What about the Bonzer?

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Design Outline

Recent fin articles by Stu had a Bonzer-sized hole in them and when the design was put in the dock in the comments it wasn't exactly acquitted. More like a hung jury, which I think deserves a re-trial. As a decades-long Bonzer afficionado, please allow me to present the case for the defence.

The historical weeds relating to who did what and when regarding surfboard design are thick and impenetrable, filled with hostile egos and unreliable narrators. Having said that, it seems fairly certain the Bonzer design was the first three-finned board which featured the triangle fin configuration which begat the Thruster, the most dominant fin design of all time. 

This both stabilised the directional capability of the small, wide-tailed boards which the early shortboards of the Nixon era-70's favoured and began an adventure in capturing diagonal water flow which led to the other dominant design feature of modern shortboards: the single to double concave. More on hydrodynamics in a minute.

The Bonzer is a Californian design, inspired by Australian shortboard surfing, particularly Wayne Lynch and Aussie slang. Bonzer: a good thing. It's a classic garage innovation, coming out of Ventura via Malcolm and Duncan Campbell. While it's always been there and had its occasional flirtations with the mainstream, the Bonzer has been largely overlooked by hipster reworkings of classic designs.

The Campbell brothers, Malcolm and Duncan, with a first generation Bonzer in 1970 (at far left) and a later version with reduced tail width (at far right).

Some of that is the dumb luck of bad timing. The 1994 film Litmus was most notable for the reintroduction of the fish via the baroque stylings of Derek Hynd at J'Bay. Yet Hynd claimed the best board he ever rode out there was an '89/'90 Campbell Brothers Bonzer. The board was beat to death by the time Litmus was filmed. Five years earlier and it would have been the Bonzer being showcased and a Bonzer revival which lit up the nascent alternative/hipster movement of the late-90's, which has continued to roll on through to the present day. A sliding doors moment.

The design briefly and notably flared up in Australia as pro surfing was beginning to come to life in the mid-70's. The Campbell Bros licensed the design to Mike Eaton of Bing Surfboards, who passed on the genetic information to Peter Townend. PT made the first Bonzer in Coolangatta, then brought the design to Cronulla, as part of a shaping stint for G&S surfboards. Filmmaker Steve Core captured footage of PT down the coast, and also Terry Richardson at Aussie Pipe in his 1974 film Ocean Rhythms. The footage holds up today, showcasing what Hynd felt when he made a homemade version in 1973: “It drove instead of pivoted, delivered more release off the bottom”.

Despite PT's performances at the 1974 Coke Surfabout, an example, according to Hynd, of how “progressive surfers were on dramatically different equipment” the design sunk into obscurity as the reality of the pro tour took hold. Why? 

According to Bonzer devotee Terry Richardson, it was the rise of the twin fin, which culminated in four World Titles to Mark Richards. Less obvious was the lack of fit between the cosmic stylings and ethos behind the Bonzer and the new Bronzed Aussies-era of pro surfing. Richo described the Bonzer as being “the essence of what was happening back then”.

Richo at Rocky Point in 1977, blazing on a self-shaped Bonzer (Bernie Baker)

That essence was not something a sport hell-bent on distancing itself from its drug-fuelled 60's and 70's image was keen to promote. 

Through the 80's and 90's the Bonzer languished, kept alive only by the religious zeal of the Campbell Bros and a few devotees, such as Mick Manolas and Mitch Thorson who together found an underground home for 5 fin Bonzers in the Margaret River region. Another devotee, Davey Miller, produced an insane body of work at Pipeline and Sunset Beach through that dormant period.

I met Miller in the mid-90's. At the time he was evangelical about the Bonzer and John Coltrane, spending hours “educating” me about the genius of both. I guess it worked. 

While Miller's zeal failed to capture the mainstream, or even much a of chunk of the burgeoning alternative market, his enthusiasm ensured a steady stream of pros and recreational surfers kept the design alive. Malcolm was a long term ghost shaper for Channel Islands and it was this connection that got the Bonzer into the 2006 Taylor Steele/Chris Malloy film Shelter. Taylor Knox's surfing on a green Bonzer at Angourie, one of the spiritual homes of the shortboard revolution which inspired the original Bonzer design, had a resonance which linked up both eras and countries. Knox's surfing still holds up: a blend of high performance carving and single fin purity of line.

Taylor Knox driving a 'Shelter' model Bonzer - the name taken from the film - through a high speed cutback, made all the more impressive by the flat gradient of the wave face.

Click on the image above to see Knox's surfing at Angourie in the film Shelter.

Shelter cemented the reputation of the Bonzer as a fully fledged design concept and ensured the cult following that Bonzers enjoyed would slowly grow. But still the question remains: Why no break out into the mainstream, like twinnies?

A few reasons apply. First, as a proto Thruster, the Bonzer hasn't enjoyed the cool factor of the rest of the hipster revival, which has always styled itself as a reaction against Thrusters. 

Second, performance wise, the design is not as versatile as a Thruster. I see the Bonzer as a single fin on steroids, and despite the presence of side fins they can't be pumped for easy speed in bad surf like a Thruster. 

To get the best out of the design, the so-called “fifth gear” that Bonzer afficionados like to rave about, the hull has to be at a certain speed. When that happens, the combination of small, canted keels, concaves and a centre-fin produces an incredible feeling of locked in, drivey speed, that can still be broken free due to the small size of the keels. A unique feeling that Derek Hynd describes as “stable but unstable: loose when it needed to be, then grippy for acceleration”. *

Paradoxical feelings which may only appeal to the fringe.

