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Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper's first day at Rincon, 1953.
Photograph : Rorey Cleaworth
Australian Surfers Journal Volume 3 Number Two, Autumn 2000. Page 53.

Bob Cooper had an indelible influence on Australian surfing and surfboards.
He was one of the first Americans to visit Australia, and to take permanentt residence.
Cooper started surfing at  Malibu in 1952 and saw the sport before the onslaut of commercialism that followed the Gidget Revolution, circa 1960 -1962.
At Malibu he would witness and be influenced by the surfing Micki Dora.

He initially worked for worked for Velzey Surfboards in the late 1950's and became expert in all aspects of surfboard construction.


"Bob Cooper in his pre-beard days 
at Putty Point, PORT HUENEME."
Circa 1960. 
Photograph : Harold Fred.
Stern and Cleary (1963) page 83.





 



In 1959 he made his first visit to Australia where his surfboard building experience was highly appreciated.
Bob Cooper was initally employed at Barry Bennett Surfboards and/or Gordon Woods Surfboards where he noted that Australian production techniques lagged substantially behind the US.
He also noted the developing skill of Freshwater surfer, Midget Farrelly.

Barry Bennett's factory, Brookvale, circa 1960.
Photograph by Bob Cooper
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two, 
Autumn 2000. 
Page 60.

On relocating to Santa Barbara, circa 1960, he was a key employee at Yater Surfboards.
Rennie Yater was one of the outstanding surfers at Rincon, and considered as one of the premier Californian board builders.
In Santa Barbara he also befriended Richie West and kneeboarder extrodinaire George Greenough .
 

Image right : Rennie Yater, Rincon, circa 1960.
Photograph : Reyonds Yater
Source unknown. 


Bob Cooper returned to Australia for an extended stay 1963 - 1966.
Circa 1963 he joined the staff at Hayden Surfboards, Alexandra Headland, Queensland.
Other employees include Bob McTavish, Algie Grud (dings) and Russell Hughes.
See Bob McTavish's wonderful account of Noosa Nostalgia circa 1963 - Alexandria Headlands 1953.

From 1963 to 1970, Cooper's skills were also in evidence  at Barry Bennett Surfboards,  Gordon Woods Surfboards, Joe Larkin Surfboards, and Midget Farrelly Surfboards.


Bob Cooper, Noosa, 1962.
Photograph :  Uncredited 
The photograph accompanied
Bob McTavish : Alexandra Headlands in '53
Surf International 
January 1969, pages 40 to 43. 

 


Bob Cooper, Main Beach Noosa, 1964.
Photograph  Bob Cooper Collection
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two, 
Autumn 2000.
Page 69.

In 1966 he returned to santa Barbara and became the foreman at Morey-Pope Surfboards, where he designed the Blue Machine (circa 1967-1968) that featured an assymetric fin.

Image right : 
Morey- Pope Surfboards 'Blue Machine' decal, circa 1967.
Decal design by Tom Morey.
Blackburn (2001) page 240.

While at Morey-Pope Copper hired Michael Cundith, a protégé of George Greenough, who would later move to Australia where he shaped extensively for Sky Surfboards, Byron Bay.
He later formed Michael Cundith Surfboards, Byron Bay.


In early 1968, Micki Dora rated Bob Cooper as his fourth candidate in an article for Surfing magazine : Authorative Big and Small Wave Selections. 

In 1969, on a trip to Europe, Cooper won the European Championships, International Division, at Jersey.

In late 1969 he returned to Australia to take permanent residence.

Circa 1970, Bob Cooper started Cooper Surfboards at Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Image right :
Bob Cooper, Surf Shop, Coffs Harbour, 1971.
Photograph  Bob Cooper Collection
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two, 
Autumn 2000. Page 44.

Other shapers at the factory included ...
Billy Tolhurst, circa 1970
Ronnie Goddard, circa 1972. See Summercloud Surfboards
and Richie West (USA). circa 1977.
 


Cooper Surfboards was the first Australian manufacturer to promote indigenous Koori surers, circa 1971.

Image right :
Cooper surfboards advertisement, circa 1971, 
featuring sponsored Koori surfers.
Photograph : Bob Cooper Collection
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two,  Autumn 2000.  Page 64.

In 1977, Cooper was one of the judges at the first Stubbies Contest at Burleigh Heads which saw the introduction of Peter Drouyns' Man-on-Man format.

The company was sold to Ritchie West, circa 1980.

Iin 1993 Bob Cooper moved to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
 


Cooper Surfboards decal, circa 1974.
Click image for Catalogue entry #221
Bonzer 6 ft 11''.

Cooper Story : Andrew Farrell, editor Australia's Surfing Life.
When I was a kid in Coff's Harbour, he was just the guy who owned the surf shop.
I didn't really know who he was.
And then as I was growing up, I saw his photo in a magazine and I've just gone: 'That's Bob! That's the guy who makes my boards!'
I remember there was a time when Wills used to be down on him for making himself so many surfboards, so he'd make them all the same color and she couldn't tell how many boards he had!
For a while he had this huge stack of bright yellow boards, all the same color, just to disguise his habit.
- Andrew Farrell : The Tale Spinner
Australian Surfers Journal Volume 3 Number Two,  Autumn 2000.  Page 68.
"Cooper with personal board, 1975."
Photograph by Warren Bolster
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two,
Autumn 2000. 
Page 74.

Apart from his surfing and board making skills, Cooper's dedication to the Mormon religion estabished an unique profile in surfing culture.
Furthermore, as a student of surboard design, Bob Cooper collected several significant historical designs which he left in California, circa 1969.
These boards are now held by the Surfing Heritage Foundation, California, and are online at... http://www.surfingheritage.com/bob_cooper.html
Cooper and rocker machine in his bay, 1997
Photograph : Aitionn
Australian Surfers Journal 
Volume 3 Number Two, 
Autumn 2000. 
Page 75.

REFERENCES
COOPER SURFBOARDS
#221 Bonzer, circa 1974.
BOOKS
Warshaw, (2005)  Bob Cooper : Page 136.

MAGAZINES
Articles About Bob Cooper
Perry, Mike : Bob Cooper - Further Down the Line
Australian Surfers Journal Volume 3 Number Two, Autumn 2000. Pages 44 to 81.

Articles by Bob Cooper
1970 Bob Cooper : Magic
Subjectivity of surfboard design, with particular reference to Phil Edwards' Baby.
Surfing WorldMagazine Volume 14 Number 4, circa August 1970. Pages 14 to 17.
1980 Bob Cooper : Colour
A brief history, design options and comments on the psychological impact of surfboard decor.
Surfing WorldMagazine Volume 29 Number 2, circa March 1980?. Pages 28 to 49.



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