A Breezy Index Of Surf Gangs.
(Fear, loathing and area codes)
Bra Boys, Australia
The Bra Boys, out of Sydney’s south-east, originated during the city’s heady early-to-mid 90s. Comprised equally of working class hard heads and welfare class types who grew up in the area’s extensive public housing projects, the Bra Boys have made headlines for everything from international drug-running, to assault and murder trials, wild bar brawls with off-duty police officers, riding some of the biggest heaviest waves on the planet, and for producing several top line professional surfers, rugby league players and Cage Fighters. The documentary charting the gang’s history, directed by Bra Boy Macario De Souza and narrated by Russell Crowe, became the highest-grossing non-IMAX documentary in Australian history. Their newfound celebrity, meanwhile, has lead to high profile friendships with the likes of Paris Hilton, among others.
Famous Members: Koby, Jai and Sunny Abberton, Wayne Cleveland, Mark Mathews, Reni Maitua, John Sutton, Richie Vaculik, Evan Faulks.
Da Hui aka The Black Shorts, Oahu
The original and most feared of all surf gangs, Da Hui aka Hui O He’e Nalu were born in 1976 out of a need to stand up for traditional Hawaiian values and surf culture, in the face of an influx of foreign surfers and corporate interests on the North Shore. “We formed a club to let them know there is a people of this land,” recalls Da Hui founder, Fast Eddie Rothman. Da Hui became world famous for their role in the Busting Down The Door saga, in which the Bronzed Aussies surf team, led by Rabbit Bartholomew, Ian Cairns and Peter Townend, ran afoul of local surfing customs and were subsequently run out of Hawaii by Da Hui members. At other times, Da Hui organised group paddle-outs during surf contests to protest against their waves being taken over by corporate and professional surfing interests. Ultimately, they were responsible for creating an atmosphere along the North Shore that made foreigners feel like they were not at home.
Famous Members: Eddie Rothman, Marvin Foster, Dane Kealoha, Johnny Boy Gomes, Mickey Nielsen, Eddie Aikau, Clyde Aikau, Makua Rothman.
Reaching its zenith in the mid-80s, Hollywood-By-The-Sea in Oxnard, California resembled the quintessential surf-punk dystopia. A place where cars were spray-painted, stoned and smashed with bats, where outsiders were pelted with rocks, as well as the police who arrived to restore order. Local anti-heroes like El Zorb Razor, meanwhile, cemented themselves in surfing folklore by attaching razor blades to the nose of their surfboards and carving through the pack. “The place is out of control, and there is no relief in sight,” recalled 65 year old Allen Braff, a retired lima bean farmer, in Jack Watermen’s seminal piece on H-B-S, Fair Warning. “I remember sitting on my balcony a few years back watching this low-rider ram into the back of this sporty European car with surfboards on top. The kids tried to roll their windows up and lock their doors, but it didn’t do much good because these two low-rider fellows started breaking their windows with bats.” The area was heavily populated by Mexicans and low-income white Americans who formed an unholy matrimony to reign terror on outsiders. Today it’s Dane Reynolds and Bobby Martinez country, and a whole lot less threatening, but these sentiments never die out completely.
Famous Members: El Zorb, Cho-Cho.
Lunada Bay Boys, California
A product of the ultra-affluent beachside community of Palos Verdes, California, the Bay Boys have become a popular whipping boy for the mainstream media of late, appearing in countless articles from sources as mainstream as The Guardian. Despite this, local law enforcement has shown little desire to put an end to the intimidatory tactics of the area’s ultra-wealthy rate payers. “It’s totally different to the Bra Boys,” says one Lunada Bay insider. “I went to high school (in Lunada Bay) and half the kids’ first cars were either BMWs or Porsches. There were kids that just turned 16 and they got a Porsche Carrera for their first car! It was heavy! All the chicks got Audi R8s, in white, four chicks got that, all the popular chicks. I’m like, are you fucking kidding me?!” He adds this of the police’s reluctance to get involved: “If you lived in a really nice area and you paid a lot for the house (outsiders) would kind of turn you off. And so (the authorities) kind of make it ok that this is going on because it keeps out the knuckleheads and the tourists. It makes the area a lot more peaceful.”
Famous Members: N/A.
Salt Bush, Australia
Australia’s least known, most feared locals were immortalised in DC Green’s original foray into the country’s deep south, alongside pros Mick Campbell and Andrew Ferguson, and photographer Bill Alexander, called Terror in Saltbush, which originally appeared in Australia’s Surfing Life: “The posse leader zeroed straight in on Bill. He pushed him hard in the chest, causing Bill to stagger back. ‘Calm down, mate,’ I croaked. The leader spun. ‘And who the fuck are you... cunt?’ ‘Ah... I’m DC Green, a surf journalist.’ The leader’s eyes lit up as dark figures surrounded us and he ranted the now immortal line: ‘I don’t care if you’re DC Purple, cunt!’ I knew then this was Fearman, the head crazy who’d confronted the Billabong crew, and ordered them to fuck off cunts,” he wrote at the time. The deep south remains as inhospitable as ever. The endless expanse of land that also gave us Snowtown remains largely outside the bounds of any kind of effective law enforcement. Vast tracts of desert and dirt tracks abound with protective locals who know the land like the back of their hands. Enter at your own risk.
