Boards Merger

by Ethan Stewart

Longstanding rumors came true last week when locally based surf
industry giant Channel Islands Surfboards (CI) was bought out by an
East Coast snowboard company. Living in the tenuous times of the
post-Clark Foam shutdown, Al Merrick — the mastermind behind
arguably the most famous surfboards in the world — announced last
Thursday afternoon that his privately held multi-million- dollar
international business is now owned by Vermont native Jake Burton
and his equally world-renowned snowboard company, Burton. The
merger marked a somewhat unprecedented development in the
constantly growing sports board industry, as it binds together two
of the most recognizable and successful hard-goods manufacturers in
a relationship wherein the snowboard company — a direct descendant
of surfing — now owns the more historic and longer-running surf

Shock, confusion, concern, and excitement seemed to be the range
of responses from surfers and industry pundits alike following the
announcement. Pointing to the fact that Burton has a distribution
deal with über chain The Sports Authority — the largest sporting
goods chain in the country — naysayers are calling the deal the
ultimate form of “selling out,” speculating that it will inevitably
lead to a lesser quality product. But that just isn’t the case
according to CI General Manager Scott Anderson. “If anything, I
think this makes us more hardcore. We have no intention to change
our distribution. CI will stay CI. It won’t become Burton. This
allows us to stay here and to continue crafting the highest quality
boards right here in Santa Barbara.” For his part, Burton
Snowboards owner Jake, who considers Merrick a friend regardless of
business mergers, saw the deal as a perfect combination of two
like-minded businesses and businesspeople. “Our identical
philosophies on product development are what make this relationship
so natural. As we learn more from each other, Channel Islands and
Burton can only get better.”

All parties involved maintain that CI — with its factory on
Yanonali Street, storefront on Anacapa Street, and some 30 local
employees — will stay in town and that business will only improve
with the influx of Burton cash. According to Anderson, preliminary
plans are underway for a new factory location complete with
state-of-the-art computer and shaping equipment. Despite the
assurances, concern still remains regarding the fate of Channel
Islands, as an anonymous former factory worker observed after
hearing about the deal: “What?! Is there even an ocean in


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