So when I say a thousand, that actually means eight. A long and glorious history of exaggeration exists in my family, it's not random. When we overcook the numbers it just means you need to pay attention. The formula for working out (in normal circumstances) what number is real usually is to half it and take a bit off. Depending on the scale of the 'need to pay attention-ness'. So in this case you need to pay attention. 1000 : 8 is a ridiculous ratio.
A relatively swell starved September has meant a lot of thinking which is never a good thing for any surfer, my attention wanders towards surfboards, which can be a costly exercise. What I would like to explain to you is how I have ended up with an overwhelming desire to get a Bonzer shaped.
I have always been both curious and confused about what a Bonzer does, how it works and if it would suit my surfing. The primary obstacle has always been that I have been unable to find info on this 'Nessie' of surfboards. As with most things worth knowing in the surfing world, this very different type of surfboard has been cloaked in mystery. I have asked people who I thought would know, and people who I knew didn't know, and the summary of my findings were to say the least, contradictory. It kind of felt like I was asking about a giant squid or an eighteen foot shark, people knew they existed but few had seen one. Even less, it turns out, had ridden one but everyone had an opinion, none of which made sense. Could the Bonzer be the best accidental secret in the surfboard world?
Some of my more honest professional contacts have eluded to the fact that maybe I should just bite the bullet and contact Malcolm Campbell, the man, who together with his brother, invented the Bonzer back in 1970. So I tried, and I got nowhere. Malcolm is a legend and is based in California, and I am a chump from nowhere near, punching above his weight, trying to understand the impossible so I didn't really expect much.
Fast forward to the recent past and I am into fishes, I have an awesome Cod Fish shaped by Nico at Wavegliders and I frikin' love it. It's a proper take on a Lis Fish of old and it is amazing in all kinds of waves. My next board, I had decided was going to be a fish of a more performance based ilk and I knew who to get one from. Who else but the man who shaped all of Rasta's magic boards. The one and only Gary McNeill, yep, that's right. Gary came over to Portugal to shape a few surfboards in March of this year, but due to a great run of swell and Gary's limited time I never got to meet up.
Imagine my joy then, when I received an email from a guy who owns one of the coolest little surf shops in the world, telling me he was throwing a 'buy your shaper a beer night' and would Surf Bunker like to attend? By the way Gary McNeill will be there. Boom. Also, a whole bunch of other amazing shapers who I had heard of would be attending, including... drum roll... Malcolm Campbell. Double Boom. Stoked.
Magic Quiver Surf Shop is nestled in the heart of one of the most beautiful and surf vibrant towns I have ever visited. Ericiera, which is about 20mins from Lisbon in Portugal, is home to a ton of high performance waves and steeped in niche surf culture. I had met Mario a few times before and he was well aware of the Surf Bunker project, and he also knew I had a weakness for ridiculously nice surfboards. The date was set and I was not going to miss this for anything.
I took with me a friend and fellow writer who has more of a 'hard on' for Gary's performance fishes than I and we set off for the rendezvous. Nervous believe it or not I was. I like to think of myself a s a fairly confident chap, but the idea of meeting these two guys in particular was daunting, me a clueless hack was going to be asking them about some shizzle that was clearly above my pay grade. I had done my homework and had a wingman who might have been more excited than me. It would be fine. And it was... awesome.
In a room full of guys who must, at some point, believe their own press, you might think there could be a bit of ego rubbing going on, some pretentiousness or snobbery. There wasn't. I am not sure if Mario got everyone to check their egos in at the door, but there was none of that, just a room full of people who knew a lot about surfboards. For someone strange like me it was like being locked in a sweet-shop and being told I could help myself until I was full. The beer in the fridge was a strange and tasty brand called MUSA who make IPA's and red lagers, time to get one in and survey the landscape. Here is what was on offer.
Nico from Wavegliders has supplied me with a couple of outstanding surfboards, and with a lot of help in understanding surfboard history, so it was cool to catch up with him, Manila I had had some contact with but never met before, he is also one of the nicest humans on the planet but more about that in a later article. Eyes on the prize. Malcolm and Gary were on my list, and I WAS going to find out about the Bonzer and also what made Rasta the king of the twinny.
Banishing my star struck nervousness I armed myself with two beers for Gary and Malcolm, interrupted a conversation, and asked if I could have a chat with both or either.