There's never been a coherent version of hydrodynamics as it applies to surfboard design but the Bonzer is one of the few honest attempts that has some sense behind it. The essence of it is captured from water flowing diagonally across the bottom of the board. The side keels and concave bottom redirect this water flow tailwards, and to the single fin. The original marketing called this a nozzle effect. 

Hydrodynamic theories like the Bernoulli Principle / Venturi Effect and Newton's Second Law of Motion describe this nozzle effect created by captured water flow: "If a volume of fluid is flowing horizontally from a region of high pressure to a region of low pressure, then there is more pressure behind than in front. This gives a net force on the volume, accelerating it along the streamline.”

Looking down the barrel, accelerating along the streamline. The case for capturing waterflow, as made by Matt Percy of Third Rail Surfboards (Tom Pearsall/Driftwood Photography)

It's this sense of acceleration along the streamline that Bonzer lovers crave. As to the design itself, while it may always remain fringe, possibly not cool enough or too complex for hipster fashion, elements of the Bonzer have stood the test of time. 

The single to double concave bottom is still the shortboard standard. 

The triangle-shaped fin array remains the dominant one for boards required to corner at speed.

Perhaps these will remain the Bonzer's greatest legacy.

// STEVE SHEARER

* From Jon Frank and Andrew Kidman's 2018 film and book project 'Beyond Litmus'.

The Modern Bonzer: A Primer

Though every major label has an alternative twin or mid-length in their arsenal, very few list a Bonzer in their range, and the same goes for most backyarders who are generally orbitting the same designs. There are, however, a few shapers committed to keeping the Bonzer flame burning. Here are three of them:

Matt Percy - Third Rail Surfboards
With impeccable heavy water pedigree, Matt Percy specialises in big wave Bonzers purpose built for the reefs and bommies around Margaret River. When it comes to getting feedback from his customers, Perc rarely has to wait long as he's usually out there surfing on the days his boards are designed for.

(Tom Pearsall/Driftwood Photography)

Jye Byrnes - Jye Byrnes Surfboards
Though he's considered an alternative shaper, Jye Byrnes takes a practical approach: He simply services surfers looking outside the 6'0" Thuster box. Jye has two Bonzers in his range.

 

Luke Daniels - Daniels Surfboards
Another shaper whose enthusiasm for the Bonzer stems from his personal experience of riding them. Though Luke can shape traditional Bonzers, he's willing to subtly shift the fundamentals, tinker with the foundations, and push the design forward.

Comments

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:00pm

*Duncan Campbell.

Sorry to be the pedant. Will read the rest of the article now - and enjoy it too :-)

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:09pm

thanks Channels :)

channel-bottom's picture
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channel-bottom Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 2:50pm

Epic boards. Hopefully be able to compare notes when the new one is ready.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:28pm

You can say that again. Can't wait.

Interesting that my own boards like the one you surfed evolved into 2+1 with single to double concaves running through a vee, eh?

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:09pm

Yes, Duncan.
Not sure how that slipped through.

Hot stuff's picture
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Hot stuff Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 4:33pm

The Ultimate surf nerd

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:11pm

Shit happens. Hardest thing in the world is proofreading your own stuff.

And it was a fine piece. Would love to witness Matt Perry's Bonzer guns in action!

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:28pm

Perc riding one of his own creations:

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:35pm

Holy heck!

marcus's picture
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marcus Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:50pm

ah i see you have already mentioned it here.

roondog's picture
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roondog Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 7:52pm

how West Oz classic an image

Walk around G's picture
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Walk around G Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:20pm

I had one for a while. It went great in line-up quality waves on my backhand as I drive more off the back foot backside but I didn't like it when frontside due to my normal front footed approach. Crazy bottom design in the fin area with extreme concaves and fin angles a plenty.

helmet-not-hose's picture
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helmet-not-hose Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:22pm

You've got to think there's not 'that' much difference between those Bonzer 5 guns Matt Percy is building and Tom Hoye's Claw. Built for the same waves too by the sounds of it.

Having the more upright keels seems to make more sense to me than the triangular fins.

udo's picture
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udo Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:24pm
freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:30pm

thanks Udo, thats part of the direct inspiration/connection I was talking about between the Bonzer and Australian Country Soul/shortboard surfing.

Mcface's picture
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Mcface Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 12:42pm

Good article FR, I was just saying in a thread earlier this week how much I'm enjoying my bonzer. It has that "tracking" feel that a single fin has when heading down the line - feels like nothing is going to knock you off course. Still it has no trouble flying through turns when you want it to. Chalk and cheese to my twin which I use in smaller waves.

chook's picture
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chook Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 1:21pm

really interesting read...
maybe one of the reason holding back the popularity of the bonzer is that bonzers are generally made with glassed in fins. that's got to make the hoi polloi wary.

those boards in the first pic of Campbell brothers look like kneeboards. good looking kneeboards!

Constance B Gibson's picture
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Constance B Gibson Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 2:31pm

Grand to see Percy get a guernsey. When I extract the digit, that much crapped on about 9'0 is a lock, bud. Mates rates, but. Surely. Maybe. DIY sanding. Barter?

And where do the 'dick n balls'/2 + 1's sit in the rack, ya reckon, FR/SS?

I've always got a coupla. Bigger for certain days/locations, mainly the usual suspect in Indo. Barrels and cutbacks (if you're lucky).

