home catalogue history references appendix 
the catalogue #221 

1974      Cooper Surfboards     Bonzer          6 ft 11 1/2"  #221

MANUFACTURER: Cooper Surfboards, 380 High Street, Coffs Harbour Jetty, NSW.  (066) 52 1782
SHAPER: Possibly Bob Cooper
DESIGN:  Bonzer
DESIGNERS: Duncan and Malcom and Campbell (USA)

Fibreglassed foam blank, 1/8" cedar stringer, spray.
Post production resin/glass leg rope attachment behind fin.
Length :
11 1/2
inches L2d 6ft 10 1/2''
Width :
 19 1/2
Wide Point :
Nose :
 13 1/2
Tail :
 12 1/2
Thickness :
 3 1/2
Pod :
6 1/2
Nose Lift :
Tail Lift :
Weight :
Volume :
Diamond :

Nose:  pin
Tail:  rounded diamond with chamfered pod.
Deck:   flat
Bottom:   single concave at sweet spot , splitting to  deep double concaves in front of the fins to the tail.
Rails:  down, soft blocky
Rocker: medium
Centre fin : 7 inch x 6'' base  @ 6''
Plastic molded wide base. 

Bonzer / Keel fins :  2 1/2" x 8 1/2'' base @ 10''
Toed in with roving extensions.
Tipped out at 45 degrees
Thin, not foiled.
Clear laminated.

Resin legrope attachment behind the fin.
Proably post production.
This is very unusual, a simple hole drilled through the rear of the fin 
is very common for boards used in this period.

#25 McCoy/Brewer fin

Deck: Cooper  and address, black script  @ s/spot.
Bottom: Cooper  and address, white and black script  @ s/spot.
Deck: None 
# 25 McCoy

Sprayed light brown deck patch inside two darker and thinner 'pinlines'.
Sprayed green fade on the nose.
At the tail - multi sprayed bands of various thicknesses, red  fading into blue between the side fins and the
The Advocate
Coffs Harbor
, Wednesday, 5 September 1973, page 1.

New Board Much Faster

Three year old Caitlin Cooper doesn't know much about riding surfboards,
but you can bet your life she won't be too much older before she does.

Caitlin is lying on one of the revolutionary boards being built by her father.

A Coffs Harbor man has started production of a revolutionary surfboard reputed to be 20 percent faster than any other board in Australia.
Basis of the board's radical styling in the Venturi principle of water being induced into the area under the board, compressed and expelled.
Main feature of the board is its three fins.
Angled fins are placed on either side of the normal fin to channel water under the board at high pressure.

The board is being manufactured in Coffs Harbor by Mr. Bob Cooper, who started making surfboards in America about 20 years ago.
He came to Australia 10 years ago and has been making boards in Coffs Harbor for the past five years.
"The board was invented by two men in California," he said yesterday.
"It was ... 20 percent faster than any other board and possessed extremely good turning and performing characteristics.
Rights Sold
"The inventors sold the right to a Californian company and so far very few people in Australia know anything about the board.
"the board is designed to the finest tolerances and is made of fibreglass covered foam.
"Two years work went into the design which is a significant breakthrough in surfboards."
Mr. Cooper said he believed he and a Sydney company were the only ones manufacturing the board in Australia.
He said he only received the design on Friday and had already received six orders for distribution in the Coffs Harbor district.
He said that despite the American origins the design had been given an Australian name, Bonza.
He said that the board retailed  for $125 as opposed to $100 for an ordinary board.
"Comparing this to an ordinary board is like comparing  a family car to a luxury model, Mr Cooper said.
"The design is so new that it has not yet been covered by the American surfing media.
"For a local firm to be chosen to manufacture the board is a feather in Coffs Harbor's hat"


Acquired April 2006.
The previous owner was Steve Jensen-Schmidt, of Narre Warren, Victoria.
Steve noted in March 2006:
I am not the original owner.
I swapped my board (An Island brand - from Phillip Island Victoria) for the bonzer when I was on holiday with my mate in Pambula.
The guy who swapped the board with me was from Sydney.
I am pretty sure the year was 1975.
Previously I had surfed with a chap at Phillip Island who had come down from NSW, and he had a Bonzer.
I thought his board was ace, and when the opportunity came for me to get a hold of one I was really happy.
I am now 2 weeks off my 50th birthday, but I was in my day pretty slick on the board you have just purchased.
I hope you get as much pleasure out of it as I did those many years ago.

Steve further noted in April 2006:

1.  I don't know about the green spray  - But I didn't put it there, so I am not sure if it original
2. The centre fin is original ( I did a crap job of fibreglassing it back in after I lost it hitting rocks at Phillip Island)
3.  The leg rope attachment behind the fin was original to my knowledge, and was there when I got the board.

The board was possibly shaped by Bob Cooper or Billy Tolhurst.
The spray and glassing probably by Bob Cooper.
The banded spray design on the bottom has some similarity to the illustrated Mike Eaton model, below.
The board has been extensively repaired (poorly) and at some point the resin/glass leg rope attachment behind fin was added.
Bob Cooper had an indelible influence on Australian surfing and surfboards. 
He started surfing at  Malibu in 1952 and saw the sport before the onslaut of commercialism that followed the Gidget Revolution, circa 1962.
He worked for Velzey, Yater and Morey-Pope Surfboards, where he designed the Blue Machine (circa 1967-1968) that featured an assymetric fin.
In 1959 he made his first visit to Australia, followed by an extended stay 1964 - 1966 and permanent residence from 1969.
In this period he worked for or with Barry Bennett, Gordon Woods, Joe Larkin and Midget FarrellySurfboards, importing invaluable construction techniques from his U.S. experience.
Circa 1970, Bob Cooper started Cooper Surfboards at Coffs Harbour, NSW.
Other shapers at the factory included Billy Tolhurst, Ronnie Goddard,  and Richie West (USA).
Cooper Surfboards was the first Australian manufacturer to promote indigenous Koori surers, circa 1971.
The company was sold to Ritchie West, circa 1980 and in 1993 Bob Cooper moved to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
"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 established an unique profile in surfing culture.
Furthermore, as a student of surfboard design, Bob Cooper collected several significant board design, which he left in California.
These boards are now held by the Surfing Heritage Foundation, California, and are online at...

