The legendary Australian shaper, Al Byrne is currently fighting for his life in a hospital in Bali. Early reports suggest the 62 year old was found in the early hours of Saturday morning bloodied though still conscious next to his bike and taken to hospital. He had left the Rip Curl Cup, Padang party a short while earlier. After arriving at a nearby hospital in Jimbaran he is said to have appeared okay and requested rest only. He fell into a coma shortly after and was rushed to a larger hospital where he remains in a coma and on life support.
A statement on his condition is expected shortly and the story will be updated as news unfolds.
The problem of motorcycle accidents has become one of the biggest risk factors for travellers in Bali. According to statistics from the Australian Embassy last year, an Australian dies in Bali every nine days while as of 2011 bike accidents were accounting for three per day. Some current estimates put that number around five to ten today. Jason Childs, who has lived here for more than two decades working as a photographer, has lost several friends in accidents over the years and agrees it’s getting worse.
“It’s radical now. You go to Sanglah (the major hospital in Bali) and it’s just a war zone,” he says.
Originally from New Zealand, Al Byrne became a shaping legend during the 1970s and 80s when his Hot Stuff boards became the weapon of choice for the likes of Rabbit, Kong and Chappy Jennings. It was during his early years in the Air Force that he first learned the importance of aerodynamics and minimising and maximising resistance, which would later lead to his groundbreaking channel bottom designs and fin placement. Over the years he’d tended to favour Hawaii as his favourite hunting ground, first learning the art of hand-shaping there in the winter of ’69 on Oahu. But after being invited by Rip Curl Indonesia to take part in their shaping program he has been a regular on the island of Bali and his channel bottom tube-shooters have fast become a favourite for those venturing to G-Land, Desert Point and the Bukit. But Al’s exploits in the water have been just as legendary of late. “He charges,” says Australian heavy wave specialist, Anthony Walsh of the 62 year old. “I surfed Padang with him last year and he was fully getting barrelled. Such a legend.”
With the Rip Curl Cup set to begin at Padang this week Al had audaciously tried to wrangle himself a a spot in the main event, even offering up one of his boards to sweeten deal. They knocked him back but with back to back swells finally arriving for the event, Al was set to surf in the Legends event at Padang later this week. – Jed Smith