Constance B Gibson's picture
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Constance B Gibson Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 6:25pm

A coupla 'dick n ballz'

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Constance B Gibson Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 6:27pm

The latest effort.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:36pm

I find the bonzers have the single fin feeling on the forehand, but are way more whippy. You still feel like you are surfing the rail of a full board though, not just a cluster of fins in the tail. Maybe they give a little less of the full-rail speed of a single but track and jet more? On the backhand I find the bonzer way more like a thruster and this feeling is looser than the single. Wheras I'd be placing the single for a top turn and going with the wave as the board loses speed up high, the bonzer can keep its speed through the top turn. My 2c. I like 'em.

Edit: I have a Dibben 8'1 that is very like that last board by Luke Daniels, pronounced single to double concave like that was one of Len's specialties.

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Constance B Gibson Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:38pm

The Dibben's! Used a longneck with sandpaper wrapped around to carve out those double concs! I've got a pic floating round somewhere.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:48pm

Yep, great boards, great man. I still have my 3. The 8'1 I was asking him to make a mini version of the late 60's Hakman guns, so it's volan, triple stringer, tail block square tail, those huge concaves (vee from the concave to the rail too), widepoint forward, 2+1 with the swivel fins that were the rage back in '98. It's a bit of a weapon, covers distance like you wouldn't believe.

Anyone ever have one of Len's Fun Guns? Way ahead of their time in the 90's given what is happening to surfcraft now.

Constance B Gibson's picture
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Constance B Gibson Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 6:08pm

The Dibben in question.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:10pm

Wow that's a weapon. Good of you to keep it - lots of craftsmanship go into those boards.

teaqueue's picture
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teaqueue Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:39pm

A good read.
Also keeping the dream alive of course is Mike Psillakis - shaping all The Campbell Brothers shapes for Rhino - who has the Australia license. He rides them a lot himself.
I have an Octofish (by Malcolm), The MBLV (by Mike) and an Alpha Omega (by Malcolm), and the variety of experience between those 3 boards is greater than my smallest to a longest thrusters.

Everyone should have at least 1 Bonzer.

marcus's picture
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marcus Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:49pm

Matt Percy makes a nice bonzer kinda looking board

back beach's picture
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back beach Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 3:58pm

Going back a few years now but Luke Short transferred a lot of Campbell Bros boards/shapes to computer and machine shaped them under licence. I met Malcolm in the surf really down to earth bloke. Hit him up to sell me his board when leaving but he liked it too much so Luke shaped me one. Amazing board and feel every surfer should experience

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:52pm

Interesting, well written article. The photos of Richo and Knox are outstanding.

Never ridden a bonza. I’d definitely be into it if someone was keen to lend but unlikely to go out on a limb with my own until then. There’s too many thrusters I want to ride first.

Optimist's picture
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Optimist Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:55pm

Thanks for a good read, I saw a couple made by Billy Hamilton in the 7'2 to 7'6 range many years ago and am still kicking myself for not buying one as they would have been great bigger wave boards with lots of volume. Ive never seen one since, but those ones of Matt Percy look the goods. I like the ci biscuit bonzer as well but wouldn't invest as a small wave board. A fast hard driving gun however is a different story and worth the money at my age.

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:58pm

My 17yo, and very well worn, homemade Bonzer.

It's been everywhere (man...), and now lives with Yendor.

Yendor's picture
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Yendor Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 5:34am

Thanks again IB. I've yet to give it a run but I reckon your old local might be the spot.

BÓTON's picture
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BÓTON Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 7:27am

Homemade by who? Looks good - based off a Russ short? What are the dims?

I have a 6’10 home job Russ Short but can’t seem to attach image?

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:39am

Homemade by me.

From memory 6'2 x 19 1/2 x 2 5/8. Flat rocker, quite flat deck. Not Russ Short inspired; much more balanced outline and foil (not tons of volume and area up front.

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:50am

Foil/rocker shot. Pardon the chaos, but we were in the middle of moving.

BÓTON's picture
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BÓTON Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 1:45pm

Sick that looks good!

I’ve been keen for similar dims and foil on one for a while now. The one I have is very “period correct” ha ha. There’s a time and place for it and it’s a gem but yours looks rippable

flow's picture
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flow Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 4:59pm

I had a board made for me about 30 years ago where the shaper said it had a bonzer. It was a thruster with a big concave. I guess it wasn't a bonzer. Thanks for the article FR.

spookypt's picture
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spookypt Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 5:11pm

Probably a "bonzer" bottom....

Norm de Ploom's picture
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Norm de Ploom Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 5:38pm

Trivia.
Bob Cooper had a license off Bing to make the Bonzer here in the early 70’s.
Felt up one, insane concaves more than an inch and a half deep.

spookypt's picture
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spookypt Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 5:56pm

I rmember an old Vid (Cant remember which one) that featured Dave Miller on his bonzers..... I can still remember his one liner right at the end....."They go unreal"....

Always wanted to try one.... But not got there as yet!

udo's picture
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udo Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 5:59pm
groundswell's picture
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groundswell Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 6:40pm

Good to see Perce getting some advertising. He's a good shaper and knew a lot about boards even when he was a bodyboarder at age 17. He knew a lot about shaping too back then. Started shaping bodyboards for Manta then fishes and single fins for himself and his friends.Now onto all sorts of boards...Very smart guy.

TheSurfchaser's picture
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TheSurfchaser Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 7:21pm

As a bonzer rider for over 35 years, it's a big, BIG miss not to include Mike Psillakis who is Malcolm Campbell's right-hand-man here in Australia and delivers the goods thru Rhino Laminating of which I have 4 of his creations. Truthfully, I may be biased, but I've surfed other bonzers and they pale.

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 7:33pm

Far as I'm aware, Mike shapes under the Campbell Bros label and I was looking for shapers working independently of the Campbell Brothers / Channel Islands ecosphere and carrying the legacy forward.

