Firebrand surf journalist turned conservative news anchor Fred Pawle slams “inconsistencies” in Owen Wright’s version of Pipe brain injury in new book

"There is something about the story of Owen's injury that doesn't add up."

If you were to examine the life of Owen Wright and his storied family from any sort of angle or distance it would hardly need embellishment to make interesting. 

The surfing heartthrob and one-time title contender turned real estate developer returns from a catastrophic brain injury, bleeding on the brain, paralysis and (temporary) inability to speakto win his first event back on tour one year later and return to his usual position as a world title contender.

 Two-time world champ Tyler wins a tour event at fourteen, qualifies at sixteen, but throws it in (briefly) before returning to the tour and carving and plating her two titles.

Mikey? Hot and salty and greasy (like a sunbathing German) and a wildcard world title contender.

And, all wrapped up with a family pal-turned-bookeeper who fleeced ‘em of their hard-earned millions so she could have a little play money for the horsies and poker machines. 

That theft of almost one million bucks led to his estrangement from Ma and Pa Wright, Dad would later be diagnosed with dementia and Owen would take up his care, friction with his siblings and his pop star wife Kita and a fear he didn’t have enough cash to get out of the pro surfing game despite his catastrophic 2015 brain injury.

“I wanted to retire but I couldn‘t financially (due to the impact of the offending) and fought back into my career risking my life in the process,” he told the court. “I was still being stolen from while I could barely walk and while the doctors were saying I would never work again in my career. The physical risk I‘ve taken on to keep surfing was a choice I made because I was not financially in the position to stop my career.” 

Well, in wild claims made by Fred Pawle, whom you know as the Walkley-nominated journalist responsible for putting Sarge to the sword (irony!) and telling Matt Branson’s gay-and-proud-ish story, he says Owen has thrown a little fairy dust on the retelling of his Pipe brain injury in his new book, Against the water: a surfing champion’s inspirational journey to Olympic glory. 

Leaving aside the clear embellishment of calling a bronze medal “Olympic glory” in the title, at the 2008 Games, for example, Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian hurled his third-place trinket onto the floor and walked out, punching the barricade as he exited, Pawle questions Owen’s “inconsistencies” in the telling of the events at Pipe. 

There’s inconsistencies in Pawle’s arguments, too, his claim there’s no ten-wave sets at Pipe for one.

“There is something about the story of Owen’s injury that doesn’t add up,” says Pawle. “Surfers are not always the most reliable storytellers… tall stories are part of surf culture, but, the inconsistencies of this story matter because it has become central to the Owen Wright myth.”

Open Thread: Comment live as World Surf League places jackboot on jaw of San Clemente locals and shutters Lowers for “practice!”

Rage time.

Snakes (pictured). Photo: 9 News
Snakes (pictured). Photo: 9 News

Gold Coast man accused of “bringing sand to the beach” after teaching pet snake to surf

Like Joel Parkinson except skinny.

Australia’s Gold Coast, home to Snapper, the Alley, Kirra, etc. is very famous for its waves but also its hungry locals. Men and women who don’t think twice about slithering around their fellow surfers and sliding into waves not, by rights, theirs. Snakes. It may just be the snakiest stretch of water on earth and so it was with much confusion when the world learned of a man who brought a pet snake all the way from home into the lineup.

But let us meet Higor Fiuza and his carpet python Shiva. The long-haired longboarder has owned the animal, now a few feet long, since she was a little baby and “always took her to the beach” where she would lounge on the sand. One hot day, he decided that she belong with her own kind, in the lineup, so paddled her out.

She took to it immediately.

“Usually when she doesn’t like something she starts hissing but she doesn’t hiss [in the water], she is always chill.”

Shiva clings to Higor’s neck, when they are surfing together, though not everyone loves it. “[Some] people get really scared but others think it’s amazing when they see the connection between me and her,” he told Australia’s ABC News. “I think I can get a barrel behind the rock [at Snapper Rocks] with her one day.”

As a surfer, if you saw yet another snake out amongst it would you be tickled or pretty annoyed?


Me too.

No London for Reza and his famous Hamster Wheel.

Iranian activist-cum-mad-hui Reza Baluchi arrested after attempting to run to London inside human-sized hamster wheel!

Incredible feat stymied by US Coast Guard who adjudged thrillseeker as a "danger to himself."

The Iranian thrillseeker and activist Reza Baluchi has been arrested after he was dragged from his homemade contraption, a human-sized hamster wheel, by Coast Guard one hundred clicks from Tybee Island in the US state of Georgia.

He’d planned on making the four-thousand mile journey to London over the course of a damn uncomfortable six months. Odds on he would’ve drowned, starved or died of thirst.

Reza, fifty-one,  is a mad hui, as they say. A pro cyclist, he was tortured in his home country for offences against Islam, defected to Germany when he was twenty and granted political asylum in the US a decade later. He’s now he’s turned his life into a series of ultra-marathons. 

In 2003, he ran from LA to New York to “dispel misconceptions about the Middle East”, then he did a lap of the continental US to raise money for a kid’s hozzy in Denver, and did another LA-to-New York run in 2009, reason unknown.

