Australian ex-pat surfer living in Bali who made the news thanks to two armed intruders and a near death experience.
"The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new places, but in having new eyes" – Marcel Proust
When I first met Paul Gill he was the Captain of a Palm Beach Ferry on Sydney's Northern Beaches. He looked to me to be all of 15 years old, but the powerful natural footer assures me he was in fact 19.
As a passenger twice a week, on a commute for school between Avalon and Avoca, the Palmy ferry was quite a laugh, helter skelter swells often resulting in me puking hours later at school from the sea sickness. I'm sure Captain Gill had a chuckle, semi-deliberately steering the leaky frigate into those puke-invoking lumps.
But this month (January 2013) much of the young sea captain's steely resolve was tested when he was assaulted and stabbed in a violent home invasion in Canggu, Bali. Paul was hospitalised, placed in an induced coma and monitored day to day. What had been for all intents and purposes a happy and enjoyable break from mainland Australia had now become a possible disaster.
In Paul's own words a week after the incident, which reveals the character of the guy, he said, "Wrestling and fighting in your birthday suit is not ideal". Making light of a very heavy situation typifies the relaxed nature of the captain.
Bandit wrestling was not high on the agenda for Paul on this trip; rather, he was keen on a stay in an idyllic island location, to raise the family in paradise for a while, interact and enjoy being in Bali. Bali, so popular with Australians, seemed the perfect choice.
"Hand to hand combat was quite low on the wish list," Paul explained. "Being stabbed was just below this. [But] as disappointing as these scenarios are, these situations do occur everywhere."
We all at some point think to pack up shop and go live the ideal life on an island – and many of us lucky enough to do so. However when a westerner moves to a Third World country, there is the disappointing but very real possibility of being a prime target for theft, robbery or worse. Paul's advice: believe it can happen to you and take responsibility for your own actions.
Awoken from slumber on the 4th of January, Paul and his wife were startled by two men who had broken into the house and had now entered their bedroom. With wife and two young children at the forefront of Paul's mind, Paul describes what he refers to as instinct, having been broken into a month prior, and the simple fact of there being intruders in your home. A rumble of sorts then took place.
Paul recalls getting the better of one assailant but was blindsided and literally backstabbed by the other from behind. The entire nightmare and battle lasting just over a couple of minutes.
As Paul's brother John explains, "In typical Gillo style, Paul self- diagnosed his injuries, plugged up his knife wounds, one of which was a punctured lung and with wife, family and guests in tow booted to the hospital. With what can only be described as horror and shock Paul's beautiful wife Jacqui passed out twice in the event trying to clean Paul up and get him to help. Paul was placed in an induced coma for a day and closely monitored before being released nine days later."
A mariner and captain for over 25 years 'Junior', or 'Gillo' as he is known, has continued his maritime and nautical pursuits far and wide; captain in the merchant navy, captain of super yachts here, there and everywhere. He has endured pirates from the Suez Canal, willingly competes in endurance events and chooses to swim the Rottnest Island Challenge.
Mastering his craft early on with that rickety Palm Beach ferry, Captain Gill is tempered with a reflective, surfer's pause on the incident so far; "These things do happen, this was unfortunate, but there are gems all over the world where this stuff happens, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Puerto Escondido. Shining gems, spicks of paradise".
A waterman through and through, even Paul's last name belongs to a fish; he is a tough surfer's surfer. Look at the photos above. As we go to print Paul has been released from hospital and whilst with injuries that would undermine most mortals Paul is upright and going okay.
The Balinese are wonderful people and it's a shame when something like this happens. Where the yardstick measures determination it reads 'Gillo' and Paul plans on staying in Bali for the immediate future with his family.
Paul intends to continue with Endurance events. Somewhere here, there must be a parallel between the beating that a marathon event gives you, overcoming the menace of that beating and the somewhat freakish healing and toughness that Paul has mustered from his assault and stabbing.
A powerful natural footer hailing from Sydney's Northern Beaches, Captain Paul Gill sails on.