Merrick Family Buys back Channel Islands

Bruce Fowler

Well-Known Member
Jul 28, 2018
1,135
1,892
California
Artz is spot on.
The huge payout Al got was quite the coup compared to Burton trying to unload it for 5.9 a few years ago with no takers. From what I was told, prospective buyers shied away after looking at their late or long overdue Accounts Receivables.

Not so sure about "the most profitable year" quote. WHO really has the inside scoop on that? Haakenson has had around 35+ coming into glassing on a weekly basis but with that comes the insistence on glassing them for less than anyone else pays for glassing.

When I look at C.I., I see a company that has taken a back seat to Firewire and Lost............. with former Santa Barbarian Jon (Pyzel) considered the new day AM.

Glad I'm not some kid shaper trying to be the next Al Metric or chasing Pyzel or Biolos' coat tails. You stand about as good a chance as becoming the next superstar in Hollyweird...

I learned a long time ago, pro surfers & lots of bro price team riders don't pay my mortgage.
 

Surfnfish

Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2015
1,737
2,146
a quiet cabin in the woods
Had a board shaped by a former long time CI shaper (will keep his name out of this) who'd just bailed from CI after the Burton purchase...very bitter about the changes, watched his price per board get cut in half, part of the plan for scrubbers to replace shapers...CI was merely a vanity pickup for Burton.

Always looked forward to a call from Kim at CI saying Willie Morris was turning in his quiver for a new one, would run down and pick up a couple 'seasoned' boards, including my first quads...
 

Bruce Fowler

Well-Known Member
Jul 28, 2018
1,135
1,892
California
Allan Gibbons first new board was a Fowler Xmas gift from his parents. He said "those rails were light years ahead of others..." a little 5'8" or 5'9
swallow winger. Allan became an excellent shaper in his own right and eventually took over the head slot @ Burton C.I............ he told me the corporate people hated the fact he was getting piecework and had the shapes so wired he was making considerably MORE than them!

I had talked to them later on about production shaping and they did NOT want to pay me piecework. There was a time that the crew had paid vacations, benefits, and it was a really cohesive package for the builders. Then I've been told all that has or will be going south, cut out completely.

A.G. also told me about the purchase of C.I. . He said that Burton bought C.I. with the conviction that they had a new tech method for building each board for a fraction of the cost for a conventional board. Burton really didn't do due diligence on the purchase, and Al and Terry, and Kim along with others had really made this company soar on a shoestring. They were exceptionally good at it, and being born & raised in Santa Barbara, I was learning my shaping chops the same exact time Al was......... who had moved to SB and was located on Arlington Avenue across from the theater. He had a Plastic Fantastic dealership or something but was focusing on his own shapes. The story goes, he bought two Creative Freedoms by John Bradbury to use for reference as the local magic boards.

I felt the same way, glassing MANY Bradbury shaped blanks for the local and Lompoc guys, so much so that JB asked me to just become his full time glasser when his doctor told him he should stay away from resin as much as humanly possible due to the defective spleen he had grown up with. I declined accepting the job because I told him "I'm only 17, I'm still in high school and I want to have time to surf, chase skirts, plus I'm getting into snow skiing."

Al then moved down to Helena Ave. where most people remember as his starting point other than the guys that knew him in Encintas and up on the hill. Bob Haakenson also came from there, first glassing for the Mirandon brothers ( Bear & Nick?) further south in La Jolla, then for Surfboards Hawaii in the building that housed Bahne/Fins Unltd. forever as well as Surfboards Hawaii, Chanin/Diffenderfer, Surfing's New Image, among others. I became familiar with that building after I graduated high school early in January and opened my first surf shop in old town Goleta which was going to offer David Nuuhiwa Surfboards and William Dennis, as I had ridden for Blinky (then W.A.V.E. Hollow). Right before opening, we were told Nuuhiwa was OUT but to go see Bill Bahne who makes them. That hooked me up to Hynson, and while still shaping, I absorbed a lot of the first donwrailers introducing a Brewer-Diffenderfer-Hynson collaboration called "NATURAL ROCKER". Both Al and I are self taught shapers, but influenced by Bradbury and perhaps Hynson as well? Footnote: Is was Bob Haakenson that came up with the "Model A" from Surfboards Hawaii. A very little known fact.

Al had a tremendous talent for spotting good design. One of the earliest was George Greenough & Chris Brock's collaboration of the TRI PLANE HULL, which Merrick immediately saw merit and ran with it. GG isn't a commercially oriented guy, he doesn't HAVE TO BE, coming from a father who was a railroad tycoon, and consequently Al became known for the TPH often times thought to be the originator.