Craig's picture
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Craig Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 7:55pm

I'm also intrigued, might have to hit up Mike to borrow/try one and then get one shaped.

Thingo's picture
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Thingo Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 9:17pm

I recommend it, Rhino had a demo bonzer last time I was there.

Craig's picture
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Craig Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 7:37am

Cheers!

Hazrus's picture
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Hazrus Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 8:53pm

A couple of years ago I borrowed a couple of bonzers to try - both Channel Islands boards (shelter and biscuit), Rode from 1 - 8 foot.

My 2c:
They were fast and liked being on rail. They tipped over onto rail really easily too - it felt like the side fins cant helped this.
They didn’t like being surfed vertically
Overall, a design that worked, but not as versatile or predictable as a thruster.

If I found a cheap one on gumtree I would probably have one to keep in the quiver.

groundswell's picture
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groundswell Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 9:10pm

Here you go Hazrus posted by Udo in the gumtree thread

udo wrote:

Bonzer 5 - 6'4 Black Apache - 38 litres
https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/merimbula/surfing/surfboard-for-sale/128...

udo's picture
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udo Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 9:51pm

Theres also a 5'11 - CI - Campbell bros on GTree at Warnambool

RichieMac's picture
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RichieMac Wednesday, 6 Oct 2021 at 9:21pm

That board gets around I had it for about a year and a half on the central coast, looks like it’s still in good nick. Went great in good waves

Thingo's picture
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Thingo Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 9:14pm

I've owned a number of CB Bonzer5's over the years (Shelter, Octafish, MB5). It's always interesting to read reports on them from other riders as there certainly is a unique feel to them that is worth pursuing.

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More tubes please Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 11:43pm

Only ever ridden CB bonzer 5’s and in clean conditions they go insane. Some of the best feelings I’ve had in surfing have been in hollow Indo point breaks on a bonzer. Could never quite work them out on my backside however. Never tried a bonzer 3, but always been a little curious on the difference between the 2 designs

Oceanbeach's picture
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Oceanbeach Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 7:36am

had one made locally by bean years ago they had a cambells one in for repair at same time and ‘replicated’ it for me, great board for long walling waves where you can build up speed but for coastlines with majority of waves being shorter in length and sectiony such as MP, not ideal

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:16pm

I remember that one you took it to indo as well from memory.

Oceanbeach's picture
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Oceanbeach Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 7:51am

yeah it went well at lances left, the big fin copped a few scrapes at low tide, got it still under the house somewhere…

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 8:13am

http://www.roystuart.biz/2014/10/nick-carroll-reviews-warp-drives-65.html
Freeride you also enjoyed trailing the Spitfire fin in your Bonzer ?

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 8:22am

I really did. Made it surf heaps more vertical.

keen to trial some different fins in Bonzer single-fin box.

It's fun to experiment and dial in looseness with the single in the box.

Apologies to Mike Psillakis for the miss.

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:34am

A Psillakis Alpha Omega Twin....with S-wings

stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 8:25am

Taj Burrow at 13, riding a Mick Manolas-shaped Bonzer, more than likely a five fin Bonzer which for a time took hold in WA through Mick and Mitch Thorson.

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 8:48am
stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 8:48am

Twin fin Bonzers, eh?

Wonder if they surf like twin fin Thrusters?

Surf Ads's picture
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Surf Ads Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:43am

My Alpha Omega twin is as close to a one board quiver as I could get. Though yes it still is very lateral, especially on forehand.

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:03am

Great article Steve.
Interesting history

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liam taylor Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:15am

Love Luke Daniels bonzers. Been riding them on and off for the last 7-8 years and it’s changed my surfing completely. Hail Campbell bros, Lukey D and the other core craftsmen keeping this shape alive. Awesome article.

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:15am
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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:26am

Who's the shaper for Davey Miller's board Udo?

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:46am

Him i believe ..?
Scroll thru his insta page some good stuff on there.

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:01am

Will do

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campbell Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:11am

Davy,s boards shaped by the Campbell Brothers in Haleiwa, Pipeline guns, super narrow (but most boards in the late 90,s were), worked for him , interesting guy, great artist (bit of a god botherer)
Mick Manolas was shaping Bonzers under license in WA and used the Campbell Brothers logo (tiki looking icon).
Big Mitch brought some back from Hawaii and Mick was his shaper on this side

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 11:21am

Yeah right.
Haven't seen any come up on market place in Perth by the Thorsons
Must be super rare

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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:24am

Anyone doing them in EPS/epoxy?

topgeer's picture
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topgeer Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 1:52pm
freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:28am

Article amended above to include the contributions of Mick Manolas and the Thorson bros in WA.

Incredible how such a "fringe" design has managed to endure through the ages.

I think thats the main point of the story.

Also have some correspondence from PT and Terry Richo to add later today.

Mcface's picture
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Mcface Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:33am

It's interesting Steve how you mention it's avoided the hipster revival that twins and single fins have (although steadily enduring nonetheless). I don't disagree per se but it's hard to understand why not as they are probably the best looking boards out there! Something about the combination of glassed in fins with the big single, and the deep concaves and channels just makes you think "that's gonna go"

rogerelastic's picture
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rogerelastic Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:45am

Been riding a Chris Garrett-shaped bonzer 5 rounded pin for about 5 years. It's my 'magic' board. Glass ons, full polish - I think his sander is still swearing. Agree on all the experiences above - much like old-mate the 72 year old - I'm a swooper not a ripper. It swoops really well and is such a beach conversation starter - I've met lots of lovely folks that way ;-)

Bought a CI Bonzer 5 Shelter 2 years ago but I just couldn't get it to work for me. I'm too old school, feet stuck together, forward foot weighted, single fin style to get the best from its modern plan shape. New owner very stoked.

