Vale, a King of the surf
By BRUCE MACKENZIE
FOR the first time in years, it's easy to spot the locals in Byron Bay ? they're the ones with an expression of stunned disbelief on their faces.
The death of Ben King, due to an apparent heart attack at Yamba on Sunday, has rocked the town and sent shockwaves through the broader surfing community.
The fit and healthy 42-year-old's death has puzzled his friends and family, with many now vowing to have their own health checked.
A highly respected president of the Byron Bay Boardriders Club, 'BK', collapsed on the beach at Yamba just minutes after winning his heat in the Masters Division of the Far North Coast titles.
As news of his death spread throughout the community, people were drawn to the family's home opposite the Tallow Beach surf break known as Dolphins.
The enormous white brick structure was the castle the King had built for his queen Jenny, the high-school sweetheart he married more than 20 years ago.
Jenny yesterday had one last message for her soul mate:
"I have loved you always and will love you forever," she said.
"You have touched everyone's life who crossed your path. I am privileged to be the mother of your three amazing children. You will be with me and in my heart forever. I love you."
Three generations of surfers yesterday gathered to pay their respects and offer support to Jenny and the family's three children, Kurt, 14, Maddi, 13, and Paris, 7.
BK was a surfer's surfer, passionate, committed and talented. Once one of the Bay's brightest junior stars, his love for the act of riding waves was regenerated when his son Kurt began hitting the water.
Always one to give 100 percent, Ben was soon president of the boardriders' club and head of the committee that tackled the awesome logistical task or organising each year's Easter Surfing Classic. That contest will go ahead, and from now on will be known as the Ben King Me- morial Classic.
So, as Neil Young once noted; the King is gone, but he's not forgotten. He'll leave a huge hole in the lives of all who knew him, and Byron Bay certainly won't seem the same.
A traditional surfers' farewell 'paddle out' is planned, provided we can find a bay big enough to hold all those expected to turn up.
Fundraisers for the Kings will be organised in the near future, and the community will dig deep for a family which has given so generously of its own time and love.