It has been 11 years since the “Bra Boys” achieved worldwide fame through the Russell Crowe-narrated documentary exploring the surf gang from Sydney’s southeast.
Formed in Maroubra during the 1990s, the rebellious and territorial surf community was bonded by the social struggle of a troubled youth, with some members later linked to violence, drugs and the murder of a well-known Sydney standover man.
In 2005, members from the Bra Boys and Comanchero OMCG — including slain bikie prince Mick Hawi — held a joint press conference to call for peace on the streets following unrest at Maroubra in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla race riots.
Two years later, the award-winning Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water documentary was released and detailed the story of the gang from the viewpoint of its own members.
Despite attracting negative attention from time to time, the small community has managed to produce some of Sydney’s most decorated athletes and creative minds.
While a founder of the Bra Boys said the group has “grown significantly” since the 1990s, most of the original members have shifted their focus to work and family outside of the gang. Here’s where they are now:
Arguably the most high-profile member of the Bra Boys, international big wave surfer Koby Abberton has previously praised the sport for saving him from a life in prison or worse.
He first made headlines after being charged with accessory to murder after the fact, hindering the police investigation and attempting to pervert the course of justice for the 2003 murder of standover thug Tony Vincent Hines. He was given a nine-month suspended sentence.
The trail was a strong part of the narrative of the Bra Boys documentary.
After the film was released, Abberton was shot to superstardom and was seen mingling with American heiress Paris Hilton. He also dated Australian model Tahyna Tozzi.
In 2008, he spent three days in custody for assaulting an off-duty police officer in Honolulu.
Abberton is the first to admit he has made mistakes in the past, but has been working on building a new life away from the professional surfing circuit with his wife Olya Nechiporenko — a Ukrainian model, psychologist and accountant.
The couple now have a three year son and live together in Bali, which he said offers a nice escape from his past life in Sydney.
“I still live in Bali with my family and it helps to live comfortably,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“I just came back from China where I won a surf contest, but I don’t do that much anymore as I never really liked the surf world or the media attention that came with it.
“Now most of my work is on solar farms for a company called Ozmac.”
Even though there has long been a negative perception linked to the Bra Boys, the success of members doesn’t surprise Abberton.
“We said it was going to be like that from the very start. We wanted to go out and change surfing world and always knew it was going to happen like that.”
However, Abberton makes the point of saying he doesn’t just upport the Bra Boys who have made lucrative careers, but for each and every member regardless of their circumstances, making particular mention of those charged with murder last year.
“Whatever happened doesn’t change anything. I love the boys and I love their dad.”
NRL player John Sutton is one of the more high-profile members of the Bra Boys, with the Rabbitohs star previously saying the beach brotherhood at Maroubra helped push him toward his goal of playing rugby league at the highest level.
Sutton was inducted into the eastern beachside tribe as a teenager after growing up surfing and assisting with a monthly beach patrol at the Maroubra break.
The Rabbitohs player previously said senior Bra Boys Kobe and Sunny Abberton shouted him and former Bulldogs player Reni Maitua dinner and tattoos as part of the entry process into the tight-knit clan.
“I was 18 when the older boys approached a few of us. They asked if we wanted to get tatts, and for us that was an honour,’’ Sutton told The Daily Telegraph in 2008.
After encouragement from older boys in the gang, then-20-year-old Sutton made his NRL debut for the South Sydney Rabbitohs against the Brisbane Broncos in 2004.
Earlier this year, he became the first Rabbitohs player to reach the 300 game milestone, making him only the 12th man to achieve the feat as a one club player.
RICHIE ‘VAS’ VACULIK
While some of the Bra Boys made it as professional surfers and NRL players, Richie Vaculik took the road less travelled and became a cage fighter in the UFC.
Vaculik narrowly avoided prison after breaking a man’s jaw on the Gold Coast in 2007 while celebrating Mick Fanning’s world title win.
He was charged with grievous bodily harm and faced up to 14 years in jail before the charge was downgraded after negotiations between his lawyer and police. Vaculik was not convicted.
This is the moment he needed to turn his life around.
