Dave Sparenburg wins the over 40s NSW Surfmasters in 2008. Picture: Michael Tyrpenou
Dave Sparenburg wins the over 40s NSW Surfmasters in 2008. Picture: Michael Tyrpenou

Tributes flow for former Ballina surfer who died in Bali

FRIENDS of Dave Sparenburg, 53, who passed away in Bali on Wednesday, have paid tribute to a man who was well-respected in Ballina's surfing community.

Mr Sparenburg grew up in Cronulla, lived and surfed in Ballina for many years before he moved to Bali six years ago.

"He's a champion surfer who was universally loved and respected in the surfing community," friend and fellow Ballina surfer Max Perrot said.

"He was pretty positive in his outlook, and really humble for his surfing ability."

Mr Perrot has fond memories of winning the NSW state titles, and Australian championships, in the same year as Mr Sparenburg in their respective age categories.

"We were sitting on the beach and coaching each other through the heats," he said.

Mr Sparenburg's favourite Ballina surf breaks were North Wall and Lennox Point.

"In my eyes, he was a turtle grommet, an older guy who just loved his surfing," former Lennox Head-Ballina Boardriders club president Jonny Hewett said.

"He was always happy out there and had a pretty successful career in surfing.

"We kept in touch and he was enjoying the next stage of his life."

More recently, Mr Sparenburg was living just north of the Aussie tourist mecca of Canggu, deeply embedded in the community through his surf coaching.

He leaves behind a young daughter and his Balinese partner.

News of his death has come as a shock to his friends.

"I messaged him two weeks ago, he was in good spirits," Mr Perrot said.

According to Badung police chief Roby Septiad, Mr Sparenburg passed away in the arms of his girlfriend Eka Suartika, 29, after complaining of shortness of breath.

The cause of his death is unknown, it is understood Mr Sparenburg had a history of heart disease and may have succumbed to COVID-19.

"Because of the [coronavirus] situation, the investigation was also carried out with coronavirus protocols," Chief of Mengwi police, Mr I Ketut Wiwin Wirahadi said.

"The victim has already been subjected to swab samples, but we are still awaiting the results that will take two to three days to be processed."