A few year’s later, after saving four-and-a-half gees from his job washing dishes at a hookah bar in Newport Beach, Reza built and fitted out what he called a “hydro-pod” or what looks like, to most, a human-sized hamster wheel. 

Trips to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, New York and, a couple of weeks back, London have all failed for various reasons, mostly when Coast Guard figured he was gonna drown and maybe they should save him.

In his latest episode, Coast Guard officers said Reza wouldn’t shuck himself free of the hamster wheel for three days and even threatened to kill himself with a BBC-sized knife but not before detonating a bomb he said he had on board.

Reza, a legend, let’s face it, but maybe a little on the volatile side, was charged in federal court with obstruction of boarding and violation of the Captain of the Port Order, had to cough up a surety of a quarter-mill and “may not go to the ocean or board a vessel on to the ocean.”


Indonesian pro surfer described as “sexiest man on archipelago” shuns rock star life on Bali to become de facto mayor of remote surfing outpost!

Come and melt over Dedi Gun, saviour of the wretched at Lakey Peak!

Every morning not long after sunrise his captain’s hat bobs past the walls of the beachfront hamlet, followed by a throng of bare-chested local groms, surfboards in hand.

The Pied Piper of Lakey Peak is checking the surf.

After years abroad chasing a pro surfing career with Rip Curl, Dedi Gun, who is thirty-six, has returned to Sumbawa’s south coast with a clear goal – to help shape the future of his home.

Despite its potential, Sumbawa, one of the West Nusa Tenggara provinces, has been overlooked by Indonesia’s renewed tourism push. While Flores and the Komodo national park to the west are on top of the priority list of tourism destinations, the economical drawcard on the southern side of Sumbawa is a gold and copper mine just a five-minute scooter ride from the world-class breaks.

But few locals have the necessary education to get a job there. There are stories of angry mobs stopping the trucks to the mine, demanding jobs. A tough life making a living off fishing and farming corn is the outlook for the future generation at Hu’u, the district surrounding the surf spot.

Behind the main road, the stubbly remains of barren corn fields slope towards shrub-covered hills, lacking the tropical abundance of Indonesia’s more picturesque surf destinations.

A rocky mud trail leading to the beach is guarded by a crumbling, eerie looking gyprock surfer, one of the few reminders of Lakey’s time being featured on the world qualifying circuit in the late nineties. Two judging towers of questionable integrity still stand tall on the reef in front of the Peak, Lakey’s premier wave. Built with little consideration, a clumsy concrete toilet lump blocks the view of beachfront accommodation.

It ain’t the Brandenburg Gate but cute in a kitschy sorta way.

On the way to Nunggas, a long lefthander good for big swells, the mosaic beach path has in large parts been gnawed away by the tide.

Easy access from Bali has plenty of surfers flocking to Lakey, but few locals have a share of the tourism pie.

Dedi, who now runs surf coaching in Lakey Peak, shakes his head after getting off the phone to one of the groms who’s running late.

“You may not get another opportunity,” he mumbles, a group of surf students eagerly waiting to paddle out.

Surfing a metaphor for life

“When there is a chance coming to you, you got to take it,” Dedi says to me as we bob in the water at Lakey Pipe.

Besides his notorious captain’s hat, Dedi wears many others. For a while he’s been leading the local Boardriders, The Lakey Peak Boys, he manages surf lodgings, sells honey and organises BBQs besides just welcoming his second child.

Ol Dedi Gun has shed his rock-star life on Bali for a new role as de facto mayor at Lakey Peak.

But opportunity didn’t come easy. At eight years old, having been sent to live with relatives to work on their farm, he left for the lure of surfing at the seaside enclave. He lived on the beach, sleeping on the tables of the beachside restaurants, doing odd jobs to get fed.

“My first board was piece of wood,” he says, flashing his noted smile.

“I was living happy …some of my friends had to find empty bottles, Coca Cola or beer, to sell, to survive. [But] we weren’t that hungry, because we have a lot of trees, we just climb.”

When he was 12 he moved to Bali under the wing of surf photographer Dustin Humphrey and at 17 he started to live on his own. He said surfing gave him the opportunity to travel the world. But his surfing career didn’t go as planned. He says he lacked the hunger to be a professional competitor, spending many years in Bali, living “like a rock star”.

“Surfing, partying … I didn’t really have a future thinking. More having fun every day.  But I’m glad I learned early,” he says.

After the pandemic he returned to Lakey, keen to encourage the new generation to strive for more.

“In my generation, we never got taught nothing – zero. We had to make it our own,” he says.

“I [made myself] a promise … when I got out of Lakey Peak the first time. I had a burger on a nice plate on a nice table, I want all my friends to feel what I feel, sleeping in a nice bed.”

Surfing also gave him the opportunity to learn and have a vision of his future, something missing in Lakey.

But for him it’s more than that.

“[It] is more than just surf, it’s more than just a sport. It all comes together. Mindset, mentality, psychology. It’s meditation. Appreciation. And it teaches you to be patient. You always want to get a good wave, and there is a chance, and when there is a chance coming for you, you got to take it. There is no next. But you have to choose the right one. If that’s the chance for you, you got to follow.

