Legendary Hawaiian Power Surfer Dane Kealoha Passes After Lengthy Battle with Cancer
Dane Kealoha Legendary Hawaiian Power Surfer Known For His "Pig Dog" Style
Hawaii and the surfing community as a whole lost a legend this past week with the passing of Dane Kealoha. Born and raised right here in Town in 1958, Dane began surfing in Waikiki in the 1960s. He won the Hawaii State surfing title in the boy's division at the age of 15 and went on to win a National Surfing championship in the junior division three years later. He ultimately took his act to the North Shore, where he developed into the consummate power surfer and was widely considered to be the best tuberider of his generation. Dane dominated Pipeline and Sunset in the 1970s, riding the barrel at Backdoor deeper than anyone and inventing the pig dog maneuver during his countless hours at Pipeline (the pig dog is the drop-knee, grab-rail approach that most backside riders use to navigate the barrel today).
Dane was also an accomplished competitor. He placed third at the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in 1977 (behind Bobby Owen and Eddie Aikau), won the Duke Invitational and Pipe Masters in 1983, was ranked number two in the world in 1980, and arguably should have been world champion in 1983 if it weren’t for a poorly reasoned technicality. The ASP had canceled their sanctioning of the three Hawaiian events that year and banned world tour surfers from competing in them. Rather than kowtowing to their corporate nonsense, Dane surfed all three events and won two of them—a feat that would have earned him the world title if they had remained on tour. Instead, he ended up being fined a thousand dollars by the ASP for surfing in unsanctioned events. When he refused to pay the fine, he was stripped of his tour points. Disillusioned with the ASP, he ended up walking away from competitive surfing altogether. Rather than winning a well-deserved world title, his pro career was over at only 25 years of age, although his reputation as one of the best in the world remained intact and he received an honorary, open invitation to surf the Pipe Masters throughout the rest of his life).
Surfer Magazine ranked Kealoha as the sixth greatest power surfer of all time, and his influence has been apparent throughout the generations, from Sunny Garcia and Johnny Boy Gomes to Andy Irons. In his later career, he continued his relationship with long-time affiliate Quiksilver, managing a flagship store in Ward Village and two Roxy stores on Oahu and Maui. He later ran a surf school at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki and famously towed Garrett McNamara into what was then arguably the largest barrel ever ridden at Jaws in 2002.
Dane Kealoha succumbed to cancer on May 10, 2023, at the age of 64. His presence and influence will be missed by the global surf community, all of those who looked up to him over the years here on Oahu, and the Hawaiian South Shore family as a whole.