Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Cooper had an indelible influence on Australian surfing and surfboards. He was one of the first Americans to have extended visits to Australia, beginning in 1959, and later became a permanent resident. Cooper's accounts of the surfing potential of Australia encouraged the extended visits in the mid-1960s of fellow Santa Barbara surfer, George Greenough, who likewise became a permanent resident.
Cooper started surfing at Malibu in 1952, experiencing the sport before its rapid cultural and commercial expansion, often dated from the success of the novel and film, Gidget, circa 1960 -1962. In California he witnessed the elite of American board riders, in particular Phil Edwards and Malibu's Micki Dora. He initially worked for Velzey Surfboards in the late 1950's, and acquired an extensive knowledge of surfboard design and manufacturing.
On relocating to Santa Barbara in the early 1960s, he was a key employee at Yater Surfboards. Rennie (Reynolds) Yater was one of the outstanding surfers at Rincon, and considered as one of the premier Californian board builders. Here he also befriended locals, Richie West and knee boarder George Greenough.
Bob Cooper returned to Australia for an extended stay 1963 - 1966. He joined the staff at Hayden Surfboards, at Alexandra Headland, Queensland, where other employees included Bob McTavish, Algie Grud (dings), and Russell Hughes.
In 1966 he returned to Santa Barbara and became the foreman at Morey-Pope Surfboards, where he designed the Blue Machine model (1967-1968), in one instance featuring an asymmetric fin. Cooper and the Blue Machine appeared, often alongside fellow designer, John Peck's, the Penetrator, in a number of Morey-Pope's highly creative full-page advertisements.
From 1963 to 1970, Cooper shaped a few boards for Midget Farrelly and Gordon Woods Surfboards. He was a consultant to Joe Larkin through a friendship of living together in the early days. In 1968 Mickey Dora rated Cooper as his fourth candidate of best waterman and in 1969 on a trip to Europe Cooper won the European Championships International Division at Jersey. Late in ’69 he returned to Oz to take up permanent residence and in 1970 started Cooper Surfboards at Coffs Harbour, NSW.
In the early 70’s Cooper was the first Australian Manufacturers to promote indigenous Koori surfers and he was one of the judges at the first Stubbies contests at Burleigh Heads which saw the Peter Drouyns man-on-man format.
In 1980 Cooper sold his company and in 1993 moved to the Sunshine Coast Qld.