“After making a few mistakes in my mid twenties I was able refocus on what I love: MMA and surfing. I fought my way into the UFC being the first Aussie flyweight to do so, which has lead to some work opportunities that I’m very grateful to enjoy today,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
In 2016, he released a book called Bra Boy, which detailed his life growing up on the tough streets of Maroubra and progression into a professional athlete.
Vaculik now works on his ‘Vas Files’ podcast and continues to train MMA.
“I’m still fighting and looking to get one or two more out before hanging up the gloves. Hoping to make that walk again in the next six months,” he said.
“[I also] co-host UFC Fight Week on Fox Sports which I love.”
Since the film, Vaculik has experienced “most of the stock standard things that change from your early twenties to mid thirties” which has included him getting married and having a 20-month-old daughter.
As for the brotherhood and the local area, he said there is a little less madness due a lot of the boys starting families and the gentrification of the area.
“Although, a bunch of the younger boys went up on the weekend to get scarred up with Bra Boys tatts so it’s good to see the place won’t be losing all of its madness anytime soon,” he joked. “The younger generation are as proud of the area and community as we are.”
MACARIO DE SOUZA
The man behind the Bra Boys documentary Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water has continued his career working in film and TV thanks to the success of the feature.
“I was fortunate to have Russell Crowe take me under his wing and show me the ropes for a few years as I crafted my storytelling skills and built on my music career under the guise of Kid Mac,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
After working on the first film, De Souza created another award-winning feature documentary, Fighting Fear, which focused on fellow Bra Boys Mark Mathews and Richie Vaculik.
The aftermath of the film saw De Souza secure a television show.
“Together with our mentor Michael Lawrence, we then created the Channel 9/Fox Sports series The Crew which followed the careers of Mark, Richie and myself as three best mates chasing our big dreams around the world with surfing, fighting, music and film,” he said.
As a result of these projects, he was able to start his own production company, Hype Republic, and a second creative coworking space in Rosebery.
He got married in 2014 and had a baby girl, Aura, two years later.
After spending his time working on film projects in LA, he is now developing his first scripted drama feature, which will go into production next year.
He is also working on a third studio album under Kid Mac.
The Bra Boy said even though Maroubra has gotten expensive and pushed a lot of his generation out, he is thankful the vibe hasn’t changed too much.
“It’s still a country beach town in the big smoke,” he said.
“A lot of young families have moved into the area which has also brought a great energy, which maintains the tight-knit community we all love so much.
“We still have our hardships just like anywhere else in the world, but I think the future is looking bright for Maroubra and our brotherhood especially with a bunch of the younger guys having graduated from university, getting their trades, starting their own businesses and supporting each other to do well.”
Despite living in adjoining Daceyville, Reni Maitua became friendly with the Maroubra crew after constantly surfing the break with his good mate and fellow NRL star John Sutton.
Similar to Sutton, the former NRL player was invited to join the gang after earning the respect of senior Bra Boys members.
“It’s not about initiation rituals or anything like that, it’s about a respect for the beach and a respect for each other,” Maitua previously recalled to The Daily Telegraph.
“Just because you grow up in the area doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to get a tattoo. You’ve got to have the respect of the older boys.’’
After being pushed by senior members of the Bra Boys to chase his footy dreams, Maitua made his NRL debut with the Bulldogs in 2004 and played on the bench in the club’s premiership winning team the same year.
He would be dropped to reserve grade in 2006 after being caught drink driving and again in 2008 after he was spotted in a drunken state at a T2 nightclub on Oxford Street.
The following year he made a move to Cronulla, but was banned from the NRL for two years after testing positive to a banned substance.
He signed with the Parramatta Eels on return from suspension for the 2011 NRL season and played with the club until he returned to the Bulldogs in 2014.
Maitua moved to England and played rugby league from until 2016 when he retired from the sport in order to pursue a career in boxing.
He came out of retirement and played for the Toronto Wolfpack this year, but since confirmed his retirement so he could take up the role of Player Welfare Manager at the club.
“Maitua exemplifies what it is to overcome adversity and knows what it takes to be the model professional on the field. He is also a highly thought of person off it and will take up a hands on role, focusing on player welfare, with the view of supporting the players in overcoming any challenges both in and away from being a professional sportsman,” it said in a statement
Mark Matthews grew up surfing at Maroubra with the Abberton brothers and later became one of the top big wave surfers in the world.