All hail the Campbell Brothers!

Travis86's picture
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Travis86 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 9:54am

I can’t recommend highly enough of this design. I have a Mike P shaped/Rhino laminating bonzer 5 and it’s one of the most amazing boards. Likes some swell but my gosh does it give you some feelings. The combination of flow and drive and feeling of pure speed is exhilarating.

I’m not sure why they haven’t been more popular during the alt board revival. Definitely a board design that should be more popular.

tango's picture
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tango Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:41am

Great article, Steve.

Have to say I've not ridden one...yet...but the surfing I've seen to date on them hasn't left me hooked to try one. That footage of Taylor Knox at Angourie is the best I've seen. Of course, he would have to be in the top 3 style-merchant rail power surfers of all time and Angourie is one of the most delightful waves to ride in the world.

Does anyone have any footage which clearly shows how it differs to a 2+1? Those fellas in Jye Byrnes' vimeo footage were good surfers but looked like they were struggling somehow. But I could watch Jye shape all day.

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 11:24am

Agree, the guys looked sluggish compared to the shelter footage.

Maybe just the waves

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 11:38am

This is pretty good Tango

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tango Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 1:44pm

Thanks Udo, geez I wish I could surf like that. He should run clinics in how to do a roundhouse.

I feel like I'm being picky, but is that board not quite right for those waves? It looks like it's got a thruster-style plan shape and foil, even the nose rocker, and he seems to be struggling to maintain speed in all but the steepest sections of the wave or when he plants the back foot. It doesn't seem to plane too well on its own, which is obviously more a function of the foam than the fins, but he also rarely shifts his feet.

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Leebo20 Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 7:40pm

Are you kidding?

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tango Monday, 4 Oct 2021 at 8:05am

I did say I was being picky.

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Optimist Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:45am

Campbell...Gods not bothered...He likes a chat.

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blindboy Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 10:49am

I definitely had a bonzer back there somewhere. Sadly I remember nothing about its performance, which is probably not a good sign since I have very clear and happy memories of some great boards from that time (thanks to Paul Connors, Mike Davis, Terry Fitz and particularly Frank Williams). Most of us tended to churn through a lot of innovative ideas back then but never bothered to work through the design intricacies. If the first one didn't do it, we moved on. Great to see that some didn't take that path but kept refining designs they could see the potential in. Nice work FR.

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freeride76 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 11:09am

Anyone with a physics/engineering background like to take a swing at the hydrodynamics proffered?

either for or against.

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gsco Thursday, 7 Oct 2021 at 8:47am

Really cool article, was an interesting read.

I once had a deep concave bonzer style shortboard but with a standard thruster fin setup, shaped by Mick Grace from the Sunny Coast, who I remember used to shape a lot of these in the 90s. It seemed to go really well.

Regarding the hydrodynamics/CFD stuff, there has been some good advances in the development of off-the-shelf commercial numerical CFD modelling solvers/software packages of late, and these have recently been getting applied to surfboard and particularly fin setup CFD modelling.

CFD modelling is typically based on the numerical approximation of some simplified variant of the Navier-Stokes equations, which is a system partial differential equations that model fluid flows. Numerical approximation means that an actual equation or formula for the solution cannot be derived, so computers are used to iteratively approximate the solution*. The full/complete form of the equations are typically not used since they are largely intractable (too complicated) to work with, so some simplified version/variant of them is used.

Here's some links to some recent journal papers, whose conclusions seem to have implications for bonzer style boards.

These two papers about fins are really interesting:
- Computational hydrodynamics of a typical 3-fin surfboard setup:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889974618307217
- Numerical Investigation of the Hydrodynamics of Changing Fin Positions within a 4-Fin Surfboard Configuration: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/10/3/816/htm
They're by the same authors and model thruster and quad fin setups using the STAR-CCM+ numerical solver package (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simcenter_STAR-CCM%2B) which numerically approximates the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations.

This article uses the same STAR-CCM+ solver but focuses on surfboard design (not necessarily fins):
-
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323179458_CFD_for_Surfboards_Co...

This paper uses the FLUENT solver (https://www.ansys.com/products/fluids/ansys-fluent) combined with the genetic algorithm (which is a machine learning technique):
- Optimization of the Surfboard Fin Shape using
Computational Fluid Dynamics and Genetic
Algorithms: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/84591398.pdf

The actual paper in this link:
- https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Hydrodynamic-Performance-of-a-Surf...
is a bit old (2004) but the webpage links to some interesting more recent articles.

*Interestingly, mathematicians are yet to prove that a solution to the Navier-Stokes equations even exists (let alone can be approximated numerically), and the Clay Mathematics Institute offers a prize of $1million to anyone who can either prove or disprove the existence of a solution...: https://www.claymath.org/millennium-problems/navier%E2%80%93stokes-equation. But the best mathematical minds on the planet have already been going hard at this problem for > 150 years...

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Island Bay Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 11:19am

Well, Bernouille's Equation only applies to a closed tube, so that's off the mark. It's previously been used to describe gap winds and their acceleration, but that's been chucked in the bin too.

I do see merit in the explanation of the diagonal flow being channeled by the deep double concave and heavily canted side fins.

Whatever it is, it feels unique and good and fast. I'm ready for an afternoon nap, so not at my sharpest. Maybe later...

