We had just returned from Queensland with Phil’s 9’0” Merrin and Peter’s 9’3”, I still had my 9’6” Pyke “Razor” board. During our stay in Coolangatta Graeme Merrin had loaned us his latest model, a 7’10” V bottom with a full half-moon tail highlighted with coloured resin tips. This possibly could’ve been the first swallow tail made in Australia. It resembled a big mouth with 2 eyes and he naturally called it the “growler”. Phil could ride the board reasonably well, while Peter and I struggled with its lack of stability compared to our much larger 9’6”s, so we decided to be conservative and paid the price.
Back home in Vic we took a trip to Phillip Island which highlighted the mistake we had made with the new customs we got. Rod Brooks and a handful of Victoria’s other top surfers were riding the new 8 footers at Flynns Reef in an ASA competition. We arrived back home pretty dejected. I found a saw in the garage and proceeded to hack 10” off the tail of the magnificent Pyke, luckily we didn’t touch the Merrins.
The shortboard revolution had kicked in, we’d just spent all our hard earned cash on surfboards that were now obsolete. So the only alternative was to try and make our own. Phil’s brand new Ocka from Queensland was discarded within 2 months (early March 1968) when we launched a still sticky 8′ Trigger Bros at the Hump in Pt Leo. Soon our passion for surfing, the obsession to improve, and making surfboards would all roll into one.
The simplicity of living in the sixties can be illustrated by an eventful trip back to pick up my new custom Pyke in 1967 (pictured below). Aged 15, Phil worked all summer holidays with the drainers Leighton contractors, not really knowing the dangers at the time. By 16 he had enough money to buy his first car, which was a second hand FJ Holden. We fitted it out with Jaguar bucket seats, a floor shift and spayed it maroon.
With our older brother Peter the only licensed driver we sped off down the highway to Fred’s factory on Boston road in Torquay. But disaster struck about 7km’s from Torquay when the motor blew up. In our excitement to depart we had forgotten to check the the oil in the motor. It was 8:00pm on a Friday night by the time dad managed to find us for the long tow home. Unlike todays high tech machines, Phil and I were able to drop another motor in the FJ on Saturday. This time with plenty of oil and petrol we collected my new 9’6” “Razor” on the Sunday.
About 5 years ago at the Aussie Mal titles Phil was able to make an amazing connection with the past when he met for the first time, Jeff Arnold, the shaper of the Merrin. When we purchased the customs we were under the impression that the Graeme Merrin was the sole shaper, but Jeff was not only the shaper but also our favourite Queelnsland surfer. The guy that mesmerised us when he rode the union jack Mal at Greenmount some 45 years earlier.
Jeff had been searching for many years trying to locate a Jeff Arnold Model as well as a hanger and a link with his youth. A couple of years back he received a call from a mate in Byron Bay telling him of a Merrin in the back of a Ute. Stay put I’m driving down immediately with a wad of cash. The deal was done and better still it was a custom for some guy from somewhere called Peter Trigger.