He’s roped the local teens into his coaching, teaching them how to muscle in on the tourism business. He wants them to develop discipline, accountability and teach them how to make money.

Dedi says Lakey’s big problem is a lack of education.

“Not a lot of kids are going to school. From here to Nangadoro [a village 5km up from Lakey], the schools are not really active. When they go to school, they say ‘oh, the teacher is not there’”.

They are simply not getting paid enough to support their families on a teacher’s wage, he says.

The bleak outlook for the children of Lakey, many of which swap school uniforms for gruelling farm work to help their families, has drawn the attention of those visiting the wave paradise.

Rundown classroom at Nangadoro.

For almost fifteen years now the Harapan Project, set up by Spanish lawyer Carlos Ferrandiz, helps with educating local children, donating sports and health equipment. A short stroll up the hill from the main road at the entrance of the village, past cow paddies and corn stubbles, a state-of-the art skate park unravels, crowd-founded by a 13-year young Japanese girl after being in Lakey during the pandemic.

But it’s got a skatepark!

The captain’s surf team

“When I came back here since [since the pandemic] I was leading the Boardriders, trying to put [the kids] on the right path, educate them about tolerance, communication, environment, teamwork … [being] a community,” says Dedi. “I got all these ideas from travelling. When I was young, I got zero motivation. So, we tried to set up this because there is no real education in school.”

With only the national TV station on twenty-four hour hum in households and international channels reserved for those with money, he says the local kids lack input and ideas.

“It’s sort of brainwash. Put us down. There is no support to educate them to grow their own smart. Keep the small people low.”

As we walk back up the beach after our lesson his face shrouds, kicking at one of the many plastic rubbish nests made of single-sip plastic water cups, snack bags and wrappers lining the edge of the shore.

“I need to wake these people up, I don’t get how they don’t see this … It is really sad.”

It’s something that robs Dedi of his sleep, turning ideas in his head on how to instil awareness of the environment.

Him and his grom squad used to clean up the beach every week, but he says the kids are getting tired of seeing the rubbish return just days later. Despite setting up trash cans, the rubbish would still end up strewn around the picnic spots and fireplaces they leave behind.

“They are so lazy …they bring the water cup … they could bring the gallon.”

He says he has lobbied local authorities to issue hefty fines for littering but has yet to get any support for his plight.

“Many international surfers who come here they will think we don’t care. But we deeply care. It is our home.”

The thing with tourism dollars

Dedi wants to bring attention to Lakey and thinks having international surf contests back in Lakey could inspire the local kids. But government attention on its tourism is a double-edged sword.

“The government is not looking at Sumbawa as tourism priority, it’s more of a mining destination,” says Krystyna Krassowska, who runs a sustainable trail tourism business across Indonesia and has been working as team leader for the tourism master plan in Labuan Bajo (Flores). “The minute they get some sort of recognition as a potential tourism object, then it comes down to what is there – and the government’s understanding of this… Take Uluwatu for example, which was natural and amazing, which is now being destroyed by the different perception the government has of what nature-based sports tourists seek. It’s not to be able to drive mega buses up there. They make it ‘more valuable’ by infrastructure development which is not what the surf community wants. This is where the great conflict emerges – so is it a good thing or a bad thing that [Lakey Peak] is not on the priority list?”

She says it’s due to Indonesia’s decentralisation that districts, such as Hu’u, are responsible themselves of how they distribute the profits from their assets – may it be tourism or mining – back to the people.

Investment into clean water, waste management, schools, and training are up to the district leadership.

Despite his hope to give locals something to aspire to, Dedi is firm that he does not want to see his Lakey Peak descend into a new Bali.

“Imagine everyone loves Lakey Peak, all these investors out there … bang, five-star hotels, clubs,” he says.

Krystyna says to keep the integrity of the place it needs sustainable investment from individuals.

“Local communities and villages are then able to recognise their eco-tourism assets, like surfing, which is also in line what the surfing community wants. This would empower local village leaders to align district-led investment with what they actually need.”

As the sun sets, Dedi and the groms kick around a soccer ball at the lawn in front of The Peak.

Dozens of the boys have previously qualified for national surf contests in Bali, so far without any government support to help cover costs.

“I want to put them on the right path,” he says, envisioning a Boardriders club house for the kids, with some beds to sleep and a room for teaching.

“But,” he says, “the kids won’t walk out of the house without fixing their bed first.”

He wants to create a community garden where they would grow fruit and vegetables in exchange for donations, vehemently rejecting the idea of them going around ‘begging’.

“There is a life out there,” he says. “A lot of opportunity, a potential. You got to give it a shot. Don’t say you can’t. Give it a go. Don’t stay in the same place. Climb the rope to the top.”

(Editor’s note: The author Fran Rimrod was your ol pal DR’s sub-editor back when he was writing polemics for Fairfax Newspapers in Australia. She’s on a worldwide hunt for waves with her stud and two kids.)