Stab Magazine | The Origin Of The Modern Day Thruster

The Origin Of The Modern Day Thruster

One for the design dorks and the nostalgic.

hardware // Feb 8, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tucked deep in the hills of Ojai, contrasted by watercolour greens, horse stables, and chicken coops I met with Britt and Malcolm at the Merrick Ranch. We were filming the shaper interviews for our Stab in the Dark project. I sat across the two on picnic bench beneath an umbrella on a hazy day while Britt’s son did burnouts on an ATV behind us in a round corral. I proposed series of questions scribed in the notes of my iPhone 5. While speaking to two gentlemen who held keys to doors beyond my comprehension of the modern craft, it was clear talking board design was out of my league. I took the opportunity to listen quietly.

See, brothers Malcolm and Duncan Campbell invented the first tri-fin Bonzer in the late 60’s. The first of its kind set the stage for the high-performance thrusters of the future. Decades later, as alternative craft continues to garner mainstream acceptance, the Bonzer remains an idolised design. Even this past weekend in Costa Mesa, RVCA held an event hosted by Al Knost titled: The Campbell Brothers “The Bonzer”. It is on display at the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center until tomorrow.

Britt and Malcolm are an odd couple. Britt stands somewhere above 6’3″…well, he’s taller than my lanky 6’2″ frame, maybe it was the Freudian facial hair or the legacy of the Merrick lineage, but while clasping the firm grip of his hand upon meeting, his presence and kind demeanour towered mine. And Malcolm is on the opposite spectrum–a principal proponent to high-performance surfing–stands at a mid-five-foot, speaks quietly and his eyes seem to be in constant analysis of his surroundings. We spoke of their design for the Stab in the Dark project, for which they shaped Dane a high-performance Bonzer because as Dane put it, “If I said the board went good people would think it was rigged. If I said it was shit, well, that would be bad for business.”

Britt sat with legs crossed, hands clasped, while Malcolm sat quietly hunched over with his hands beneath the table. The two spoke back and forth, adding differing insight into what goes into a surfboard; their paths held lessons for other artists and offered a glimpse into the modern day surfboard design. The conversation drifted into longing for the swells of El Niño’s past; summer was slipping into fall, the waves were flat, and roosters pecked around our feet. I mentioned feeling a bit jaded. “Don’t say that,” Britt smiled with a fatherly tone and said something like, “we must appreciate what we had and what we have.”

rvca campbell brothers the bonzer 2

The archetype of the boards you ride today. Photo: RVCA


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