First up was Malcolm Campbell - I can completely understand that being a famous shaper, a legend even must be quite daunting when being put in a room full of people who just want to ask you questions. After all, how do you gauge their interest or knowledge level, what do they know about you and your boards, well luckily for me I had done my homework and my interest was amping.
Malcolm is one of the most interesting and technically exciting persons you could ever hope to chat to, he has a slow, unhurried way of explaining things which was a delight for me. I will not bore you now with the technical aspects of what makes a Bonzer work, apart from the fact that it is a combination of a deep double concave either side of the centre fin and the two or four Bonzer (triangular side-bites) fins. The Bonzer fins also have a huge amount of cant, the idea being all about control, drive and water flow when the board is on rail. If you normally surf a single fin then go for a three fin Bonzer, if you normally surf a thruster or quad then go for a five fin setup.
The Bonzer was first constructed in 1970 and has been being perfected for 47 years. When asked why the mystery about the Bonzer, why no one could tell me much about it, Malcolm shrugged and said. "Do you want the long story or the short story". He alluded to the fact that people who tried a Bonzer loved it, but emphasized all the mis-information about it, people who sold boards did not know enough and it was often dismissed as another strange design that either did not go in small waves, did not work on the back hand or did not work on big waves. Personally I have heard all three of those from people that had never surfed one. While it seems like a leap of faith, it is one that I am ready to take.
Having decided that my next board would be a Bonzer, I decided that who better to ask about having one made but Malcolm. That's when Malcolm introduced me to Manila who pretty much shapes most of the European Campbell Brothers Bonzers by hand, and has been trained up in this unique skill by the master himself. Manila shapes out of Aviero in Portugal and is a super humble and knowledgeable chap. He is the man to see, and a follow up article on Manila will be coming soon.
Malcolm has been doing some work with World Surf Tour Pro and rail surfing guru Taylor Knox to help display the awesome power and finesse that surfing a Bonzer will give you. They have made a very cool, short film that I can't show you on Surf Bunker, but follow the link here to watch it, you won't regret it. What I can show you is some old footage of Taylor on a Bonzer which is just electric. When asked what Malcolm wanted to see for the Bonzer, he suggested that maybe it belonged on tour and he was looking for someone to paddle out on a Bonzer at a CT event and win. Now that would be something to behold. Bring on the Bonzer and thanks to Malcolm and Manila for their time.
Next up was Gary McNeill who is the master of the performance twin fin. Making most of Dave Rastovich's boards and pioneering recycled foams, bio resins and making a huge breakthrough in the Torus Channel Theory. Gary was extremely approachable and open to talk to and talked about how the big breakthrough came for him when Dave took out an early version of the Rasta Torus Twin. Apparently Dave got the board off Gary, put it under his house for close to a year and almost forgot about it. Gary phoned him to ask if he had tested it and he hadn't yet which was 9 months later but when he came to get on it... well the rest is history.
When I asked Gary where the idea of the Torus Channel came from he referenced an old surf movie called Torus which was all about the circle of life and things were all recycled. It turns out now that most shapers of performance twins have or had incorporated a version of the Torus Channel after Rasta showcased it to the world. Gary is very sensitive to environmental issues, and as well as using recycled and earth friendly products in his construction, he sees travelling to shape boards for people as part of a solution to combat the overwhelming carbon footprint cost that transporting a board can involve.
Gary is also very easy to talk to, and soon the conversation transitioned into similar places we had surfed and people we knew. It was like having a chat while in the line-up waiting for waves. Because of that I ran out of time and the shop was closing. We were the last out and I honestly felt like I could have just kept chatting for hours.
I can't thank the genius mastermind who put the evening together enough. So thanks to Mario at Magic Quiver in Ericiera, and I hope he puts more of these events on. If you want to get a board shaped by one of these guys it is seriously worth going and chatting to them while they are in your country. Magic Quiver also carry a bunch of super cool stock boards from these guys and a bunch of other travelling shapers who have at some time or another stepped across the ego-less threshold of the shop.
If you want a new surfboard, don't settle for off-the-rack unless you have talked to the shaper, but better still get one made for you and see how much better it goes. For a fraction more money you can get something that will last and that is your own pro-model.
Right now off to order that three fin Bonzer. Malcolm...