Greetings, Shredderz! Have we got a treat for you today. Longtime readers of this humble little blog may know that we’re big fans of the Campbell Brothers’ inimitable Bonzer design. Shred Sledz has previously featured a few vintage Bing Bonzer surfboards, which you’ll periodically see pop up for sale here and there. However, finding genuine vintage Campbell Brothers Bonzers is a bit more difficult. Is this because Bing simply had a larger production run during its early years? I can’t say for sure.
But if you’re a fan of vintage Campbell Brothers Bonzer surfboards, today’s your lucky day, because there’s currently one that’s listed for sale in San Diego. All pics in the post are via the listing. You can find a link to the board here.
First, the Craigslist post indicates that the board is the Campbell Brothers’ famous Russ Short model. Russ Short was one of the Campbell Brothers’ finest test pilots back in the mid- to late-1970s, and the design continues to be produced today. Check out this earlier post featuring a picture of Mr. Short. There’s no specific date listed with the board, but the poster claims it’s from the mid-1970s, which seems right. I say this based on a few factors: first, the vintage Rainbow Fin, and more tellingly, the eyehole screw (I’m not sure if this is the right term, so please correct me if that’s wrong) holding it in. Second, you’ll notice the board has a dramatic double concave in the tail.
I’m not certain, but anecdotally I would say that while Mike Eaton continued to build boards with pronounced double concave designs, the Campbell Brothers Bonzers mellowed out on this in a bit. The fine folks at Surfy Surfy have a picture of a modern Campbell Brothers Russ Short, and as you can see, the tail design has mellowed out over the years.
The board is 7’4″ and the seller is asking $550. As always, I’m a little undecided on the price. On one hand, the board has been used a bit, and it by no means is in impeccable condition. On the other, you simply don’t find 70s Campbell Brothers Russ Short Bonzers very often, and $550 for a rideable piece of history strikes me as a fair deal. Anyway, I suppose that isn’t for me to decide. If you’re interested, check out the board here.
Is Shredzgiving the worst portmanteau in the history of the English language? Quite possibly. Am I going to roll with it anyway? You know it. This year I am thankful for the following: tasty waves, vintage sticks, family, friends and the bro-deal of a lifetime, in which a generous soul gave me a few decades’ worth of Surfer Magazine for free. Sagas of Shred came about when I would read old issues of Surfer Magazine and stumble across some amazing old advertisements that were able to capture surf history in a unique manner. Moreover, I was taken aback by the fact that not a whole lot of effort had been made to preserve the content in these ads. Some companies, like Clark Foam, have simply ceased to exist. A few companies, like Harbour Surfboards, have great archives, but for the most part, the only way to view old surf ads is to hoard a collection of magazines large enough to guarantee marital strife. Today’s Sagas of Shred post features a Herbie Fletcher Astrodeck ad from a 1979 issue of Surfer Magazine.
Astrodeck was founded in 1976, which means the ad above is from the brand’s earlier days. You’ll note that the ad pre-dates Astrodeck’s now-famous logo. There are a few other details that stand out. First, during the height of Astrodeck’s popularity, it boasted a team roster stocked to the gills with standout pros. The Astrodeck ad above features team riders Jimmy Spring and Mark Tomb, neither of whom I had heard of before.
Second, the Astrodeck ad doubles as a promotion for Herbie Fletcher Surfboards. It also mentions Mike Perry as a shaper on the Herbie Fletcher Surfboards roster. I had written an earlier Sagas of Shred post featuring longtime Campbell Brothers associate Russ Short which mentioned how Short had begun riding Mike Perry’s shapes. I can only assume the Mike Perry in the Astrodeck ad is the same one who made boards for Russ Short. For some later Astrodeck ads, check out some earlier postsI wrote. I think the 80s Herbie Fletcher Astrodeck ads are more representative of what we tend to associate with the legendary traction brand.
Last but not least, I am especially thankful for my readers. I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate the fact people have taken the time to read this humble little blog. It has been an incredible amount of fun to research vintage surfboards and surf history and to write about it. As always, I love nothing more than hearing from readers, so feel free to reach out at any time. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and stay tuned for bigger and better things from your friends at Shred Sledz!
Who doesn’t love a good bonzer? The Campbell Brothers’ revolutionary multi-fin design (which preceded Simon Anderson’s thruster by a good decade) endures today. Moreover, the bonzer exists not as a glorified prop for Instagram surf hipsters, but as a high-performance design ridden by some of the finest schralpers on the planet. Malcolm and Duncan Campbell are still shaping boards more than four decades since inventing the bonzer. One of the Campbell Brothers’ more popular models is the Russ Short bonzer. I never gave much thought to the name of the Russ Short bonzer until recently, when I discovered that Short was actually one of California’s best surfers during the 1970s, and the board had been named after him. I found a profile of Russ Short in an old issue of Surfer Magazine (September 1979, Vol. 20, No. 9), and was immediately struck by the picture you see at the top of the page. The photo was taken by the late Craig Fineman, who also wrote the accompanying article.
Check out the Russ Short bonzer he’s toting in the picture above. You can see the dramatic double concave in the tail and the distinct angle of the bonzer side fins. I don’t know if the board is considered a proper Russ Short bonzer model, which the Campbell Brothers continue to produce to this day. The Surfer Magazine article delves a bit into Russ’ long-time collaboration with the Campbells. Apparently, Russ was in Malcolm and Duncan’s orbit when the very first bonzers were invented. I’ve excerpted relevant text from Fineman’s profile below:
“It wasn’t long after to move to Ventura County that [Short’s] relationship with the Campbell brothers commenced. He put in many years as the leading test pilot for Bonzer Vehicles. He saw it all, from the first garage models to manufacturing arrangements with Weber and finally Bing. He was constantly involved in the design progression from early hand-shaped, hand-glassed Bonzers, to today’s sophisticated Bonzer Light Vehicle. It proved to be a valid and lucrative association, as Russ managed to gain quite a bit of media coverage, and in so doing sold a lot of surfboards.”
While Short is known for piloting Campbell Brothers surfboards, the article also makes mention of Russ’ collaboration with another shaper named Mike Perry. This must have taken place in the late 1970s, given the article was published in 1979. Stoked-n-Board has a listing for Mike Perry, but it was the first I had ever heard of him. I have no idea whether this collaboration endured. If you have more info on the boards Mike Perry made for Russ Short, please let me know!
The Russ Short bonzer is a fantastic example of the magic that can happen when a talented surfer gets the right boards beneath his feet. I love Short’s surfing in the video above, which must have seemed practically alien when it happened forty years ago!
Hope you enjoyed this installment of Sagas of Shred, and as always, tune in next Thursday for another glimpse into surfing’s weird and wonderful past.