Famous members: (Known only as) Fearman, Ghost, Shadow, Bull.
The Black Shorts, Bali
While less of a force than they used to be, the influence of the Balinese chapter of the Black Shorts can still be seen in many of the local leaders of the surf community today. The gang was brought to Bali by the island’s first international surf star, Made Kasim. Kasim, who is now a high-ranking Hindu priest in the Uluwatu region (and the owner of the world-famous Single Fin bar and restaurant), adopted the idea from ‘Fast’ Eddie Rothman, whom he stayed with in Hawaii during the early 80s. “(Eddie) adopt me, he help me because at that time we don’t have much money,” recalls Kasim. “He let me stay in his house. And it’s, you know, I come from Bali, he been to Bali many times. He’s happy to have a Balinese come and stay there.” Together, Eddie and Kasim opened up a Da Hui store in Bali. The Black Shorts, meanwhile, set an early militant precedent of respect, order and Balinese culture as the onslaught of tourism and development on the island began. “It was to show power, but we’re not doing it to punch people,” says Kasim. “It’s an expression of what we like. We try to connect together. We try for surfing in Bali to be one big family. It’s all about that concept to me… It’s more like an island contract. For me, what I have been doing wherever I go surfing, I look at other people and I respect the people. The problems come when you don’t respect everybody in the water. I don’t believe if you are not doing anything that someone is going to go and punch you like that. We are human, right?”
Famous members: Made Kasim, Rizal Tanjung, Pepen Hendrik.
The Wolfpak, Kauai
The timing was perfect. Right as the island of Kauai was preparing to unleash one of the greatest surf movements of all time, the Wolfpak arrived to add the muscle. It was the late 90s, the Irons brothers were coming of age, and Da Hui’s presence along Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle had just begun to melt away. A power vacuum had developed at the strip’s jewel, Pipeline, says Wolfpak kingpin Dustin Barca. And the Wolfpak arrived to restore order. “A lot of people who came to surf just didn’t have that respect level,” he recalls. “It was a free-for-all at Pipe, kinda like the Bronzed Aussie time when everyone was coming in and thinking they were killing it.” Barca was pivotal in what he calls the “Wolfpak overthrow” on the North Shore. He was 17 at the time, and the catalyst for the uprising proved to be a fight he’d had with his former Rip Curl team manager following a dispute over a contract that had lead to him being dropped. Shortly after, several leading surf industry figures were called to the porch of senior Wolfpak enforcer Braden Dias’ North Shore house, and told what was what. “I told them all, ‘All you rich fucking pricks, fuck you. While you’re driving your Range Rovers I’m mixing cement. Fuck you.’ And I fucken walked out and that was the beginning of the Wolfpak overthrow,” says Barca. “The company reps started coming in the house and saying you can’t do that and Chava (Greenlee) was like, ‘Brah, fuck you. Don’t tell my boys what to do.’ Right there, a lot of people, anyone who dropped in, it got super heavy from that point on. That’s how the regulating started.”
Famous members: Kala Alexander, Dustin Barca, Kamalei Alexander, Braden Dias, Chava Greenlee, Andy Irons, Bruce Irons, Kai Garcia.
“It’s simple, that Yakuza like to surf too!” explains Japanese cult-hero and the only man to have a part of the reef at Pipeline named after him, Takayuki Wakita, of the relationship between surfing and the infamous Japanese organised crime syndicate known as the Yakuza. Where they overlap with surfing, please believe that order and respect will reign. These are the guys who popularised Yubitsume after all, the practice of chopping off the
top of one’s own little finger for having offended a senior gang member or failed on an assignment. One pro surfer, who preferred to remain nameless (for obvious reasons), spoke of travelling to a world-class secret spot in Japan, and being told to ask a man known only as ‘The Boss,’ a member of the Yakuza, for permission to surf and shoot there. “You had to greet him with respect and ask him if it was okay to surf,” he says. “If he said no, then you don’t surf. And if you just rocked up unannounced, you could be bashed. I heard a few guys got hit the day before we were there.” The source has travelled the world surfing and shooting but says what they discovered in Japan was “definitely the gnarliest localism I have ever seen. If I was in Japan just as a punter, I just wouldn’t go near those spots that are localised. It’s not worth chancing getting chopped.” So tightly regulated was the lineup, The Boss only allowed eight guys in the water at any one time. Fortunately for our contact and his crew, they had an in with the local heavy and were permitted to get wet.
Famous members: The Boss.