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Surfing's Decline
Modern Surfing
The Duke
Modern Boards
Surf Clubs
Waikiki Beachboys
Competitive Surfing
Modern Surfing Greats
Surfing in Popular Culture
Tom Blake
Bibliography - Surfing

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Modern Surfing Greats

There are scores of notable surfers from the last few decades, but here are just a few:

Rabbit Kekai started surfing at Waikiki in the 1920s. As a surfer and expert outrigger canoe steersman, Kekai got his training from Duke Kahanamoku, Dad Center and others of the original beachboy set. Kekai got his captain's license at age 15 and made a career of living on and in the water. As a surfer, Kekai was one of the first to start hotdogging on smaller boards. In the 1940s, he was one of the founders of Waikiki Surf Club.

Bob Simmons turned to surfing in the 1930s as a way of strengthening an arm hurt in a bicycle accident. Simmons surfed the coasts of California and Hawai`i and was one of the first to consistently ride the big waves at Sunset Beach. He made significant contributions to surfboard design, making balsa wood and fiberglass boards that replaced heavier redwood and balsa boards. Simmons died in 1954 riding big surf at Windansea in La Jolla, California.

Peruvian Carlos Dogny fell in love with surfing while visiting the Outrigger Canoe Club in Hawai`i and took the sport back to Peru with him in 1941. He founded the upscale Club Waikiki in Miraflores, on the coast near Lima, to take advantage of good surf near the capitol city.

Wally Froiseth arrived in Hawai`i as a kid in the mid-1920s and by age eight, he had his first surfboard. While mastering the surf at Waikiki, he became friends with Tom Blake. Wanting to tackle bigger waves with greater control, Froiseth developed the first Hot Curl surfboard, slimming the tail and giving it a slight V-shape. Froiseth was among the first to take on the challenge of big surf at Makaha.

George Downing came to Honolulu to live with his aunt during World War II. Her husband Wally Froiseth quickly introduced Downing to big surf at Makaha, a challenge they both relished. Downing put much energy and attention into refining the tactics and equipment for riding big surf. He was the first to use balsa boards for maximum advantage and the first to create a system of changeable fins. Today he still keeps an eye on the big waves, using his authoritative knowledge to call the Eddie Aikau Invitational Surfing Classic at Waimea Bay, waiting for that balanced moment of monster wave size just short of treacherous.

Buffalo Keaulana is known as the King of Makaha. At home in the ocean, Keaulana has done it all - ridden big waves, bodysurfed, spearfished, paddled canoes, surfed canoes, surfed tandem - and has instilled in his children that same love and respect for the sea. Keaulana is the grandaddy figure behind the World Longboard Championships held at Makaha, having also started Buffalo's Big Board Classic to help revive longboard surfing. He also uses his expertise doing stunts and water safety in TV and film productions.

Greg Noll grew up surfing with the Manhattan Beach Surf Club in California. He came out to Hawai`i as a teenager and was among the pioneers who first surfed Oahu's North Shore. In the 1960s, Noll was one of the premier board shapers while also producing several classic surf movies.

Raised in San Francisco, Fred Van Dyke didn’t surf until a college football injury got him swimming and running on the beach as part of his rehabilitation. He met Hawaiian transplant Cliff Kamaka body surfing in San Francisco Bay then fell in love with waveriding himself. Van Dyke's surfing career encompassed the days of balsa and redwood boards, riding the big waves on the North Shore and surfing's transformation into a mainstream popular sport. In addition to his surfing career, Van Dyke was a teacher at Punahou School in Honolulu for a number of years.

Eddie Aikau grew up surfing at Waimea Bay and earned his fame tackling Waimea's big waves. He became the first lifeguard at the park there in 1968 and in 1971 was named lifeguard of the year. In 1978, Aikau joined the crew of the voyaging canoe Hokule`a on its planned journey to Tahiti. When the canoe capsized in Hawaiian waters, Aikau paddled his surfboard toward Lana`i to get help, but was never seen again. A thousand mourners attended his funeral at Waimea Bay. Aikau's memory inspired the Quicksilver/Eddie Aikau Invitational Surfing Classic, limited to 33 of the world's best big-wave riders, competing on waves that must be a minimum of 20 feet.

Rell Sunn spent her whole life on Oahu's West side and was surfing by age four. As an accomplished waterwoman, she was a diver, canoe paddler and champion and became Hawaii's first female lifeguard. As the best female longboarder in the world, she traveled widely and was pivotal in starting a world tour for women. In addition to being an international ambassador for surfing, Sunn was also active in her local community. She involved Waianae kids in surfing and watersports and started the Menehune contest in 1976. In 1983, Sunn was diagnosed with breast cancer and after battling the disease with grace and courage, she died in 1998.

Margo Oberg dominated women's surfing for 30 years and became the most successful woman surfer to date. She learned to surf in La Jolla at age 10 and was later coached by Mike Doyle. She began competing as a teenager and at 15 won the 1968 World Surfing Championship in Puerto Rico. After taking a break and moving to Kaua`i in 1972, Oberg returned to professional surfing, winning contests and wowing audiences with her exciting style and appetite for big waves. Since the mid-1970s, she has operated a surf school on Kaua`i.

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