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Pops Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 12:40pm

Yeah Bernouille's eqn isn't really suitable... without getting too technical, Bernouille's eqn is a special (simplified) case of the Navier Stokes equations suitable for laminar pipe flow & similar phenomena like IB says. Flows at the free surface (ie air and water interface) are much more complicated & need the full Navier Stokes.
Nozzle effect also really only applies to a closed pipe... though probably a decent enough analogy.
Seems the key is that they keep flow over the tail of the board efficient (i.e. stop water exiting the board over the rails/at an angle to the direction of travel which increases drag).
Never ridden one, but I'd guess the more extreme versions would be fast compared to thruster with same planshape/rocker/bottom contour, but wouldn't like to release/slide/drift?

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freeride76 Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 12:45pm

sort of, although the side keels are only shallow so can be "freed" relatively easily.

that's likely to feel like user error though, at least from my point of view.

I love riding my 5'10" Octafish in larger surf than it merits, because it does get a drifty feeling at top speed, at the edge of it's performance envelope.
Finely balanced sensation of extreme lift and control.
Really flying.

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Pops Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 1:00pm

Yeah I guess there's not much surface area in those keels (even less so at speed with the lift you'd get), so easy enough to overpower?
I had a more extreme version of the Luke Daniels one in mind when typing.
Gorgeous board that, btw.

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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 12:20pm

Bonzer 5 Baby Swallow...as loose as a seasoned Prostitute / Davey Miller..

http://www.roystuart.biz/2014/09/steve-shearer-surfs-warp-drive-fin.html

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Robwilliams Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 12:42pm

nice articles, keep them coming, love the history, pics and info, always interesting to read. something special about the non conformity of early surfboard design even if it wasn't always a success. Attitude shines through top pic.

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udo Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 3:11pm
ruckus's picture
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ruckus Friday, 1 Oct 2021 at 7:21pm

Bonzer mate. Great read and history. I’m sold, Fav board in the quiver is an asym bonzer

ECF01-A80-54-EE-46-F7-A866-4-DBAF83-B5-A9-E
0-C88-CB62-E99-F-467-C-B78-A-716-D802-F9348
89-B7-ED96-7-F71-440-D-817-E-03-F4384-F517-E

Feels so good under the feet and the thing just flies

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Starchy Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 8:23am

Having shaped and ridden my own B5s over the past 8 years in the Curly area, I find they work in anything. You get Fish the drive out of 1ft Sydney slop with any plan shape you choose. The concept is more of an 'engine room' as Max Stewart terms it.

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udo Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 8:50am

Got some Board pics Starchy ?

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Starchy Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:01pm

Here's a few



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Starchy Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:27pm
udo's picture
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udo Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:28pm
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Starchy Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:35pm

Very nice. Have a blank ready to start another of my collection any day now - That will be no 8 if you don't include an couple of CB originals.

reverse patrice lumumba's picture
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reverse patrice... Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 9:11am

Gary Elkerton was a big Campbell Brothers Bonzer aficionado in the early 90s, Steve. Probably the only pro riding them at the time. He rode them a lot in contests on his small wave boards.

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Fooman Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 12:21pm

Got a Kenn Bonzer that I believe was shaped in Queensland circa mid 1970's. 20 years ago I got so deep in perfect 4-5 foot Byron in front of the pub that I came out from behind the foam ball and it blew my mind!! Came in from that surf and someone wanted to buy it off me on the spot! I have retired the board now. True that they usually come in to their own in fast hollow down the line line waves. Anyone have more info on Kenn shapes? Some one told me it was a Gnarloo bonzer. Good article....peace and love to all.

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topgeer Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 1:51pm

Guess you forgot about your own locally built Bonzers out of Byron, care of Bryan Bates... got one just this year, 6'10" beuty... hit him up. (p.s he makes Twinzers as well).
http://www.bryanbates.com.au/single-fin-range#/bonzer-2/

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udo Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 2:03pm

Whats cost....$1400 ?

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seahound Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 4:50pm

Hi Stu and Steve, good story. I also think it is worth mentioning, for history's sake, that in 1973, inspired by a letter and some penned diagrams from PT about the Campbell brothers new bonza designs, Ian 'Kanga' Cairns shaped himself two bonzers in Perth. He took those two boards to Hawaii that year, carved Sunset Beach apart on them, then won the world's richest surf comp, the Smirnoff Pro, on speeding walls at Lanikea, defeating Jeff Hackman in the final. Jack Shipley, a judge at the event, commented that he had never seen anybody surf that fast. Bloody bonza mate. Cheers.

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udo Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 5:02pm

Unreal by Kanga
Any Bonzers get surfed or made over there Seahound ?

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udo Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 9:16pm

Lots of Rocker

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truebluebasher Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 10:46pm

Think Chook is right as Grom tbb recalls seeing Bonzer kneeboards at Mermaid Stores...'75/76.
Recall thinking that Kneeboarderz were Acid Trippers as their designs were more far out!

Note tbb is strictly recalling 1975-1979 Goldie Bonzers not any earlier wave!

Fooman > Kenn Bonzer & many odd Kneeboard Shapes came outta Mermaid Collective.
They often advertise Surfers Paradise as Back Hwy came out at Broadie in mid 70's.
The Mermaid GC Hwy Collective were the nearest stores to Brizzos > Beach > Broadie Beach Bar.
Brothers Neilsen / Drouyn were in Surfers but No Shaping > Some Backyard Skatedeckz was about it!
Recall Ding repair drop off & Hire in Surfers.

If crew reckon Kenn Mermaid had Bonzers then Grom tbb reckons he saw the same thing in 1976.
Besides Mermaid... you'd then need to check Currumbin Collective...for a rare one off. (Palmy Goofs)
Can't recall The Point having any..maybe a one armed NSW knee boarder...if tbb thinks hard about it..
Recall Blackie or other Loose Palmie Goof with Bonza & tbb knows this ain't right but maybe Guy?
Guy rode for Pipedream at same time these Bonzers...but no mention of it!
Only coz Guy would stray up to our Talle Local & it's only there or 25th tbb would've seen Palmy board.

