The victim of yesterday’s deadly shark attack off South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula has been identified as 15-year-old Khai Cowley, who is being remembered as a “talented and dearly loved” young surfer.

Key points:

  • A teenage boy was fatally attacked by a shark off the SA coast on Thursday
  • Surfing SA says the victim was a talented young surfer
  • Tributes are being paid to the young victim on social media and within the surfing community

The boy, from Maslin Beach in Adelaide’s south, died in the attack near Ethel Beach on Thursday afternoon.

Seaview Road Board Riders, Khai’s surf club, said the boy was a “third generation Roader” following in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle, and his death had left the club in “disbelief and devastation”.

“He was a standout,” the club wrote on Facebook.

“He helped the little groms, made their trainings fun and they all looked up to him.

“Khai was one of our top groms and was due to represent the club at the Boardriders Battle in March.

“We will surf this for you Khai with all our heart and soul.”

Khai Cowley’s surf club, the Seaview Road Board Riders, said the teenager was one of their “top groms”.(Facebook)

Surfing South Australia said its “utmost sympathies” were with the boy’s family.

“We are devastated to learn that a young, talented and dearly loved member of our surfing community was the surfer involved in the attack at Ethel Beach,” the group wrote in a statement.

“[We] are absolutely shattered to hear the incident was fatal.

“We ask you keep [the boy’s family] in your thoughts and respect their privacy as they navigate such a heartbreaking time.”

A bunch of flowers left in tribute to Khai Cowley.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

In an Instagram post this morning, Surfing SA said Khai was “very involved in our surfing community”, and had a  “passion for surfing stemming from a family with deep surfing roots in SA”.

“He was a happy, kind and respectful kid, very much loved by his surfing peers and he will be greatly missed out in our community and on the water,” the post stated.

A GoFundMe page set up by the boy’s aunty to raise funeral costs states that the young surfer “was suddenly taken from us by a white pointer while surfing”.

Luke Winter was at Ethel Beach on Friday morning, and knew Khai’s family.

“He was always a go-getter,” he said.

“The whole family was a surfer family.”

Mr Winter said his own family had been planning to head out on jetskis on Thursday afternoon, but the windy conditions kept them off the water.

“It hits pretty close to home … I don’t know what to make of it,” he said.

Local Sean Hanna was also at the beach to pay his respects to Khai.

“His love of surfing was such he was out there yesterday [despite the conditions],” he said.

He said he hoped the attack did not discourage people from taking to the surf.

Young surfer Khai Cowley was fatally attacked by a shark off the South Australian coast.(Facebook)

Tributes to the teenager have also been posted more widely on social media.

“Fly high … some of my most memorable surfs were with you,” one post read.

A junior surf club to which Khai Cowley belonged shared a tribute to the young victim.

“It is with immense sadness that Microgroms Junior Surf Club remember Khai after his devastating passing,” it said.

“Khai was a member since 2016 and will be remembered as a good friend and talented surfer who was well respected and admired by all that knew him.”

School’s ‘heavy heart’ at student’s loss

Khai Cowley attended Cardijn College, whose principal Steve Byrne has written an open letter to the school community acknowledging, with a “heavy heart”, the loss of the year 9 student, and advising of available support for those “deeply affected by this tragic news”.

“Khai is fondly remembered as a talented young surfer and spirited teenager. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with his parents Kate and Tim and younger brother, Jett,” Mr Byrne wrote.

“The SA surfing community is wrapping around the family and on behalf of the college I have offered to assist where we can.

“May perpetual light shine upon Khai and may he rest in peace.”

He also was a member of the Port Noarlunga Football Club, which wrote on Facebook that its members were “heartbroken” to hear of the passing of “one of our own”.

“Khai and his family have been part of our community for many years, and we are absolutely shattered to hear this news,” it said.

A fatal shark attack took place near Ethel Beach on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula on Thursday afternoon.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Marty Goody, a surfer and resident of Stansbury on Yorke Peninsula, said he understood the teenager was surfing with family at the time of the attack.

“It’s a very small surfing community on the Yorke Peninsula and everyone knows each other, so I was just checking to see if it was anyone I knew,” he said.

“That’s when I found out it was that 15-year-old lad and his dad, so it would have been terrible.”

SA Police responded to reports a person had been “seriously injured” around 1:30pm, later confirming the body of a teenage boy was recovered from the water.

Authorities said Yorke Mid North Police, detectives and crime scene investigators attended the scene and a report is now being prepared for the coroner.

Ethel Beach is located at Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, a location popular with tourists, fishers and surfers.

Marion Bay Ocean Safari owner Ryan Valente told ABC Radio Adelaide the town was in shock.

“It’s the stuff nightmares are made of,” he said.

“I’ve got some friends in the area who’ve been here since day dot, and talking to them, not even in their memory can they remember anything close to an event like this.”

Nearby resident and surfer Luke Sykora said the incident was “tragic”.

“I have seen a fair few sharks here over 22 years, but that is the first fatal attack that we’ve had down here,” he said.

“I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone … to even be at the same beach at the same time.”

The attack is the latest of several in South Australia this year.

A 15-year-old boy killed in a shark attack in South Australia is being remembered as a “talented and dearly loved” member of the surfing community.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Deputy Premier Susan Close described Mr Cowley’s death as a “tragedy”.

She said the State Government was not considering introducing shark deterrents, despite the state recording three shark attack fatalities this year.

“There are policy interventions that are used interstate, such as attempts to deflect sharks from particular areas whether through nets or through noises,” she said.

“That tends to work if you’ve got a very intense population area and that’s not the case for South Australia.

“We’ve got this long coastline and these attacks have occurred at pretty far-flung places.”

The shark attack at Ethel Beach follows several others in South Australian waters over recent months.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

In May, 46-year-old surfer Simon Baccanello was fatally attacked at Walkers Rock Beach near Elliston on Eyre Peninsula.

In November another surfer, Tod Gendle, was killed further up the west coast near Streaky Bay.

The 55-year-old was knocked off his board by a shark while he was paddling into the water near Granites Beach.

Environmental science honours student Bridgette O’Shannessy suffered serious injuries when she was bitten on the head near the jetty at Port Noarlunga.

In October, south-east woman Pam Cook was left with leg injuries when she was attacked by a shark while swimming near the jetty at Beachport.

Rodney Fox Shark Museum researcher Andrew Fox said the spate of attacks was “quite a difference” to previous years.

“These little clusters [of attacks] are more often seen in Western Australia and in the eastern states,” he said.

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