Bluetooth bomber Manodh Marks after getting choked out and hog tied.

Australian surfers chasing “swell of the decade” hailed as heroes after choking out crazed airline hijacker, “I pulled his shirt up and there’s this big round plastic thing with wires coming out of it. I put my hand on it and went ‘stuff it’. I ripped it off him!”

“The only thing that made me do it was the fear of dying. There’s no one up there to help you."

Two Australian surfers have been awarded bravery medals after tackling and choking the hell out of a hijacker armed with what he told passengers was a  bomb, but which would turn out to be Bluetooth speakers.

The surfers, Troy Joyner and Fabio Contu, were on a Malaysian Airlines bird out of Melbourne and en route to Indo to hit the “swell of the decade” when Sri Lankan Manodh Marks ran past ‘em to the cockpit yelling, “I’ve got a bomb!” 

Joyner, a military guy who knew how to disarm explosives, told his buddy a terrorist was about to bring down the bird. 

“I said, ‘Mate, that guy’s got a bomb’,” Joyner told “It was dark. The cabin crew in front of us starting to talk in Malaysian. More people were starting to move around. I could hear a heap of yelling. They flicked the lights on and I could see he had a singlet on with a device under his singlet that stood out, sort of two inches from his stomach. He had a remote in his left hand that looked pretty legit. I thought, ‘This guy is pretty serious’.”

Aussie heroes Troy Joyner, left, and Fabio Contu.

Contu, who was enjoying the airline’s award-winning entertainment system via headphones, wasn’t convinced. 

“Troy tapped me and said, ‘He’s got a bomb’. I was like, ‘You’ve heard him wrong. He’s probably going to the toilet’. He’s like, ‘I know what I heard’.

Marks tried to get into the cockpit but was forced back by flight attendants.

As he got near the Australians, Joyner grabbed the cunt and threw a choking arm around his neck, soon extinguishing consciousness.

On the ground, Contu lifted Marks’ singlet.

“I pulled his shirt up and there’s this big round plastic thing staring at me with wires coming out of it. I put my hand on it and went ‘stuff it’. I ripped it off him and it didn’t go off. I gave it to a passenger and said to put it at the back of the plane. Troy had him choked out. He was out cold so I searched him for a trigger. There was a phone so I took that off him, too. We handcuffed his hands and his feet with cable ties and secured him to the frame of a seat so he couldn’t move.”

Obvs, choking out a crazy man with bluetooth speakers taped to his guts is funny now, but terrifying in the moment. 

“The only thing that made me do it was the fear of dying,” says Joyner. “There’s no one up there to help you. You either help yourself or let it take its course.”

Not that it scared ‘em enough to stay off planes. 

“We got on a flight the next day,” Joyner, who along with Contu will be awarded an Australian Bravery Decoration, says. “Got the waves of our life.”

Marks got twelve years for the hijack attempt although the Victorian Court of Appeal subsequently reduced the sentence to eight years at the top, five at the bottom. 

Depression, confusion, blame consume World Surf League’s Santa Monica headquarters as ideal theoretical alcohol partner White Claw releases “surf” flavor line independently!

Oh what might have been.

The sun rose over Santa Monica, this morning, shrouded in mist and despondency, as it was officially revealed that flavored alcohol beverage White Claw will be releasing its new flavor line, titled “surf,” without first securing a partnership deal with the World Surf League.

Forbes is reporting, “White Claw Surf is being rolled out nationwide in a mixed twelve pack format backed by a wide-ranging advertising campaign to introduce the line extension quickly to drinkers. It is the company’s first attempt as a premium line. As one of the pioneers and leaders in the ever-expanding and ever-popular hard seltzer category, the brand is betting that consumers are looking for products that offer more flavors while still toeing the line at 5% ABV and only 100 calories. The Surf line will be a standalone entity inside their portfolio of brands and follows on the heels of last year’s successful launches of their Iced Tea and Surge lines.”

Flavors include citrus yuzu smash, tropical pomelo smash, watermelon lime smash and wildberry açaí smash.

The World Surf League has never met a 5% ABV canned drink that it did not love and is ruing what might have been though extreme sadness is quickly turning into blame with various departments pointing the finger at various other departments.

While the buck usually stops with the most powerful person in an organization, confusion reigns after the recent suspension of longboard champion Joel Tudor as to who, exactly, that is.

Jessi Miley-Dyer?

More as the story develops.

New York Times pours praise on Chas Smith’s “must-read” book of summer ‘Blessed are the Bank Robbers’: “Equal parts true crime, memoir and bank-heist how-to!”

"Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again."

America’s favourite left-wing organ, The New York Times, has greeted Chas Smith’s fourth book in the same way a boy in the furnace of adolescence might examine a woman in a state of considerable undress, with a detailed and dreamy inspection and a more than ordinary enthusiasm.

Blessed are the Bank Robbers is reviewed alongside others in the true crime genre including Hell’s Half-Acre, “a serial killer family on the American frontier” and The Far Land, “a bizarre mash-up of an 18th-century adventure novel and the darkest episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit imaginable”.

Armed robbery, serial killing, uncontrolled pedophilia.

A decent fit.

Read a little.

Equal parts true crime, memoir and bank-heist how-to, (Blessed are the Bank Robbers) is the story of Smith’s cousin Danny, the Floppy Hat Bandit who, Smith says, ‘has to be within spitting distance of the U.S. record for bank robberies.