Original design first shaped in December 1970 by Duncan and Malcom Campbell  (USA) characterized by forward concave leading to double concave each side of the centre fin with two keel- type fins set on the rails
(radically toed-in and cambered).

The bottom design has  similarities with the shape of Rogallo hang gliders, first designed in the late 1940's as a method of recovering returning space capsules by NASA.
F. M. Rogallo predicted in 1949 that "Portable delta wings will give bith to a popular sport"
 - quoted in Desfayes (1974) page 41.
By the early 1970's, hang-gliding was a sport in rapid transition with a large amount of media exposure.

As a sign of the powerful influence of Australia in world surfing at this time, the name Bonzer (also Bonzar,
Bonza) is an Australian expression for “excellent”.

In late 1973, the Campbell Brothers lisenced the design to Bing Surfboards for commercial development.
The design then became associated with Bing's head shaper, Mike Eaton, who had played a significant role
in the development of the Twin fin 1 in 1970. See image and notes, below.
The Bing models were noted for the wedged Bonzer decal that was laminated on the side fins.

Australian exponents of the design included ...
Peter Townend (Gordon and Smith Surfboards). See image below.
Ian Cairns (Gordon and Smith Surfboards),  rode  a Bonzer to first place, 1973 Smirnoff Contest, Laniäkea ,
Hawaii and Terry Richardson (Skipp Surfboards). See image below.

It was a (admittedly complex) combination of previous design experiments - multiple fins were first used by Tom Blake circa 1940, tail concave by Bob Simmons in 1950, tri-fins by Brewer in 1970, keel fins go back to Blake and were re-introduced on short boards in 1972.

While some commentators have seen the Bonzer as a direct precedent for Simon's Thruster, its influence was probably substantially less significant than Brewer's Tri-fin experiments (that critically noted that placing the rail fins behind the centre fin made it "track", when positioned in front the board was "looser"), MR's Twin fin, McCoy's wide tailed No-Nose design, and of course the direct influence of Frank William's Twin-fin with a small centre trailing fin.

See: Cambell Bros. Surfboards: History (July 2011)

A personal perspective:
I briefly rode a borrowed Bonzer in the mid-1970s, and like my contemporaries, found the board very stiff and with a tendency to hang high in the wave face.
A number of local riders actually sanded the keel fins off and thought the board went significantly better.
A local manufacturer picked up on this and produced a number of boards with the deep double concaves, but without the side fins, that were well received.
In my search for vintage boards, I have come across one example of a Bonzer with the side fins removed, so I assume this was not just a local phenonomon.

Further adaptation in 1988, the Phazer - a Stinger/Thruster adaptation ( 3 similar fins with 2 small Bonzer
D-Fins) initially credited to Rusty Priessendorfer for Rusty Surfboards (USA).
Later identified as another original design by the Campbell Brothers.

See John Wythe White :Surf Wars :The Bonzar,  June 16, 1999

"Mike Eaton of California; responsible for reviving the twin fin. 
Seen here with his 70's brain child 'the bonzer'."
Photograph : Drew Kampion
Nat : History (1983), page 108.

Following legal representation by the Campbell Brothers,
this caption was changed in the second edition (1994) to read...

"Mike Eaton of California; responsible for reviving the twin fin. 
Seen here with The  Bonzer. 
Designed by Malcolm and Duncan Campbell of Oxnard, California."

#180 South Coast Surfboards
#198 Weber Bonzer

1. Jim Neece : The Bonzer
Surfer magazine Vol  14 # 3 September 1973 page 64
See image below.
2. Steve Core: The Bonza
Surfing World Volume18 Number 2. November 1973
3. Mick Mock : Richo's Choice
Deep magazine , No 18 Spring 2000, pages 22 to33
4. John Wythe White :Surf Wars :The Bonzar,  June 16, 1999
5. Steve Barilotti : Belief System : The Bonzer Saga
The Surfers Journal 2004? Volume 13 No. 2 pages?

#25 McCoy/Brewer

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.

Advertising :
Warshaw, (2005) Bonzer : page 73. Bob Cooper : Page 136.

Peter Townend and G&S Bonzer, circa 1974.

Nat : Fundamentals (1985) Page 102.

Terry Richardson and  Bonzer:
Skipp Surfboards, circa 1975.
Photograph : Steven Coo
Tracks, January 1976, page 25.

Plans for F. M. Rogallo's Delta Wing Kite, 
circa 1969.
April 21, 1970  Patent Number 3,507,464 
Filed March 18, 1969. 

Desfayes, Jean-Bernard :
Delta - The Hang Gliding Book
Hassener Publishing, Inc.
Drawer B, Newfoundland, N.J. 07435 circa 1974,
age 30.

Jim Neece :"The Bonzer"
Vol  14 # 3 
September 1973 
page 64.

Bing Surfboards :Only One Bonzer, 1973.
Featuring the Campbell Brothers, Wildman (Jim Neece), Steve Wilkings, Jeff Kahman, Tiger Makin and Dru Harison.

Bonzer Cutback.
Surfing Comedy Album 1974.
page 25.
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2006-2021) : Catalogue: Cooper Bonzer, 1974, 6ft11".