*Photo Credit to Aipa Surf
If you are a surfer from Honolulu and haven't heard of Ben Aipa, you are missing out on a key part of our cultural surfing heritage. Aipa is a legend of the sport, and has been for the past 50 years. A native of Honolulu, he was a competitive powerhouse in the 1960s and 1970s, even though he didn’t start surfing until he was in his 20s and an ankle injury ended his semi-pro football career. He didn’t miss a single day of surfing in 1965, and won the Hawaiian Inter-Island Championships the next year. He was also a finalist at the Duke Kahanamoku Classic at Sunset Beach, finished fourth at both the 1967 Makaha International and 1975 Lightning Bolt Pro, and competed in the 1968 and 1970 world championships.
A big surfer at 250 pounds, Aipa blended power with a surprising amount of finesse, and developed his own style of surfing. He also shaped boards that matched that style, shaping his first board virtually the same time that he started riding waves, and shaping the board that Fred Hemmings won the world championships on in 1968.
Aipa Surfboards was started in 1970, and quickly developed a reputation for innovation, particularly after Aipa developed the double-ended swallowtail in 1972 and then the split-rail stinger in 1974. His boards were tested and proven by surfing luminaries such as Larry Bertlemann, Michael Ho, Mark Liddell, and Buttons, and helped usher in the hi-fi shredding of the mid-1970s. Aipa also served as a coach to these 1970s surf stars, and then continued to coach contemporary pros such as Brad Gerlach, Sunny Garcia, Kalani Robb, and Bruce and Andy Irons.
At the same time, Aipa continued his own competitive dominance, winning the grandmasters division at the US Surfing Championships in 1989 and the legends division in 2000. Ben Aipa’s son, Akila Aipa, continued in his father’s footsteps, placing second in the 1989 US world championships and becoming a renowned shaper in the 1990s. Recently, Akila’s boards have been seen under Kelly Slater’s feet, including in impressive performances at Keramas in 2019.
Today, 77-year-old Ben Aipa is a bona fide legend of the surfing world, and highly respected by virtually anyone who knows their surfing history. Unfortunately, he is also quite sick, with blood infections, diabetes, heart issues, and numerous strokes. To help pay for his medical bills, his family is auctioning off his surfboards (many of which are rich in historical context) and has started a GoFundMe page. Follow the links above to learn more about how you can help support this surfing icon, surfboard innovator, and Honolulu legend.
Click here 👇 to help. Mahalo!
Ben Aipa at Hawaiian South Shore
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