Khai Cowley, victim of fatal shark attack, farewelled by hundreds at beach funeral service

Teenage surfer Khai Cowley has been remembered as someone who spread kindness to those around him, as family and friends pay tribute almost one month after his death. 

The 15-year-old died after being attacked by a shark while surfing at Ethel Beach on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, on December 28. 

Today, a service for Khai was held at a popular surf spot in Seaford known as “the Bowl” where members from Adelaide’s surfing and sporting communities wore club colours to show their support.

Speaking at the funeral, Khai’s father Tim Cowley said his son filled peoples lives with “so many beautiful memories”. 

“It’s so cruel that you’ve been taken from us at such a young age,” he said.

“I’m trying to take some peace in knowing how much you achieved in the 15 years that you were here, and how you spent those 15 years spreading kindness to all those around you.

Family and friends of Khai gathered for a service held on the beach in Seaford.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

“We don’t know where we go when we die, but I pray that one day I’ll get to see you again.

“If you can take something from Khai’s passing, live like Khai, truly love with all your heart, don’t waste a moment, don’t sweat the small stuff and laugh with your mates.

“We love you mate, forever and ever.”

Tim Cowley speaking at the funeral next to his wife Kate and son Jett.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

Mr Cowley described Khai as an “adventurous, outdoors kid”, who loved getting involved in sport. 

“From basketball to soccer to footy to skateboarding to bike riding, whatever it was it didn’t matter because it was all about hanging with the boys that he was doing it with,” he said. 

“But of course, predominantly the sport that he absolutely loved was surfing.

“He loved the water from before he could walk.”

Mr Cowley said Khai’s love for surfing started when he was about seven years old, when he joined the Micro Groms Junior Surf Club.

“Before we knew it, all of our weekends were taken up with chasing waves,” he said. 

“He then joined Seaview Road Boardriders when he was around 10, where he started competing in senior competitions.

“As he progressed, he started competing in state titles and other numerous competitions around the state, even getting the opportunity to represent his school at the Australian Junior Surf Titles in 2022.”

Khai Cowley has been remembered for “spreading kindness to all”.(Instagram)

Mr Cowley said during Khai’s time spent surfing he had made “unbelievable friendships”, many of whom were present at the funeral. 

“He spent so much time surfing this break behind me that we call the Bowl,” Mr Cowley said. 

“Him and all his mates would spend hours and hours out there, from sunrise right ’til dark, rain, hail or shine — these little grommets would absolutely be frothing on anything.”

Mr Cowley said it was the surf trips he took with his son that he cherished the most, as he recalled siting on the beach and watching his “beautiful boy do what he loved”. 

“It was the time we spent driving there together in the car, the time we spent surfing out together in the water and the time we’d call into the bakery and have lunch together and talk about our waves — this is something I’ll truly miss,” he said.

He said even more than his love for surfing was his love for his family, especially his younger brother Jett. 

“Khai absolutely loved you mate,” Mr Cowley said speaking to his youngest son.

“Whether it was play fighting with you, jumping on the trampoline, helping you get waves or just laughing together at dumb stuff on his phone, I know you meant the world to him.

“I hope you never forget these special times.”

Members from Adelaide’s surfing and wider sport communities wore their club colours to show support at the funeral.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

Jett Cowley described Khai as the “best big brother ever”.

“I love him so much,” he said.

“I’m really gonna miss hanging out with him and teaching me cool stuff.”

At the end of the service, attendees were invited to sprinkle sand collected from 41 surf locations across the state into the ocean, before they formed a guard of honour. 

The Seaview Road Boardriders will hold a paddle-out event on Saturday at the Bowl at Seaford.

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