SURF IS UP: Author Lester Brien at the Byron bay Surf Festival. Photo Veda Dante / Byron Shire News
SURF IS UP: Author Lester Brien at the Byron bay Surf Festival. Photo Veda Dante / Byron Shire News Veda Dante

Lester led colourful life

THE North Coast has lost one of its identities, 'surfing lawyer' Lester Brien who died on the weekend aged 71.

It is believed he spent some time in the Lower Clarence farming prawns, but Fandago owner Grant Dwyer remembers him best as a competitor.

"He was a Manly kid and I was from Bondi; he was in a surf club that used to go against us," he laughed.

"He was such a well-known character and a wonderful guy, but young people wouldn't know of him at all. In the early days you pretty much knew the good surfers at every beach."

Part of the influx of great surfers who moved to Byron Bay in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr Brien was a finalist in the Australian surfing titles in 1968, according to the Century of Surf (COS) Facebook page.

Shortly after moving to Byron Bay, Mr Brien became the lawyer of choice for pot-smoking surfers caught by police.

"I was well known around then because I had all these drug cases," he said in a story published in The Sydney Morning Herald in 1979.

"If there was a drug case in the Northern Rivers I was the one acting, and that was simply because I was a surfer and I was known, and it was surfers getting busted for marijuana."

After ruffling feathers in the police and legal fraternity, in 1977 Mr Brien was summoned before the Woodward Royal Commission into the NSW drug trade.

When he refused to hand over his client files to the Commission, Mr Brien was jailed for six months for contempt.

Mr Brien was disbarred as a lawyer due to his actions, leading him down a path which later saw him run a 'surfari' company in Northern NSW.



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