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Charlie Bunger, Sr. was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Born in 1941, he started surfing at the age of 18 after moving to Lindenhurst, Long Island. His favorite surf spot was nearby Gilgo Beach; it was a very popular break in the '60s, once hosting the East Coast Championships.
As was often the case, Bunger Surfboards had a humble beginning. In 1961--at the age of 20--Charlie started shaping surfboards as a hobby for neighborhood kids.
As the popularity of surfing continued to grow and word got out about Charlie's work, orders for his surfboards began to accumulate. After just six months, demand drove Charlie to move his operation from his basement into the two-car garage in his back yard. Soon thereafter, Bunger hired Pat Calabrese--his first employee--to help with production. In the summer of 1962, Charlie moved Bunger Surfboards into a 2,000 square foot building in Lindenhurst and opened his first retail store in nearby Copiague. The store proved to be an ideal venue for Charlie to display is wares, which fueled even greater demand for Bunger Surfboards on the East Coast. Within just a few years, Charlie was cranking out 1,500 boards a season.
Today, Bunger Surfboards has 4,000 square feet of retail space in Babylon Village, New York and operates a 2,000 square foot manufacturing facility in West Babylon. Charlie, Sr. is still actively involved in the business, as is his wife Janet and three of his children--Theresa, Charlie, Jr. and Tommy. Charlie, Sr. still does some shaping, but has passed the art along to Tommy, who has been operating the Bunger planer more and more over the past eight years.
Charlie Bunger, Sr. has long been involved in crusading for better beach access and sponsoring local contests. In 1990, he opened the Long Island Surfing Museum and in 1996, Charlie was among the first twenty-three inductees into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame. Greg Noll formed the ECSLHF in 1996 and that first group of new members also included such well-knowns as Dick Catri, Claude Codgen, Mimi Munro, Jack Murphy, Mike Tabeling, Gary Propper and Bruce Valluzzi.
Over the years, Bunger Surfboards has attracted a number of team riders who were well known both on the East Coast and nationwide. In the early '60s, Eric Eastman, Bob Hawkins and George Fisher rode for Bunger, and in the late '60s Rollie Eisenberg, Hank Heckel, and Jim Hanley became known locally as the Bunger Rebellion (a fitting name, considering the turbulent times). In the mid-'70s, the late Ricky Rasmussen was a Bunger surf team member; his short life was highlighted by winning the 1973 East Coast Championships (juniors division) and the 1974 U.S. Surfing Championships (men's division).
The newest Bunger team rider is Alex Fawess, whose father rode for Bunger Surfboards in the '70s and early '80s and won a U.S. Surfing Championships title. Alex placed fifth in the 2004 East Coast Championships and finished second in the longboard division.
Just as Charlie's first store was in 1962, today's Bunger surf shop is a great place to hang out, talk about Right Coast surfing with locals, check out some great memorabilia and buy current surf products. The surfing museum Charlie opened in 1990 is now a part of the shop and features classic old photos, an original Tom Blake paddleboard and boards from the Bunger family collection of some 150 vintage boards. For those of you who aren't in the neighborhood, visit the Bunger Surfboards website at www.bungersurf.com. After more than 40 years in the business, Charlie Bunger certainly deserves a place in surf history.