AB’s Salute

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Words: Chris Binns
Photos: Fabian Von Holzen

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A moment of reflection and celebration at Padang Padang. 

It’d be fair to assume there wasn’t a dry Deep Six in Bali today. The collection of boards on display at Allan Byrne’s Padang Padang memorial was incredible, as was the turnout. With little notice they came, surfers from around the world united on the sand where a fierce red gun stood sentinel over a portrait of the master craftsmen grinning over a planer in the shaping bay.

Allan’s wife Jayne and their three sons, Jamie, Michael and Matt, arrived, with uncle Ian by their side. When the grief-stricken widow turned and kissed Allan’s portrait the awful truth of the surfer and shaper’s sudden passing hit home for many. If up till now it had all been a bad dream, suddenly it was made real, and a sombre mood settled over the gathering. But Al wouldn’t stand for that, no way, his show was to go on. The Kiwis, those rascals, performed a Haka for a mate whose affinity with his Polynesian countrymen saw him as accepted in Hawaii as he was at home, and spirits buoyed.

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Jayne Byrne, comforted by Matt George.

God only knows what the half-dozen high-tide battlers out at Padang Padang must have thought when the 200-strong throng left the beach and paddled their way past the surf schools and up the point, but they were safe for the time being. A circle formed in the channel, arms were linked and words were spoken. Brave Jayne smiled through her tears as the tributes came. Little was said, but it didn’t need to be. “Allan would love this,” Jayne smiled, as the clan splashed the water and threw floral leis into the wind.

Hoots rang out and surfing’s strongest salute clung to the heavy heat. As strangers embraced, the pack split and Jamie Byrne made his way over to snare a set for his dad. On cue it rolled through, and the hoots grew again as the pack ceded the way and the son did his old man proud. Through the anguish, surfing and smiles shone.

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The coming together of the tribe, in memory of a fallen mate.

Back on the beach drinks were cracked and talk turned to boards. Many a freshie had been waxed-up for the first time in honour of the day, but the originals on the sand were the stars, ogled like hotrods at a car show, treated with a mixture of awe and reverence. There’ll be plenty of waves caught in AB’s honour over the next few days, and no doubt the Bintangs will flow long into the night in honour of one of surfing’s favourites. Today was Bali’s turn, but you can bet that Burleigh and beyond have much more to come over the coming days, as the Festival Of AB is just getting started. “Mum would love this,” said Jamie, to no one in particular, as he looked around the crowd, and wandered off to find his brothers and a beer.

 

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