Ever wondered who paved the way for one of Hawaii’s most popular ocean activities? These are 6 important figures in Hawaii’s surf world.
Some of the state’s most significant surfers have helped to not only popularize the sport, but to also inspire those who may not have ever imagined heading out for a surf lesson.
Down below are 6 of the most important figures in the Hawaii surf world!
1) Duke Kahanamoku
If you put two and two together, you’ll realize that to be a great surfer you also need to be an amazing swimmer. Honolulu native, Duke Kahanamoku, was both of these.
Duke was born in 1980, around the same time that surfing was completely disappearing in Hawaii. Despite this, he would still go out and surf the beautiful waves of Waikiki, teaching others around him the ways of the sport.
He also developed amazing swimming skills, leading to multiple Olympic medal wins, and introduced the art of surfing to places beyond Hawaii, such as Australia and California.
Duke wasn’t just an amazing athlete. He was a model embodiment of a person who acts with “aloha” and to this day, is still considered the “father of surfing”.
His loving, welcoming spirit was so impactful that there is now a statue of him in Waikiki, one of the most popular surf spots in the world. He was an important figure in Hawaii’s surf world!
You must be wondering if Kahanamoku passed on his surfing legacy to the next generation, and to answer that thought, of course he did!
One of his mentees, Rabbit Kekai, was one of Hawaii’s best, and a good friend of Duke’s. Rabbit is acclaimed for being the original “nose rider”, or the first to “hang ten”.
2) Eddie Aikau
Most Hawaii locals have heard the phrase, “Eddie Would Go” at some point in their life. This phrase is accredited to the one and only Kahului native, Eddie Aikau.
Eddie was born in 1946, and spent a lot of his life being an amazing, dependable lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the North shore of Oahu.
He also surfed some of the biggest waves out there, and even won the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship!
On a voyagiving trip to Tahiti, Eddie’s group encountered an unexpected set of waves, leading him to paddle out and look for help.
Eddie was never seen again, yet his inspiration and legacy will continue to live on in the surf world forever.
The phrase mentioned earlier, “Eddie Would Go”, is a perfect way to describe Aikau’s life of selflessness. It represents how he would head out into waves that most wouldn’t dare to in order to help someone else.
3) Gerry Lopez
Pipeline: one of the most sought after and well-known surf spots in the world. Honolulu native, Gerry Lopez, was one of the key people in the popularization of this spot and one of the important figures in Hawaii’s surf world.
Gerry was born in 1948, and grew up surfing all the time.
He was given the title by many as “the best tube-rider in the world”, and even impressively won the Pipeline Masters competition, gaining the respect of tons.
Lopez wasn’t just an amazing surfer at Pipeline, but he was also a huge influence in Hawaii’s surfboard manufacturing world.
He started Lightning Bolt Surfboards, one of the state’s best surfboard brands that is still sold today!
4) Rell Sunn
It’s about time we talk about a female powerhouse in the ocean. Makaha native, Rell Sunn, is exactly this!
Born in 1950, Rell was never afraid to paddle out amongst the bravest and baddest surfers on Oahu’s west shore. Her confidence, kindness, and aloha was radiant, and she began competing to show the world what female surfers could do.
Rell paved the way for so many women in the surfing world by partaking in things like creating the Women’s Professional Surfing organization, becoming Hawaii’s first female lifeguard, as well as starting the Rell Sunn Menehune Surf Contest in her hometown of Makaha. Rell is one of the more important figures in Hawaii’s surf world because of all the contributions made!
Although Sunn unfortunately passed away in 1998, her legacy of aloha and goodness will continue to live on forever!
5) Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton, a Lihue native, is someone who is looked up to with an insane amount of inspiration and love. Many might remember watching the 2011 movie Soul Surfer and being in complete awe of her.
Bethany was born in 1990, and grew up competitively ripping the waves of Kauai. At just the young age of 13, she was attacked by a shark, causing her to lose her left arm. Fortunately, she survived this.
Despite this horrible event, Bethany didn’t turn her back on the ocean forever. Only 1 month after her attack, she began surfing again. She would then go on to win many competitions and awards, and start multiple, amazing organizations.
Hamilton continues to be a role model for young women and men all over the world, and will forever be one of Hawaii’s biggest inspirations.
6) Carissa Moore
If you’ve ever been to Oahu, you may have come across the plant-based soft serve shop, Banán.
Banán is extremely popular on the island, and a local favorite of many. One of their most popular creations is called the “Riss Moore” and is named after none other than Honolulu native, Carissa Moore.
Carissa was born in 1992, and competitively surfed for most of her life. She’s won multiple titles and has been a positive, inspirational light in the surf community.
Surfing was added to the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2020 at Tokyo, Japan. Carissa won the first ever gold medal for surfing, making her home state of Hawaii prouder than ever.
She will continue to inspire youth not just in Hawaii, but all over the world.
Regardless of whether you live in Hawaii or not, it’s always important to honor and appreciate those important figures in Hawaii’s surf world who have and are still paving the way in the surfing world.
Now that you’ve read about a few of Hawaii’s most impactful surfers, we hope you feel inspired by these unsung heroes.
Hopefully you’ll feel more motivated to sign up for that surf lesson you heard about or even just desire to start heading out into the big blue more!