chucking carves, but if there’s anyone who can pull it off, it’s Taylor Knox! I’m just stoked to see this unexpected but rad union between two opposite ends of the famously varied spectrum that is San Diego surfing. Don’t hold your breath for Joel Tudor to bust out a high performance thruster, though…
This board is a bit of a mystery, but don’t skip over it because of the abstract picture! Skip Frye shaped this board for use at Jeffrey’s Bay, and it ended up being ridden by Derek Hynd (and I believe Tom Curren, too). You can read more about the board and the session in Andrew Kidman’s forthcoming Beyond Litmus book.
Island Trader Surf Shop is a great shop in Stuart, Florida that happens to sell some pretty rad vintage boards. They don’t update their blog frequently, but when they do, there are some great gems. (I’m partial to this Harbour Rapier and this transitional Hobie board with a tiger stripe spray.) Back to the shot above: this looks like an old Weber Surfboads ad. I love the floral print inlays on the decks, and the “WEBER TEAM 67 PERFORMER” is a sweet looking board that must have been made for team riders back in the day.
I’ve been writing about Morey Pope a bit lately, and here’s an incredible find from Buggs, who has one of the dopest surfboard collections known to mankind, and runs SurfboardLine in his free time. This is a balsa Morey Pope board from what looks to be 1966 — see the comments for some more knowledgeable people chiming in with info on this beaut.
Joel Tudor has been posting a lot of quality vintage content on his Instagram lately. This is a picture of Renny Yater. I’d guess late 1950s or early 1960s, but don’t quote me on that. Either way, it is one classic picture of one classic dude (and posted by another!)
Is there a more perfect pairing than Tom Curren and Al Merrick? (And while I am flattered by all the suggestions from faithful readers that yours truly and Gisele Bundchen would also make a fantastic combo, I’d like to reiterate that Mrs. Shred Sledz vehemently disagrees.)
Curren and Merrick both hail from the Santa Barbara area. Curren, of course, is one of the most celebrated surfers ever. While he has a tidy three world titles to his name, Curren’s popularity has more to do with his unhurried, smooth style, which is still mentioned as the gold standard for regularfoots. His mystique doesn’t hurt, either, as Curren has been content to disappear from pro surfing’s SoCal / Hawaii bubble and chase down mysto waves on obscure equipment.
Likewise, Merrick is one of the most distinguished shapers in surf history. He has made boards for just about every big name California pro you could think of, and during Kelly Slater’s run in the 90s and the 2000s, Merrick was responsible for putting boards under his feet. Unsurprisingly, Merrick’s Channel Islands brand became a behemoth (it’s now owned by Burton Snowboards), and it continues to boast a roster of top pros, although it seems like the shaping torch has been passed to his son, Britt Merrick.
I’d guess this board is from sometime in the mid- to late-80s, maybe even the 90s. There are a few dings here and there, but overall it looks like it’s entirely original and in pretty good shape. There might be some damage on one of the glass-on fins, which is worth checking out in further detail. I gotta say I absolutely love the logos, even though it’s a bit overboard and excessive. The first board Shred Sledz’s Editor-in-Chief ever bought was a Channel Islands step-up, as a wide-eyed 16 year old grommet, and the brand has remained near and dear to my heart ever since.
Best of all this board is only going for $250. I remain stunned at how cheap you can get vintage Channel Islands boards – even Merrick handshapes – nowadays. I can’t imagine these boards will remain affordable for long, especially since Al doesn’t seem to shape anymore, even for his team riders. I think this is such a rad board at a phenomenal price.