BRA BOYS The Often Maligned Surf Brotherhood's New Movie
On March 10th, 2006, three years after Koby
Abberton’s brother, Jai, shot and killed a notorious
local thug and dumped his body off the
cliff at Maroubra, the final scene of a legal battle
that gripped Australia was about to play
out. Jai Abberton had already made Australian
legal history by being acquitted of murder on
the grounds of self-defense, but now it was
Koby’s turn. Koby, one of Australia’s best surfing
talents, had been found guilty of lying to
police to cover up the shooting, and now
Koby was standing in front of the judge waiting
to hear his sentence, well aware the crime
carried a 14-year maximum sentence.
With the words “My Brother’s Keeper”
inked around his neck, he was set to find out
the price of that motto.
“I’m going to sentence you to nine
months in jail,” the judge said gruffly. But after
a pregnant 30-second pause, he delivered a
sweet kicker: “But I am going to suspend the
Just like that, after two long years of legal
handcuffs, Koby walked out of court a free
man, and immediately celebrated in the front
bar of the Maroubra Hotel with his brothers
and a group of the Bra Boys (a photo of which
made the front page of Australia’s biggest
newspapers). Finally, he could begin again.
March 10th was the first day of the rest of his
life, and his world immediately began to open
up. While he could enjoy the private victories
of being able to surf and travel wherever he
wants, being out of the media spotlight doesn’t
seem to be in the cards. In the days after
he was given his freedom Koby was spotted
hanging out with actor Russell Crowe, and
there’s talk of movie deals, new
sponsors…and of course a few surf trips,
where he hopes to continue pushing the
boundaries of what’s deemed surfable. Today,
as a free man again, what he’s capable of
doing is anyone’s guess.
Today, Koby Abberton is sticking his head
out the window of a dilapidated unit he now
rents above the local laundromat in Maroubra.
The entire place is scarred by salt air, but it
affords him an uninterrupted view of his
beloved Maroubra Beach. Abberton is a long
way from his million-dollar crib of two years
ago, but right now the big-wave soldier and
Bra Boy figurehead couldn’t care less. After
three years of hell, today he’s sporting a smile
like a split watermelon. Today he is free.
We caught up with Koby to let him tell his
story, so here it is, in his own words.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
I’ve lived in Maroubra my whole life. I was born
in a house just up the road in Astoria Circuit,
up in Lexington Place, the housing commission
capital of Sydney. I was actually born in
the house. My mum was a heroin addict and
she knew she’d get in trouble if she had me
delivered up in the hospital.
Growing up in Maroubra there were a lot
more drugs, a lot more gangs, heaps of heroin
in the area, and everyone was trying to control
it. Heaps of shit going on with guns and
knives and street battles.
I never had anything to do with heroin, but
it was hard to keep out of all the shit when it’s
all around you, all around the beach. People
pulling guns on people, shootings, and a lot of
heroin addicts around the area…and it’s pretty
hard to keep away from it all when your mum’s
a heroin addict. I was pretty much in the thick
of it then.
The only dad I ever knew was a bank robber
who just did 12 years for bank robbery. He
wasn’t my dad, he was my mum’s boyfriend.
When I was a kid me and me best mate Jed
used to hide under me mum’s bed and he’d
be under one side with a balaclava on, holding
a shotgun, and I’d have two handguns with a
balaclava on. Never looked to see if they were
loaded. Just playing with them like toys. Little
did we know they’d probably just been used
in a bank robbery.
Into the Fire
One day when I was 12 I walked into the
house to find mum and her boyfriend shooting
up heroin with all their friends. When I told her
boyfriend to get out, he hit me over the head
with a baseball bat and kicked me out of the
house. I was 12 years old then and I’ve never
been home since.
I went straight down to my brother
Sunny’s and started crying. He just said,
“Don’t worry, just try to forget about it and put
everything you’ve got into your surfing. That’s
our way out of this life.”
