A Tribute to Mike Eaton

Greeting, Shredderz! I never had the good fortune of meeting Mike Eaton before his passing, and sadly I have yet to ride one of his surfboards. Nonetheless, it was impossible to miss the outpouring of remembrances to Eaton after his recent death. See below for some photos from Eaton’s long and fruitful career.

Photo credit unknown; posted by Bing Copeland on Facebook

Eaton was instrumental to the development of the Campbell Brothers’ famous Bonzer design. Eaton was the head shaper at Bing Surfboards when Bing licensed the Bonzer for mass production in 1973. Eaton continued to shape Bonzers and iterate on the design.

Eaton’s handwritten explanation of Bonzer hydrodynamics

I’m told the Eaton Surfboards brochure pictured above dates back to the mid 80s. The lengths on the stock boards range between 7’3″ and 9’6″, with either single fin or Bonzer fin setups. I imagine this was unusual for the time, during which Simon Anderson’s thruster was becoming the de facto high performance surfboard, and longboards were nowhere to be found in the mainstream surf media. The UEO Model, described as a “versatile and forgiving Bonzer”, looks similar to the eggs and mid-lengths that are popular today.

Eaton also had some designs that branched off from the Campbell Brothers Bonzer tree altogether. Check out Eaton’s Zinger, a quad fin take on the Bonzer (though I have read that it’s more of a twin and/or twinzer design than a true quad fin). Note: there is a Swaylocks thread that suggests the Zinger was actually invented by Ace Elliott, who shaped under the Eaton label, but I can’t verify this one way or another.

Close up of an Eaton Zinger tail. Note the dramatic concaves and the twinzer-like fin setup. Photo via Swaylocks

Eaton also experimented with shorter center fins on his Bonzers. I’ve seen them in a variety of lengths and outlines. Sadly, I haven’t found an explanation of the principles behind the design. Later on his career, Eaton also spent time making paddleboards.

Close up of a 70s Bing Bonzer that was likely shaped by Mike Eaton. One of the giveaways is the stubby center fin. Photo via Surfy Surfy

There are many people who know far more than I do about Mike Eaton and his career. Nonetheless, I think it’s important to try and collect all this information and preserve it somewhere, given Eaton’s decades-long career and his influence on surfboard shaping.

Photo at the top of the page via Tim Orr on Facebook

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3 comments

  1. J. Patton says:

    A truly great article. Was speaking with Malcolm Campbell today looking for Eaton’s birth date and came across this. Have sent it to the Campbell’s as well.

    I did have the distinct pleasure and honor of meeting Mike once at a trade show decades ago. He was very unassuming, low key, wearing a plain T-shirt with a pocket, Levi’s and work boots. I didn’t recognize him and when I was introduced, I said to him, “I knew you were a shaper!” He laughed and replied, “You could tell by the uniform, eh.”

    Mike Eaton was the kind of person that after you met them you know you are better off for having done so.

  2. Edward Joseph Benoit says:

    I was very close to Mike Eaton. I was in inventor he followed Tom Blake. One of the most critical components to Mike’s success was Ace!

  3. Larry Eiswald says:

    I bought several boards from Mike in the 80s and 90s after I returned to San Diego from Hawaii. Mostly UEOs but I also had a SDKT and the Zinger (both in long boards). Mike was just an all around good guy, I loved just hanging around his shop talking surf boards. He shaped for G&S as well as Bing plus some others. I have 2 of his boards in my garage, the Zinger signed by Mike is one.