Cross the Border for Pipedream Custom Bonzers...these were the "Typical Bonzers"
Can share exactly what shape they were...coz my mate Jaco was best bonzer ripper.
When I got to Tugun we'd swap boards...so yeah! Rode his "Typical Bonzer"
Another Tugun Local Henri ripped on his Pipedream model & tbb recalls The Enforcer flew high on one!
Again Bruce rode for Pipedream & Jaco / tbb / Bruce were at same school & this was around 1977/8.
Sure! That sounds a bit late but Southern Goldie Bonzers were kinda late & short lived..
But as said, they were ridden by Hot Surfers & tbb will vouch they left a progressive footprint.

Freeride76 is right to hand out the Bonzer surf stickerz.

Can share these surfers ordered them off Murray Burton but also recall them saying another shaper?
Far as tbb can tell Murray either had a licence for design or a very excellent shaper was in the bay.
tbb knows enough to share the designs were state of the art...no lemons!

Kinda like a Grom wanting to kick the design but going yeah but no but ...fuck that's a shit hot board!
Can even share the exact design from 1973 that was tweeked for the Tweed in 1977 (Pipedream)
Feature says Peter Townend brought Campbell Bros design to Cooly...(Mid '70's).
Reckon we can continue that line to Murray Burton on The Tweed @ Pipedream...

Fits the Goldie / Tweed Bonzer Timeline perfectly...Thanx! Freeride76

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-9ZAvVacdjz0/VFRz7-v9F3I/AAAAAAAAQwI/t_zKycv6y6...
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-VD_2UIUC6Bk/VFRz7PBqK0I/AAAAAAAAQv8/AGNZOFmWps...

Pipedream models had Flutes less so (Concaves) & that weird Tail was kinda toned down a little.
Main fin had shortened + some softening of the outta blades a little.
Basically a safer more surfable version but not compromised...still the same beast.
We can reveal that the 1973 Campbell designs were holding strong for State Comps in 1978/79.
Not sure how to put that across...but it seems important to share such underplayed truths.
Also consider where the notion came from...for competitive / hot Qld surfers to order these retro boards.
Oddly we all thought they were the latest thing...another turn up that is!

Can share the boards were ridden by hot surfers & they went vert & loose on frontside tail kicks
All would agree Jaco pulled off at speed critical laybacks.
tbb was more of a power surfer & needed to pull back quite a bit to pocket these smaller turns.
Weirdly reduced to compact hooks more than carving on backside...not a bad thing, just different.
Felt like you had to back off to control it...as it had a mind of it's own.

Just on that Speed issue (Sluggish (vs) Fast)
Recall owners all saying you had to ride it more forward > hence the speed factor.
Depends on yer weight...bigger lad can't get more forward as the tail kicks out.
Lighter / Thinner / Smaller were fine to creep up a little for Speed & Control.
Not sayin' a Power surfer can't ride one...just need an extra few inches & a tad more width/thickness.
Never saw Point Speed Riding only D'Bah A Frames + Trad' Southern Tugun ripbowl leftbanks
So in that sense tbb can believe the board skates/speeds well & that's an odd thing to say...
Because these boards were the closest thing to Bowl Skating...meant as light & loose to kick flip!

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blindboy Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 8:24am

freeride, you asked about a scientific opinion on your hypotheses. Well you might not like it, but here it is. Jeff Bremer is an old mate of mine who has worked in the field for thirty years or so.

"I enjoyed reading about the article you sent me about the Bonzer! I thought that the fluid mechanics explanations were more full of hope and magical thinking than science. And I’m sure it can all be modelled with Computational Fluid Dynamics, but it would be a difficult and costly project with no real payoff. "

Well you asked for it.

udo's picture
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udo Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 9:18am
stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 7 Oct 2021 at 8:50am

Not unlike my first Twinzer. Those fins are placed a bit further rearward and the forward fins a bit larger, but the layout, concave, and tailshape is the same.

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udo Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 3:55pm
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udo Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 4:34pm
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icandig Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 5:50pm
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Fooman Monday, 4 Oct 2021 at 3:43pm

Thankyou Truebluebasher. I enjoyed your efforts more than the article itself!!

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truebluebasher Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 2:38am

Fooman asked the question and a 70's Goldie Grom was happy to assist.
Thanx for that...worked out well for all.
Likewise tbb was inspired by freeride76 feature & Fooman's enquiry...+ the Sleeper Kneeboards
Basically opened the door for tbb to better lock in the Goldie Chapter on Bonzers.
Sure..it's not a lot but it adds to era...just enough perhaps.

Did think more about Goofs > Rocky (Palmy) & Zappa (Pipedream) who both rode Channels...
These guys went thru boards pretty quick, so if they rode one it was gone just as fast!
Zappa's Retro part > Twinnie / Bonzer / Thruster Shape...
https://www.bourtonshapes.com/pipedream-the-dom/

Wot udo contributed was epic...like taking us along for the ride...Salute!

If tbb could add anything...it would companion freeride & blindboy on Testing...
Earlier tbb "Quoted" from '70's 'Lighter' Gromz that rode a little further up front...
This makes obvious sense as a large part of the Rear Board is hollowed out.
So any testing would need to account for loss of Board volume to Surfer weight ratio...

