‘He showed us all up’: Surfing loses a true legend
SURFERS are mourning the loss of an icon
A product of the sport's infancy when it was more about a lifestyle and exploring the possible than competition for money and recognition.
Originally from Santa Monica, California, Sidney Robert 'Bob' Cooper, once known as the Bearded Bard of Rincon, was to find love on the Sunshine Coast in the mid-1960s and, after a lengthy stint on the NSW north coast, was to ultimately make our northern beaches his home.
His passing at 82 on Sunday came after a long battle of illness that had robbed him of his capacity to ride the waves but not of the love of family nor comfort in his faith as a Mormon.
Son Christopher posted on social media: "Bob Cooper always placed his love of surfing behind that of his family and faith; nonetheless, he has left an indelible influence on surfing in the USA and Australia, as well as to surfing culture, folklore, fashion and craftsmanship."
Close friend, Daryl Homan said Bob, who died with his family around him, was a surfboard shaper and craftsman who even into old age continued to explore the possibilities of design.
"He was always a left-of-centre thinker and became a big part of my life," Daryl said.
"Bob was a Mormon but would never push it.
"His first trip to Australia had been in 1959."
On that visit he brought the latest in foam and glass innovation.
The next trip he wanted to live here. Bob worked for Hayden as a classer and met Wils, his wife, who worked at the Boolarong in Alexandra Headland - then the best restaurant north of Brisbane.
"Theirs is a lovely family. Bob was always understated but people would come here from the States to discuss early surfing history with him."
Bob Cooper was the first glasser Hayden Kenny employed when he established Hayden Surfboards at Alexandra Headland.
He arrived with skills learnt working for Reynolds Yater Surfboards in Santa Barbara.
"He had a really good worth ethic, brought an attention to detail and set a standard," Hayden said.
That era from 1963-66 was to see his skills influence surfboard production along Australia's east coast.
He returned to California for a couple of years to work and save before he and Wils returned permanently to Australia.
Hayden recalled Bob had been a member of the Hope Ranch Surf Club that had access to the waves that fronted the Hollister Ranch in California.
Reynolds Yater was also to come down to Australia to join Bob on the then uncrowded Sunshine Coast point breaks.
Sunshine Coast Daily weekend surf forecaster Mike Perry said although coming from the same hometown, he first met Bob Cooper in 1974 at Coffs Harbour where he had established Cooper Surfboards and become a shaper in his own right.
"He was always really generous with his time," Mike said. "He was dedicated to the craft of building boards and was quite good at it.
"Bob was the only guy who could catch a two-foot wave at Tea Tree from the drop-off rock and surf it to the stairs. He showed us all up, got out and walked away.
"Everybody who knew him, respected him and felt respected by him. Surfing has lost a great influencer."
Bob Cooper's skills in the water and shaping bay were born in the company of the craft's early gurus including Miki Dora, Dewey Weber, Tom Morey, Dale Velzy and Reynolds Yater.
Most were to remain lifetime pals.
Bob Cooper was to feature in iconic early surf movies Slippery When Wet (1958), Surfing Hollow Days (1962), Strictly Hot (1964).