The Bra Boys are teenagers and adults who are part of the surf culture, founded and based in Maroubra, an eastern suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. Dating back to the 1990s, the gang has gained notoriety through violent clashes with members of the public and police. The surfing organization achieved national and international attention in 2007 with the release of a feature-length documentary entitled Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water, written and directed by members of the group.
The Bra Boys are held together by surfing as well as community ties. The group is often linked with the Maroubra Surfers Association, with which a number of its members are associated. In an interview on Triple J radio, Koby Abberton pointed out the "Bra" is a reference to the gang's suburb, Maroubra, and partly after the street slang for brother. Some members of the gang tattoo "My Brother's Keeper" across the front of their chest, "Bra Boys" and Maroubra's postcode "2035" on their backs.
With a reputation of being territorial, the group is known to have taken control of a Sydney reef break, known as 'Cape Solander', located in Kurnell, and renaming the break 'Ours'. In July 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald reported an altercation that took place between professional bodyboarder Mitch Rawlins and a group of several Bra Boys members, including Koby Abberton. Rawlins was allegedly approached by a Bra Boy member and told to "fuck off". It is believed an argument broke out and then turned physical with Rawlins being punched in the head. A spokesman for the Bra Boys confirmed there had been "some sort of small incident" but denied any major violence.
Notoriety and violence
Prominent Bra Boys members include rugby league players Reni Maitua, John Sutton, as well as the Abberton brothers, Sunny, Jai, Dakota, and Koby, with the latter being the most notorious of the brothers.
A syndicate with alleged links to members of the Bra Boys were caught smuggling cocaine following interceptions of conversations dating back to 1997. It was alleged that the syndicate was granted security passes to restricted areas within Sydney Airport, bypassing Australian Customs, enabling the prohibited narcotics to be smuggled from Los Angeles by being concealed in on-board catering refuse. In 2005, Jai Abberton was acquitted of the 2003 murder of stand-over man Anthony 'Tony' Hines. However, his brother Koby was handed a suspended nine-month jail sentence after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice in the same matter.
General community activism
In late 2002, around 160 members of the gang attending a birthday party at the Coogee-Randwick RSL Club were involved in a brawl with off-duty Waverley police officers leaving a Christmas party on the same premises. News reports numbered the combatants in the incident at around 120, with 30 police officers left injured after the event. In August 2005, the Bra Boys led a 100-person non-violent protest against plans by Randwick Council to introduce parking meters near the local beaches.
"The reason why it's not happening at Maroubra is because of the Bra Boys. Girls go to Cronulla, Bondi, everywhere else in Sydney and get harassed, but they come to Maroubra and nothing happens to them. I read all this stuff about kids getting harassed because they want to have a surf and I say 'are you kidding?' The beach should be for Aussie kids. But if you want to go to beaches and act tough in groups you better be able to back it up. If these fellas come out to Maroubra and start something they know it's going to be on, so they stay away."
Following the riots, in which the Bra Boys did not claim any involvement, Maroubra was the target of retaliation by Middle Eastern gangs. The Abberton brothers then held well-publicised meetings with other groups to help ease tensions. "I think that this is the start, the boys have agreed to come down and talk to us, to start some dialogue between the groups, you know, to try and ease some tension", said Sunny Abberton in a group interview on The 7.30 Report.
In popular culture
The Bra Boys were made the subject of satire by The Chaser's War on Everything, episode 29, aired on 11 April 2007. In the skit Julian Morrow approached gang members while wearing a pill-filled brassiere and sporting a tattoo similar to Koby Abberton's saying "mybrothersalibi". A gang member responded by slipping off one of his thong sandals and flinging it at Morrow.
Long-running Australian television soap opera Home and Away has produced a thinly veiled reference to the Bra Boys in the fictional storyline of the River Boys that was broadcast in Australia commencing 16 February 2011.
Inspired by the friendship and brotherhood codes instilled by the Bra Boys, the Abberton brothers created a clothing line to reflect the importance of solid bonds between friends and family entitled MyBrothersKeeper Clothing, sometimes referred to as MBK Clothing. MyBrothersKeeper is a reference to the unspoken motto of the Bra Boys and can be somewhat translated as the unconditional love, respect and support of those close to you regardless of race, gender and age.
A 90-minute documentary film about the surf gang entitled Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water premiered in Sydney on 7 March 2007 and was released on 15 March 2007. The film details a story of the Bra Boys from the viewpoint of the gang, particularly the Abbertons. Sunny Abberton wrote and co-directed the film with Macario De Souza. Actor Russell Crowe provided narration. The film's official cast included 49 well-known surfers from Bra Boys members Evan Faulks and Richie 'Vas' Vaculik to eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater and surfing legends including Mark Occhilupo, Bruce Irons, and Laird Hamilton.
Australian reviewer Margaret Pomeranz gave the movie an overall positive review, while her At the Movies co-host David Stratton criticised Sunny's amateurish direction and questioned how objective a documentary can be when it is directed by its subject.
The documentary became Australia's highest-grossing non-IMAX documentary film and won the Best Documentary at the 2008 Movie EXTRA Filmink Awards. The movie saw a limited release in the United States that began on 11 April 2008 in 23 select locations in Southern California, New York and Hawaii. The film was distributed in Australia by Hopscotch Films and internationally by boutique distributor Berkela Films. The film was released on DVD on 16 August 2007 with extras including the documentary The Making of Bra Boys, extended surfing footage, coverage of the film's premiere, history of Australian surf culture, a fitness program presented by one of the Bra Boys, and music videos.
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