A larger surfer has less Board under the back foot & must curb any radical tail surfing.
Whereas a lighter surfer gains speed + a larger & lighter tail to whip about.
As tbb said...the signature '70's bonzer move was an effortless frontside Vert kick tail...
Again...obvious as lighter Surfers had (Largest Fan tail of the day) & thinner Tail to Flick..
Also faster as they could float (Drift) over Whitewater on recoveries & skate thru sections.

tbb must add that shorter single fins -boxes allowed for tail kicks also!

That being the nature of a bonza...( Gonna leave that slip of Goldie spelling as a teaser)
Who then is smart enough to redistribute a hint of tail volume for larger surfers.
Would this compromise the essential rad - kick arse concave bonzer tail design.

Crew can see that Freeride76 is very clever to include that power surfing photo...
Again, that makes sense to argue any base case for the Bonzers...Salute!
Not sure if we'll find a powerful '70's companion shot...

Can help a little more on Power Pocket Surfing...another Bonzer trait.
If tbb is pressed...his mate Jaco had one of the best Layback Backhand Tube Styles.
Now this could be contributed to counter levering the Fly Weight Bonzer Tail.
Can vouch that this was also an extension of Skateboarding in the day.
Grom tbb cut the ribbon & was first in a Goldie Bowl '79 & Jaco would come along.
We'd go toe 2 toe on critical layback moves in '78 thinking we match Joe Engel . (Grom Speak!)

Jaco proved in his own way, that Bonzers were a Surf/Skate Hybrid.
Mostly coz even now...still see Jaco pull off the same kick arse moves at D'bah or Moana Park Bowl.
What that means? Coz crew know that shitty skateboard tic tac arse wiggle killed off surfing by '82.

Holy Grail would be a Solid Power Surfer kicking out a Concaved Bonzer tail.
Find that...then as Blindboy says...solve the puzzle & save a few bucks!

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saltman Tuesday, 5 Oct 2021 at 9:41am

Bonzers come into there own once it gets lined up and hollow
The turbo charged single is a good analogy - they just don’t need pumping to gain speed
For me a bonzer is the ideal step up for indo

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Tuesday, 5 Oct 2021 at 7:47pm

Any boards good in Indo.
The waves are perfect

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udo Tuesday, 5 Oct 2021 at 10:07am

From a 2012 swellnet article

https://www.swellnet.com/news/design-outline/2012/09/05/campbell-brother...

Recently, following an evening session at Long Reef I made one such approach. The target was a fellow with a great looking Bonzer, so I asked him how it went. The reply was far more than I was expecting. The fella, as it happened, was Mike Psillakis, Northern Beaches surfer, shaper, and now licensee for the Campbell Brothers. Here's part of what he had to say:

The first Bonzer I saw I was drawn to. It just made a lot of sense to me how it directs water through the fins efficiently. It's primary purpose is to efficiently organise water flow. The Campbell Brothers have done this by designing a fin and bottom system that works in a fashion that maximises the energy created by water passing through the tail area of the board.

Shaping the bottom takes a little time, but somehow feels natural as I imagine the flow of water being directed through the exit of the board. It's not a subtle contour, its quite blatant and the reason is so the fins become an extension of the concaves.

The angle of the side fins, combined with their shallow depth, allows them to come in and out of the water with little resistance. This makes rail-to-rail transition much easier, which in turn allows the board to stay on rail with much less effort. Also, while turning, the fins on the inside rail are fairly vertical in the water, providing very refined edge control.

It took me a couple of surfs to get used to a Bonzer as the rail-to-rail feeling is effortless. The benefits are there. When I'm surfing I use more rail as the Bonzer helps you get on rail quicker and hold it there for longer.

I can really feel the effects of the Bonzer after getting back onto my standard thruster as the effortless transition is compromised.

When you're doing a turn on a surfboard water travels diagonally across the bottom of your board. As the water races across the bottom of a Bonzer, the outside fins deflect it down and back through the tail. Shapers have always looked at the water that escapes off the outside rail as unused energy. The combination of the Bonzer concaves and the long base of the side fins redirect far more water through the tail area than other designs. This maximises the use of the force that is created during turns. You can almost feel the water being squirted out the tail

Bonzers helps you clean up your surfing. It helps you focus on flow, and with the larger centre fin helps the board maintain hold and drive and this also assists in smoothing out your surfing.

I'd say the Bonzer is for anyone who wants to have a different feel in their surfing. Anyone that wants to do more on rail, carving type surfing. To me though, its all about the feeling. It's what keeps us excited when we surf.

When I was given the opportunity to shape Campbell Brothers Bonzers I jumped at it. I believe as a shaper it is important to appreciate different designs and for me the Bonzer is a great design that allows surfers to appreciate progressive surfing with a different

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Spuddups Thursday, 7 Oct 2021 at 5:13am

Good intel Udo. What a serendipitous encounter. There's a nice looking bonzer floating round here care of Island Bay. I'm gonna have to give it a crack now.

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Island Bay Thursday, 7 Oct 2021 at 5:36am

Spuddups. There should be a pencil mark where the back fin goes. Otherwise it's just overlapping back side runners by 1/4".

Crucial to get the fin position right.

theolderIgetthebetterIwas's picture
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theolderIgetthe... Friday, 8 Oct 2021 at 6:54am

more design stuff please swellnet..
we all totes luv it

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udo Friday, 8 Oct 2021 at 7:02pm
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udo Friday, 8 Oct 2021 at 7:33pm

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 10:33pm

Back foot orientated. Nice

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udo Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 12:53pm

Leebo20's picture
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Leebo20 Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 10:40pm

Only available up to 6'4 stock though...
Be good if they offered midlengths

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Leebo20 Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 10:45pm

Guess you could get a custom at CI in Bali?