Back in the ’70s, Malcolm and Duncan Campbell almost changed the trajectory of mainstream surfing. Almost. For a few surfers, they certainly did, but by the mid-’80s, Simon Anderson’s thruster setup had firmly taken root. “With that one startling innovation,” wrote Sam George of Anderson’s design, “Simon reshaped the surfing style of an entire generation – and the next couple of generations to follow, for good measure.”
The Bonzer setup, however, got there first. It may have been that it was a little too far ahead of its time. It may have been the Campbell brother’s humility. One thing’s for certain, though—it wasn’t a performance issue. Even Anderson would be the first to admit that the Campbell brothers had the first tri-fin setup.
It’s a complicated design, the bonzer. Heavy concaves and weird fins setups weren’t exactly what people were looking for in a surfboard at the time. Over the next few decades, a bunch of little things happened on different surfboards that that bonzer had basically already done. The early ’80s was the thruster era, thanks to Simon Anderson, and the late ’80s was a time of single to double concave. While bonzers pretty much had both of those locked down, they didn’t get the credit they deserve.
When it was first created in 1972, the bonzer was the first iteration of the tri-fin. With a larger middle fin and two smaller side fins, it was faster and more maneuverable than the single fin that dominated lineups at the time. With Mark Richards’ twin fin and Simon Anderson’s thruster thrown in the mix, the Campbell brothers’ innovative design slipped through the cracks. Years later, in 1982, they created the five fin version. It featured the same large middle fin and had four small, toed in trailers.
One their most ardent fans is the inimitable Alex Knost. He’s been hanging around the brothers for quite some time now, and he, along with RVCA, decided it was high time to collaborate. In recent years, the Campbell brothers’ design has enjoyed something of a resurgence. And even now, nearly four decades later, the brothers are still at it, shaping boards for their loyal fans. Because like they say, “if you can’t share surfing, what’s left?”