Gisborne surfers in shock over Byrne's death

By Mark Peters of the Gisborne Herald

Allan Byrne.
Allan Byrne.

Gisborne's surfing community is in shock at the news veteran surfer Allan Byrne, who grew up and sprang to national prominence in Gisborne, has died following a motorcycle accident in Bali.

The 62-year-old Australia-based surfer and board maker was holidaying in Indonesian and was due to compete in the Rip Curl Cup masters division this week.

He was injured in a motorcycle crash on Friday afternoon and was taken to hospital with a broken arm. Doctors found he also had a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. When Byrne slipped into a coma he was put on life support and never recovered.

"It's sad and everyone is devastated," said surfing veteran Gail Patty who, along with Mr Byrne and a number of other surfers from the 1960s, is one of Gisborne's surfing originals.

Mr Byrne returned to Gisborne in 2009 for a reunion to celebrate 50 years of surfing in Gisborne.

"He came back to where he started," Ms Patty said.

"We just turned back the clock. He was beside himself. The reunion was something he said he would treasure for the rest of his life."

Allan Byrne grew up in Awapuni Road, and attended Awapuni School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys' High.

Prominent in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay championship swimming events, and a member of the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club, Mr Byrne's first love became surfing after his father Des made surfboards for himself and his two sons Terry and Allan.

By the time he turned 16, he had already assembled an impressive surfing career.

He first won the under-18 division of the nationals at Mount Maunganui in 1964, at the age of 13, the New Zealand junior board race trophy and the world paddle race trophy.

He also won the Catalina Cup for the most outstanding surfer at the New Zealand championships and finished fifth in the five-mile paddle race at the world surfing championships at Santiago.

He went on to win four under-18 and four open crowns. From 1966 to 1972, he competed in four world surfing championships and in 1981 he placed second in the Hawaiian Pipeline Masters.

Allan Byrne is survived by wife Jayne and sons Michael, Jamie and Matt.

Veteran Gisborne surfer Grantley Macalister remembers Mr Byrne as ``streets ahead``of anyone else.

"In the 1960s, a Californian surfer came over. He was excellent. We'd never seen anyone walk the nose or perform such a controlled bottom turn before. Allan absorbed everything and became better than the imports."

When early surfboard maker Bob Davie moved to Gisborne and set up a factory, he took the young Allan Byrne under his wing and taught him how to shape surfboards.

Bob Davie later moved his business to Mount Maunganui. The Byrne family followed him and Mr Byrne's father was employed by the surfboard manufacturer as foreman.

In 1977, Mr Byrne moved to the Gold Coast of Australia, where he established the Byrning Spears surfboard factory.

The world-renowned surfboard maker pioneered the six-channel, pintail surfboard, a design feature he is said to have developed from aerodynamics learned during his time in the New Zealand Air Force.

To celebrate his 60th birthday he surfed mountainous swells in Hawaii.

"At 62, Allan was still charging," said Mr Macalister.

"As we get older, most of us get into longboards. Allan wouldn't make longboards. He was still riding short boards. On a big day at Burleigh on the Gold Coast, he would still get towed in to catch big waves.

"He's a legend."


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