The professional surfer tackled some of the world’s wildest surf conditions, became a three-time Oakley Big Wave surf award winner and organised the first Red Bull Cape Fear event — a surfing competition held at a local Sydney break known locally as ‘Ours’.
Matthews and Richie Vaculik were the subjects of a follow-up to the Bra Boys documentary known as Fighting Fear, which explored their turbulent journey towards manhood.
“We were mugs growing up. We did a lot of things wrong and you see that in the movie,” he told The Daily Telegraph at the time.
“But that’s what made us who we are today, so having them in there is a good thing for us to see and also for kids, especially in the area we come from.”
Those formative years and the subsequent success with his surfing career saw Matthews undertake an unexpected metamorphosis into a motivational speaker, having delivered keynotes to Google, Sony, Intel and Mastercard.
“Matthews is on a mission [to] offer game changing ways to adapt to stress and increase wonder in the lives of others,” his website explains.
“He has deconstructed, fine tuned, and personalised emotion and resilience techniques to successfully strengthen ones mindset and sustain long term performance.”
The oldest of the Abberton brothers and Bra Boy founder Sunny Abberton has kept a low profile since the film, which he co-directed.
The former professional surfer has since been given an IMDB credit for an appearance in the 2013 documentary Hoones.
When Home And Away introduced a storyline which was inspired by the surf gang, Abberton said he found it somewhat flattering, but hoped they wouldn’t take the stereotypical negative storyline.
Abberton took part in a surfing competition in which Bra Boys battled it out against their Bondi rivals for a TV documentary series in 2015.
One year later, he was reported to be working in Western Australia as a fly-in fly-out miner.
Hailing from Maroubra, Evan Faulks is another Bra Boy affiliated surfer who has built a reputation for tackling some of the biggest waves on the planet.
The accomplished competitor has won numerous awards, but gave away regular competition to focus his energy on big wave surfing.
Faulks now spends much of his time in Bali and is still surfing some of the biggest waves on the planet.
In July this year he underwent surgery on his knee and is waiting to get back in the water.
“Had many bumps and bruises over the years. Time has taken its toll on my knee. So it’s under the knife and a long nine months to get back to the water,” he wrote on Instagram.
Like his brothers, Jai Abberton is a former professional surfer who rose to fame in the 2007 documentary.
The 90-minute feature film had a strong focus on Jai Abberton for his role in the murder of violent extortionist Anthony Gerard Hines whose naked body was found at the base of cliffs in Maroubra in 2003.
Jai was charged and later acquitted of the murder, claiming self-defence, even though he admitted to shooting Hines after he tried to rape a girl.
In 2012, Abberton was been jailed for 15 months over a wild melee at Byron Bay police station during which he was tasered three times.
He tried to have the charges overturned because of his alleged mental illness — the court heard he had been in a drug rehabilitation facility and had also broken multiple bones after jumping out of a tree while in an agitated state — but the magistrate rejected Abberton’s application.
Abberton was convicted of assaulting police and causing grievous bodily harm and was jailed for 15 months, with a non-parole period set at nine months.
Surfer and father of two Ricky Taylor was one of the original Bra Boys who sadly died on September 8, leaving behind his wife Ash and children Kye, 11, and Brixton, 7.
Taylor was Maroubra born and bred, and had developed a love of surfing from a young age.
After finishing school, he became an apprentice electrician but was a talented bass player who performed in many bands and even worked as a roadie.
More than 600 friends and family spilt out of the South Chapel at Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park at his funeral on late last month, with a mass paddle-out at Maroubra Beach following the service.
The Rabbitohs even wore black armbands in their preliminary final against the Roosters in tribute to the father of two.
Richie Vaculik said the tragic news helped bring the surf community back together.
“It was great to see the strength of the brotherhood throughout all generations recently when everyone came together in a great send off of a much loved and respected bra boy, Ricky Taylor,” he said.
“It was great to see some heads I hadn’t seen for 10-15 years and really reinforced what we are all about.”