Passings: Surfing Pioneer / Icon Charlie Bunger Remembered + Bonus Photo Gallery …

July 13, 2018 • Passings

By Tom Dugan and Mark Fragale:

We as surfers lookout for each other and are saddened when we lose one of our own . On July 2nd at 1:47 PM Charlie Bunger lost his five year battle with Mantle Cell Lymphoma and passed away peacefully surrounded by his family . Charlie was 77 years old. As one of the first surfboard builders on the east coast he started out in 1961 shaping surfboards for the kids in his neighborhood which ended up morphing into a lifelong career as a board builder.  Born in Brooklyn in 1941 he moved at a young age out to Lindenhurst on Long Island’s South Shore and soon was hitting the waves of Gilgo Beach where Bunger’s still run a surf shack for sales and rentals to this day.

The hands of a true, old school craftsman. Photo: Courtesy Bunger

Charlie is a member of The International Shapers’ Hall of Fame and was inducted into the first East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996 along other notable east coast legends Gary Proper, Mimi Monroe, Dick Catri, Mike Tabeling, and others.  He was a true surfer his whole life and handed down his love of the craft of board building to his son Tommy who keeps the family name BUNGER on surfboards being built today and are sold out of the surf shop of the same name located in Babylon N.Y.

How Legendary was Charlie Bunger? Check-out the names of his fellow, inaugural East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame inductee’s. That’s how legendary. Top Row (L-R): Skip Savage, Dick Catri, Jack Murphy, Bob Holland, Mimi Munro, Greg Noll, Claude Codgen, Dan Heritage, Pete Smith. Front Row (L-R): Yancy Spencer, David Reese, Pat O’Hare, Peter Pan, Gary Propper, Cecil Lear, John Hannon, Charlie Bunger. Photo: Courtesy ECSHOF

Lifelong family friend Mark Fragale, writer, and surf historian offered up some insight into Charlie’s life and the workings of the BUNGER brand through the years.  He shared that Kevin Kelly was Charlie’s first business partner when Charlie was still working at Idlewild Airport ( now JFK ).  Their partnership launched BUNGER Surfboards.  It was during a time when surf riding was strictly a lifeguard thing.  Charlie was making boards for a market that was still non-existent by long term perspectives.  During those early days they marketed and found momentum in establishing a store front.  The BUNGER catchphrase “since the beginning “ is very real and owes much to Charlie and Kevin’s partnership in those first two decades of this now iconic brand.

Over the years Bunger Surfboards were manufactured in five different factories with one in Deer Park burning down, forcing a move to the facility they are in today.

The highest annual production of surfboards reaching 1400 units was between 74-76.  Bunger was also the Clark Foam distributor when they were housed in their 4000 sq. ft. facility. Their biggest wholesale surfboard accounts were Freedom Surf Shop in Long Beach, NJ and Reef Surf Shop in Margate, NJ during the mid 70’s summer months .

Charlie Bunger, literally “since the beginning”. Where would New York and East Coast surfing be without him? Photo: Courtesy Bunger

Rick Rasmussen was a team rider for a bit and was featured in the Bunger magazine ads and had his own surfboard model.

Combined sales of manufacturing and retail in the mid 70’s enabled Charlie & family to sell their home in Oakdale and move to West Gilgo circa 1974-75 where they still live to this day.  The Gilgo Surfline Cam is perched on the top of their house.

Home – and business – is where the heart is. Charlie Bunger on the back deck of his home in his beloved West Gilgo, Long Island. Photo: Dugan

Action Sports Retailer Magazine did an article about the longest standing Surf Shop (late 70’s) owned by the same people and located in the same place. The three shops in the running were Harbour Surfboards, Seal Beach, CA., Surfer Supplies in Ocean City, NJ; and Bunger Surf Shop in Babylon, NY.  The winner to this day is Bunger with the same owners and same location dating back to the early 60’s giving them props for  the longest standing shop in North America.

Bunger store front, Babylon, New York. The  longest owned and continuously running surfshop in America as claimed by none other than Action Sports Retailer magazine. Photo: Tom Dugan

When news of Charlies death spread via social media condolences and memories were written and shared on all platforms across the web. These are from EASTERNSURF.COM’s Instagram.

@bgrad84-RIP to a LI Legend first custom was an 80’s Bunger twin fin forever my hometown shop…

@tubulart-Me and my brother Brian got our very first new surfboards from Charlie; a couple of Design 1’s and we had a > couple of beautiful Bunger Pigs…loved those boards. Wearing my Bunger shirt today in memorial..RIP Charlie.

And the one that said it all: @surferman77-Rest old Friend…thank you for the wisdom & the stoke #alohaeternal

My personal memories of Charlie go back to the 60’s. I moved to New York from Ohio in 1965 and started surfing that summer. The first shop I ever went to was Bunger’s. Some surfboards, black & white surf photos, and stickers is all there was back then. The boards in the shop, hand shaped by Charlie were the draw for me. Looking at all the longboards were more than a 14yr old kid could take. There also was his beach shack at Gilgo.  Boards there too but the draw for me was that is where  The Bunger Surf Team hung out. We would watch them before and after a surf and they alway gravitated to Charlie . He was the man with the best surfers riding his boards. One summer Bunger came out with a board he named the “360,” it had a flat bottom nose, a scoop in the tail, and huge letters on the bottom spelling out Bunger. It was the coolest design ever, but was only made for the team guys. Charlie was always on the edge with board design especially when his team riders came back from California with the first short boards we ever saw. The factory was transformed to build smaller boards and it was on.  Charlie always continued to make classic longboards right up to the end.

Team Bunger representing. Photo: Courtesy bunger

Although I moved to Florida in 1974 I return to Long Island often and always stop at the shop.  It always feels like home reminiscing with the Bunger crew. The tradition of surfboards under the Bunger name will continue with his son Tommy holding the planer but Charlie’s imput on board design will be in my memory forever.  Charlie leaves behind a legacy and will be sorely missed.

Charlie is survived by his wife Janet P. Bunger; daughters Teresa Negron & Susan Giovinazz; & sons Tommy and Charlie Bunger Jr.

– By Tom Dugan and Mark Fragale –

Class act and surfer to the end, Charlie requested to be taken to the Gilgo Beach Inn so the last round would be on him the day he was being laid to rest which saw his extended family, legions of friends and and several generations of customers gathered in the parking to talk story and give this legend the proper send of he so well deserved. Photo: Courtesy: Chris States

With David Gabrielson delivering Charlies ISBHOF award. Photo: Courtesy Gbarielson

The planer’s, hands and broad shoulders that shaped Charlie Bunger right into the International Board Builders Hall Of Fame and the East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame– two huge accolades very few east coasters can claim. Photo: Tom Dugan

Charlie glassing at the Bunger factories current location. Photo: Courtesy Bunger

The iconic Bunger logo. Photo: Tom Dugan

The man knew how to shape some beauties. Photo: Courtesy Bunger

Charlie and wife, Janet Bunger at, guess where! A classic surfer hanging out at a classic surfers joint with his best mate- two marriages made in surf heaven. Photo: Courtesy Jack and Mary Brooks.

Gilgo Beach Inn pays homage to Long Island Surf O.G. #1. Photo: Courtesy Chis States

Vintage early 70’s Bunger shorties. Photo: Courtesy Bunger

The Bunger name and business is in good hands for at least two more generations. Photo: Courtesy Bunger

Rip In Peace Charlie… Photo: Tom Dugan