Danny, drowning in gambling debts, held up his first bank in 2006. Soon he hit another, then another. The endorphin high of gambling was quickly supplanted by the endorphin high of committing crimes. “Who would dare step away from the table in the middle of a hot streak?” Smith writes. “Who would dare leave potential millions behind when the odds had crumbled, when fate had chosen a victor?” Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again.

Most interesting is the way Smith plumbs their shared history looking for clues to Danny’s life. At one point, he remembers how their families would gather to watch swashbuckling missionary slide shows that featured their fathers’ experiences in places like the jungles of Nicaragua and Honduras. “The seed of Cousin Danny’s bank robbing,” he believes, was likely planted during those long evenings watching the “bigger-than-life Courson adventure we were all living.

Blessed are the Bank Robbers, 256 pages in width, is released worldwide, Tuesday, March 15 (US).

Buy here! 

My Cousin Danny (top left).
My Cousin Danny (top left).

Surf Journalist set to release inspirational true story detailing the fast days and wild nights of world’s most prolific salt-crusted bank robber!

"Whatever you decide to do with this message is totally cool—ignore it, call the cops, call your lawyer—I completely understand..."

Every one of us, here, learned the surfing game from someone. An older sister, uncle, father, pal. For me, it was my Cousin Danny. I grew up, you see, on Oregon’s frigid central coast where waves lash and bash but there was no “surf culture,” or at least none of which I was aware or at least none which matched my childhood imagination of what “surf culture” should be.

My Cousins Danny and Mikey, though, grew up in Carlsbad where surf felt like it belonged. We drove south and visited them, most summers, when I was growing up and I couldn’t get enough, staring at the Surfing and Surfer magazines in their rooms. Wandering into wax scented surf shops with breath caught in my lungs. Paddling Warm Water Jetty and surfing.

Really surfing.

Cousin Danny gave me my first board, a rainbow twin fin, and I would gaze at it in my Oregon room, cold rain falling on roof, and dream.

The years rolled on, one after another, I became a surf journalist and Cousin Danny? Well he became one of the most prolific bank robbers in U.S. history. We were both raised as good Christian boys in a good Christian extended family with each of the uncles involved in the ministry, megachurch pastors and famous missionaries. It was a sort of evangelical Camelot so when I heard of Cousin Danny’s escapades I was shocked and amazed.


How had he veered off the straight and narrow so… dramatically?

As fate would have it, he reached out to me via encrypted Swiss email whilst running from the FBI after hearing of my first dust up with Ashton Goggans, as it were, ending that first missive thusly:

Whatever you decide to do with this message is totally cool—ignore it, call the cops, call your lawyer—I completely understand and wouldn’t be upset in the slightest. The last thing I’d ever want to do is get you in trouble. I do know the cops are trying to find someone to email me with an embedded photo in the email, which would have metadata in the pixels, and as soon as I downloaded it, my location would be revealed, so I won’t open anything with photos, just FYI. And, you just don’t seem like the type who would turn me in. That may be due partly to your amazingly awesome podcast incident, fighting with that Inertia dude, defending your family’s honor, and disgust with his decision to file a police report. What a douche! That is podcast gold, my friend.

The result of our correspondence, plunging into family and family secrets, prying bank robbery tips from my Cousin Danny, turned into a book, Blessed are the Bank Robbers, out March 15 (buy here, here or at your local bookstore).

I will be chatting about it all live at Warwick’s in La Jolla on March 16 at 7:30 pm with David Lee Scales, midwife to the whole adventure from the get. If you are in town please come. I’d love to say hello.

David Lee and I also discussed Joel Parkinson’s mud adventures and the Facebook threats I received via Coolangatta. Not essential but also funny.

@sierralerback Instagram
@sierralerback Instagram

In historical first, woman beats field of men in prestigious professional surf competition thereby shattering long-held gender-based assumptions!

Let equality ring!

Yesterday, the sun set on a different Australia than the one it rose over hours earlier. A better Australia. A brighter Australia. An Australia where gender-based assumptions lay on red ground in a smoldering heap. Where equality, true equality, rang.

For yesterday a woman, Sierra Lerback from Maui, beat all-comers in the most prestigious Old Mal division of the Noosa Festival of Surfing to hoist the cup and change history.

“All-comers” referring to a who’s who of ridiculously talented males including Jared Mell, Jack Norton, Byron Chadwick and Harrison Roach.

The aforementioned Roach took to Instagram immediately, penning, “@sierralerback is the first woman in history to win the most prestigious division of the @noosa_festival_of_surfing, the Old Mal, and she’s my mate.”

Praise was universal from luminaries such as Alex Knost, Joel Tudor, Devon Howard, Robert “Wingnut” Weaver etc.

Now, students of surf journalism will be aware that I have been calling for mixed longboarding for years or maybe months. Women dance the plank as beautifully as men, even more beautifully, and so why not cast them into the same field and allow them to Battle of the Sexes regularly? I pepper World Surf League Longboard Commissioner Devon Howard with such thoughts as well anyone else who will listen.

That same World Surf League has set itself up as the most equal of governing bodies, what with equal prize money and equal-ish venues, but true equality is singular. It is one. The World Surf League Shortboard Commissioner, Jessi Miley-Dyer, has been a rumored hater of longboarders and longboarding, recently threatening to cut that tour down to one event and casting its champion into outer darkness. Will the Noosa Festival of Surfing change her mind? Help her to see the light? Miley-Dyer’s congratulatory missives were notably missing from Lerback’s accomplishment.

More as that story develops but, in the meantime, great congratulations to Sierra Lerback. May it be the first of many.