Kiwi shaper and surfer Al Byrne has died in a Bali hospital from head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on the 6th August.
Gary “Kong” Elkerton, one of Al’s most famous test pilots posted on Facebook, “Thanks AB this is the board that you made for me in 84 that gave me all my wins at Sunset Beach, i rode this board 84,84,86,87 i was tagged Mr Sunset on her, RIP Bro she will be at your paddle out God Bless.”
A supremely talented surfer Byrne competed in the participated in the World Surfing Championships in 1966, 1968 and 1970 and was Pipe Masters runner up in 1981. Famous for his tuberiding and style in waves of consequence, up until the accident he was still threading sets at Ulus, Padang, and Desert Point aged 64. For his 60th birthday Al traveled to Hawaii to tow 30-foot outer reefs not long after undergoing open heart surgery.
But it was as a shaper that he was best known, mostly for his work with his Hot Stuff label in the ’80s and current Byrning Spears label and his famous six channel shooters. Whilst I never met Al I’ve been fortunate enough to have had at least a half dozen of his famed six channels and each and everyone has been the prized stick in my collection. They are more than surfboards; they are works of art, and offer a speed and feeling like no other. I firmly believe to ride one of his boards on an 8 foot set wave at Outside Corner or on a G-Land sidewinder can change your life. Still hand shaping all his crafts, he is one of the few purists still operating in surfing today.
Kong and Rabbit were perhaps his most famous test pilots, but scattered around the world are thousands of hardcore surfers that live for “strictly good and critical waves,” and are now mourning a great shaper and even better bloke. Those prized 6 channeley just became even more important. Al is survived by his wife Jane and three children.