Then came Shaun Tomson with his TWIN FINS originally shaped by Spider Murphy of South Africa. Shaun dialed Al into those twin fins. After that came a guy who had been riding my buddy's boards and sweeping his shop floor. Bob Krause had an earlier label called "Good Surfboards" near my Bahne/William Dennis store then moved to lower SB where TOM CURREN swept that floor and ripped on his boards before moving on to Channel Islands. Al had a great mentality toward COACHING and created a team that was focused on producing SAVVY COMPETITORS & WINNERS. The whole competition thing had died until the "Bronzed Aussies" brought surfing competitions back to the states then to Hawaii with the whole "Busting Down the Door" saga.

Tri Plane Hull, Shaun, then Tommy and the world opened up wide. Three key sparks and it set C.I. into a blazing label wanted by every would be professional. By then Haakenson was glassing 130 C.I.'s every week along with his own "Spindrift" label shaped by Rich Reed, and a young upstart named David Puu.

Those were the golden years that will never be forgotten by any of us locals that aren't possessed with trying to rewrite Santa Barbara history. The Yater guys mostly stayed true to Renny. 4/5ths of the Bradbury Rincon crew had gotten on Hynson Downrailers, which forced John to scramble and learn why. The Wilderness guys like Richie West, stayed on their super light, super dented Stubbies. Dennis Benedum made a presence for himself with curvy hippy wafered pintails for $85 from a barn near Carp until someone turned him in! Al got busted with 22 lbs. of pot and got religious.

Of course there were others. When Al went to Helena I ended up at Surf n Wear reviving the Owl Surfboard label eventually handing it to Marc Andreini who had grown up around Jeff White in Summerland. "JET Surfboards" stood for John E. Thurston, Tom Hale shaped the first Owl V Bottom I ever rode, Bob Duncan, ZOG's "Wave Delineation", Doug Roth, Matt Moore, Dave Johnson, Jon Brough's Bad Whales, IKE who shaped Greenough's first SPOON and the vast majority of Water Spoons while Renny was lobster fishing. Bradbury descended from Renny who remembers John as "the best glasses I ever had". The late Chuck Vinsons crafted beautiful boards in his "Thought Surfboards" shop across from the SB Courthouse but also did his fair share of Lightning Bolts once he was in Hawaii, then later Santa Cruz.

It's interesting to note, if you read old articles or go to the Maritime Museum down at the SB Harbor you'd think they only surfboard shapers that were ever in Santa Barbara were Merrick, Later & Greenough. How far from the truth that really is!
Very few people remember Zog in a house out past Disco and "Happy Trails" Surfboards by the plant that had a mountain of abalone shells that you would always see from the freeway. I think that might have been a conglomeration of guys including Vinson, Zog and Frank Oz. I remember one of them telling me a few years after Frank was gone, one day this big black stretch limousine pulls up in front of the dusty old factory in the boondocks. IT WAS FRANK and he had joined Jim Henson and was living large! Yeah, Frank Oz was a surfboard guy, but he was also a puppeteer! Yet another 'rich hippie' story, like all the kids growing up and jamming in Laurel Canyon.

Glorious times. Great memories. This is the stuff legend is made of, not some mega corporation amoeba that recognizes the legendary can fatten their bottom line. Then again. maybe THAT IS JUSTICE for one very sharp skilled surfboard shaper realizing something above and beyond the rest of us. The stuff that dreams are made of.

Any which way, it's a different world now. And perhaps selling high then coming back and buying low, is the ultimate justice for something that never shoulda been.
 
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Bobo

New Member
Jan 7, 2019
12
9
Santa Barbara, California
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences Bruce. I enjoy hearing your perspective. I grew up in Goleta a couple years later than you but still got to experience some of the glory years, riding my bike with board under arm to campus and IV.
 

miscreant

Well-Known Member
May 20, 2016
2,518
1,217
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences Bruce. I enjoy hearing your perspective. I grew up in Goleta a couple years later than you but still got to experience some of the glory years, riding my bike with board under arm to campus and IV.
the smell of tar and eucalyptus never smelled better.
 

Surfnfish

Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2015
1,737
2,146
a quiet cabin in the woods
nicely done, Bruce, the history of the core SB surfboard scene in one fell swoop...ya, AG the shaper I referenced, had just left CI and was furious over the Burton crap...hard road transitioning from a well paid benefits gig to dealing directly with cheap ass surfers again...
 

Doggyfizzle

Member
Nov 23, 2020
52
72
Ventura
Especially on those negative tide big swell days......definitely prevented me from going to Campbell Hall
Some of my best memories are riding my cruiser down 67 block of DP and getting excited for my first look at the swell at Deveraux before getting to Sands. Hop in the water for an hour or two, roll back to the apartment and grab a burrito and a beer from Cantina...life was simple and sweet.
 




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