Dead At 27, Bunker Spreckels: A Surfing Rock Star

by stab September 28, 2016 2 min read

The 27 club: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, all dead at 27. If surfing ever had a rockstar, it was Bunker Speckles, and like the others, he bid adieu at 27.

When people point to today’s watered down version of surfing and say things like, “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” they’re pointing to Bunker – or at least his likeness. Exiting stage left in 1977, he was a wildman that garnered the attention of Lightening Bolt legends Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell. Nobody before or since did it quite like him. Heir to the Spreckels Sugar fortune, and stepson of Clark Gable, he had it all: millions of dollars, access to any and everyone, influence, looks, and an appetite to consume it all. In the maelstrom of the cash, women and drugs, somehow he chose surfing as his vehicle.


“He’s a genetic space child.” – Miki Dora. Photo: Frame Grab Bunker77

“I had been doing some peyote before I came over [to Hawaii],” tells Bunker in the now sold-out book Bunker Spreckels. Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence by Art Brewer and C.R. Stecyk III (who Bunker initially hired to document his life). “I liked that, but when I came to Hawaii, I didn’t have any peyote. I had quit smoking just for my health, and I wasn’t drinking any alcohol or taking drugs of any type at that point in my life. I was on a completely natural trip, natural high.”

For some years now a documentary about Bunker’s life and times, aptly titled Bunker77, has been in the works, and it now appears to be ready to be released. Produced and directed by the venerable Takuji Masuda (who published Brewer and Stecyk’s book under his Super X Media label), the film just premiered at the San Sebastian Festival’s Savage Cinema section. In March it was awarded the “Work in Progress” award at the Sun Valley Film Festival’s The Film Lab. According to Variety, the U.S. premier is slated for the Hamptons Festival in October, “Where Edward Norton, a Bunker77 exec producer, will present the screening.” It was also just announced that New York’s Submarine Entertainment has picked up the global sales rights. Submarine has been involved in the last three Academy Award-winning documentary films: Citizenfour, 20 Feet From Stardom, and Searching for Sugarman. It goes without saying big things are in store for the story of dear, old Bunker.


Mr Spreckels, taking the waves nobody wanted.

At one time in his life, Bunker was slated to star in a movie as the devil. When asked why he thought he could play Lucifer he explained, “Because I think I can deal with the role in the right type of fashion, from some of the things that I’ve studied I could get my looks up for the part. I always look like such a devil. Plus, I wouldn’t be afraid to play the role. I wouldn’t be afraid of the so-called repercussions of playing such a role.”

Thirty years after his death and he may have another shot at playing the prince of darkness….god knows surfing could use him about now.

Watch the trailer here

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