8 January, 2015 8 January, 2015

Te Wild Vir Die Wildtuin (Bunker Spreckels)

South Africa’s surfing history is full of interesting characters either born and raised here, or having flown into town and attracted attention. Bruce Gold is a name that comes to mind, but one of the most eccentric surfers to have written themselves a chapter in SA surf history is an American known as ‘Bunker’ Spreckels – or Adolph Bernard Spreckels III according to his passport.


Not only was Bunker an extremely talented surfer, he was also fabulously rich. He’d inherited a fortune when his father, who’d made his millions in the sugar industry in Hawaii, passed away. And Bunker was dead-set on spending it as quickly as possible.

While in the shaping bay with the late Errol Hickman, Zag were told a number of stories of Bunker’s escapades here in SA with his beautiful girlfriend, Ellie, and his own personal photographer, the legendary Art Brewer, who he’d hired to document his travels.

Bunker loved martial arts as much as he loved surfing.
As seen in
Bunker Spreckels: Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence
available on Amazon

The first was about how during a surf mission to St Francis they had accidentally driven their brand new Mercedes off the road into the Kromme river and got stuck. Bunker couldn’t have been bothered to get the vehicle out and walked to the nearest home to call the Mercedes dealership in PE to tell them to bring him a new one, which they did.

Another story recounted by Errol detailed how Bunker had invited a whole crew of revellers back to his hotel after a night out at the disco to have dinner. Of course it was past midnight and the hotel’s chef was at home at the time, but this did not stop Bunker from ordering the hotel manager to get the chef in ASAP so he could feed his friends, which he did.

Bunker and Ellie, hanging in Durban (1975).

Echoing the famous term ‘live fast, die young’, Bunker passed away at the tender age of 27 in 1977, leaving behind equal parts surf and land-based legends.

‘Te Wild Vir Die Wildtuin’ – a story by Steve Barilotti about Bunker’s time in SA – appeared in Zigzag Vol. 26 No. 5 (circa 2002). Click the images below to read larger.



Bunker 77, a documentary about Bunker’s life, is yet to be released (see trailer below).

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