Al Merrick Talks Sleds!

Kelly Slater and Al Merrick

Legendary shaper Al Merrick talks us through Kelly’s crafts and what changes he’s made.

Can you remember your first board and what did it look like?
“I had done some design work with John Price when I was riding for the Surfboards Hawaii surf team. I was always in the bay and we worked on a nose rider together. But the first board I shaped I think was a 7’6″. I called it “The Shoe’ and it had this hyper kick in the nose like an elf shoe or something.”

Why did you choose shaping as a career?
“I just really wanted to make my own boards and ride them. I was a craftsman and felt I was more than capable with my hands, so it felt natural.”

How do you remain at the cutting edge of surfboard design?
“I think it’s all driven by the surfers themselves and our surf team. I’m just trying to accommodate the level of surfing as it progressed over the years. Basically, I had to put my own ideas aside about what would work for me and focus on what I think will work for them. My team is what has driven everything.”

Who was influential in your early career and why?
“Dick Brewer was my inspiration. He was so innovative with his mini guns and all of his different boards. I was also influenced by how he used the different equipment required for shaping.”

What’s it like to have Kelly Slater on your team?
“Kelly and I have established a friendship and to me that’s what’s important. Obviously he being on the team has been essential in the growth of Channel Islands surfboards as a brand, but it’s my personal relationship that’s been the most rewarding.”

Does Kelly push the boundaries of your shaping?
“Yeah. There’s no question about it. He’s taken me way beyond anywhere I thought I would ever go.”

Where do you see the future of surfboard shaping?
“Pro surfing is becoming a more dominant sport. It’s going to take more involvement from the professional surfers. Their input will be influential in where we go in the future. Now with the use of shaping machines and designing on computers, things are definitely changing. I’m not saying shapers will disappear at all, but you will see the surfers that are interested playing a more active and creative role.”

Which of the boards you have shaped Kelly has been your favourite?
“That’s an interesting question. I think it’s probably the board that he won the Body Glove Surfbout on. It was around 1990, I think. It’s got orange and blue coloured panels along the rails. I don’t know what it is, but that board has always just stood out for me.”