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7’2 Channel Islands surfboard shaped by Al Merrick from the early 1970’s in all original condition. Rare find!
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Al Merrick shaped Curren’s quiver since the kid was 12, and as Curren rose to prominence in the early ’80s, so did Merrick, becoming the most popular shaper in the world. Today, pick any major surf star, they’ve got at least one Merrick in their quiver. The very best get to ride Channel Islands exclusively. Get that deal and chances are you’ll ride ’em for life.
Merrick began his life in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, during World War II. The family moved to Florida, then California when he was seven. Merrick began surfing in Encinitas at age 10 and attended San Dieguito High School (as did one of his legendary riders Rob Machado). He rode for Surfboards Hawaii at the time and helped shaper John Price develop a noserider. After high school, he attended Palomar College for a short time, but found the curriculum wasn’t to his liking.
Price, along with Dick Brewer, was Merrick’s hero and inspired him to pick up a planer in 1966. “The change from longboards to shortboards spurred my interest,” Merrick adds. Having moved to Santa Barbara in 1965, he was on hand as revolutionary shaper Bob McTavish joined Rincon test sessions in 1968 on radically new equipment. According to Merrick, “McTavish came to Santa Barbara and that got me inspired.”
Still, the world wasn’t aware of Merrick, even after Shaun Tomson captured the world title in 1977 on his shapes. Around that time, he began making boards for a local grommet with a legendary bloodline and a promising future. Curren became Merrick’s child prodigy, and Merrick did the negotiating as the teenage star inked his first deals with Op and Rip Curl. Curren’s status exploded when he turned pro in 1982, and that of Merrick’s surfboard label, Channel Islands, wasn’t far behind.
With Curren as the most admired surfer ever, Channel Islands grew to colossal proportions. Everyone wanted to surf just like him, from the head snaps to the tucked rear leg to his double-pump bottom turns at winding Rincon. As far as people were concerned, the boards were the path to enlightenment. Once they became Slater’s arrow of choice, every top surfer wanted a quiver, and soon names like Lisa Andersen and Taylor Knox and wouldn’t think of riding anything but a Merrick. The team would only snowball in the coming decades, gathering everyone from Dane Reynolds to Sofia Mulanovich to all three Gudauskas Brothers.
With just his stable grinding through thousands of boards, Merrick saw machines as away to mass-produce back in the 90s. Today, nearly all of his boards are computer-shaped. (“I shaped one for Kelly from start to finish recently,” he notes. “But very few.”) The technology not only allow him to replicate subtle intricacies with precision, it lets him to meet huge demand at home – making as many as 2000 a month – and abroad. Every one within a millimeter of the next. Add entry-market ‘popouts’ from Thailand under the name Anacapa and a nearly decade-long relationship with Tuflite’s molded technology, you’ll find Al Merrick’s fingerprints — either literally or figuratively — on hundreds of thousands of surfboards, making his blades the most popular on the planet.
They’re also among the most versatile. With Clark Foam closing in 2005, Merrick pushed into epoxy. Today he toys with both carbon strips. Most recently Slater himself began working with Merrick on shaping his own unorthodox designs and technologies, winning Pipe and turning heads on short, stubby boards like the “Wizard Sleeve” “Deep Six.” Meanwhile, Dane Reynolds pushed his “Dumpster Diver” new heights. But the greatest change came in 2006, when snowboarding giant Burton bought the label, converting a secret plant in Vermont to start synergizing the two boardsports’ construction methods.
Still, Channel Islands continues to use foam and fiberglass for the bulk of their high-performance boardmaking. And while, Al’s son, Britt, handles most of the production, Merrick still heads up design (despite a 2009 rumor saying otherwise). And he still lives in Santa Barbara, spitting distance from his beloved test track at Rincon. For four decades, the best surfers in the world have trusted Merrick with their livelihood, and the future looks to be as reliable as ever.
Article written by Jason Borte
Read the full article… http://www.surfline.com/surfing-a-to-z/al-merrick-biography-and-photos_866/