So I moved down to Sunny’s and for the
next year, year and a half, I stayed with my
friends, living on their couches, and then
eventually I got a house with my brother,
which just happened to be next door to my
grandmother’s place. The funny thing is I
can’t remember much about growing up until
I was, like, 12. I don’t know if my mind
blocks out my childhood…or if I’ve just got a
bad memory. [Laughing]. But I do remember
when I was 13, paddling out when it was
massive with my brothers, surfing as hard as
I could. It was when I started surfing that my
life got better.
Taking Back Maroubra
When I was about 14 our crew started the Bra
Boys, and basically started controlling the
place. We said there’s not going to be any
heroin in Maroubra anymore, because we didn’t
want drugs in the place. After all that shit
happened, we had a solid crew of about 20 or
30 of us, then it gradually turned into 50, then
100, and now there’s three or four hundred.
We just wanted to stamp it out of the area.
We’d hear of a house that was selling it and
we’d go and kick the door in and go and sort
it out. And we stopped it and the place
became better straightaway. Today, by comparison,
nobody is doing heroin in Maroubra.
It’s a different place, there’s cafs,
families…but y’know, it still lights up at night.
The Bra Boys kept me out of a lot of trou-
ble. I was a pretty bad kid, got kicked out of
school at the start of Year 8 [8th Grade], and it
was pretty well a free-for-all. I did what I wanted,
but I had them there to pull me out. I had
them to watch over me.
Around here, either you’re going to be the
best fighter, the best footballer, the best chickpuller,
or the best surfer. It’s just a massive
race to be the best, and it’s not just my brothers,
or the Bra Boys; it’s the whole area. If
you’re going to do something you go the
hardest at it. It’s all about being Number One.
If you’re not Number One and not going the
hardest you shouldn’t be living here.
You couldn’t get a closer set of brothers than
the three of us. I mean it shows with what I
just went through in the courts. Sunny used to
be away a lot on the tour, so Jai and I used to
be at home together in trouble, always together.
We’re probably the closest. We fight a lot
but we’re the closest brothers you could ever
find. Through all our troubles we were always
the ones together. We’d have a fistfight one
day and be best mates again the next, like it
By My Side
Around here, mate, if you don’t have someone
looking out for you, you’re pretty well going to
go to jail. The fighting, the surfing, the partying—
it’s such a fine line between having a
good time and going to jail. To be going the
hardest at it, you’re sometimes going to end
up on the wrong end of the law.
With Marky [Matthews] I used to pay for
his tickets to travel around the place for his
surf trips. Now I got a new kid, Jesse Pollock,
I’m paying his trips now. I’ve paid for him to
go to Tazzy with me a couple of times, down
to Victoria. He’s got real potential. He was
going hard at 10-foot Shipsterns the other day
like it was nothing.
My Brother’s Keeper
The night of the shooting I didn’t think about
the future or myself, I just thought about Jai.
We haven’t had good lives and we didn’t
deserve that. The guy was a rapist and the
guy was a killer. I knew it would be tough from
there, though, and I knew there were people
who were out to get us. There were people in
the court case [testifying against Jai] who Jai
never even knew, who were saying they were
shooting up heroin with him and that he told
them about the shooting. The first thing we
did was get a blood test for Jai to see if he’d
ever had heroin in his system and it came
back completely clear. So there goes that witness,
but where did he come from? Why
would he say that? You can tell how hard they
were coming after us.
Y’know the worst thing about court: missing
out on surf. Mate, between Tazzy and Tahiti the
last couple of years it’s been killing me. You
wanna know something? It can be a week
before court and there’s no swell anywhere,
and I’d say to the boys, I’d go, “Boys, watch
this,” and the day of court the surf was on,
every day. The court swell. Every day. I’d be sitting
in court listening to some f—ing judge just
waffling, watching his mouth move, and all I’m
hearing him say is, “Tahiti, Tahiti, Tahiti.” And I’m
just going, “Get me out of this f—ing joint!”