Welcome to the world of Hawaiian surfing, where powerful ocean swells reign supreme, and where some of the most legendary surfers in history have carved their names into the sport we all love.
From Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, to modern-day surf superstars like John John Florence and Carissa Moore, Hawaii has produced some of the best surfers on the planet.
Let’s take a deep dive into the lives and careers of some of the most famous Hawaiian surfers, exploring their stories of triumph, tragedy, and an unbreakable bond with the Pacific Ocean.
10 Of Hawaai’s Most Famous Surfers
The Hawaiian islands are littered with perfect waves from mellow point breaks to challenging slabs breaking over just a few feet of water.
It’s no surprise these amazing islands have produced some of the planet’s best surfing talent, so with that in mind let’s take a look into the lives of some renowned Hawaiian surfers and their achievements.
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was born on August 24, 1890, and is widely credited with introducing the sport of surfing to the 20th century, placing him firmly at the top of our list of the most famous Hawaiian surfers.
Kahanamoku first gained national and international fame as a swimmer, winning multiple Olympic medals in the 1910s and 1920s.
In addition to his athletic achievements, Kahanamoku was a cultural ambassador for Hawaii and helped to popularize Hawaiian culture and customs around the world.
He travelled extensively, performing surfing exhibitions and giving talks on Hawaiian culture and history.
Kahanamoku’s impact on modern surfing cannot be overstated, he was one of the first surfers to use a board made of lightweight balsa wood, enabling him to ride bigger waves and perform more complex manoeuvres.
He also helped to popularize surfing as a recreational activity and organized the first official surfing competitions in Hawaii and California.
Kahanamoku’s legacy has endured long after his death in 1968. He is remembered as a pioneer of modern surfing and a cultural icon of Hawaii, with numerous parks, beaches, and landmarks named in his honour.
Titus Nihi Kinimaka, the younger brother of Percy Leleo Kinimaka, who had the honour of studying and learning under the great Duke Kahanamoku.
Following in his brother’s footsteps he would become a beach boy before pursuing a career riding the gigantic swells that hammer Hawaai’s coastline.
In 1995 Titis was recognised with one of surfing greatest awards, Waterman of the Year, which celebrated true commitment to the art of surfing waves and a true respect for the ocean and its power.
Since 1960 the Kinimaka family surf school have made it their mission to pass down skills and knowledge from older surfers to the new generation including all the culture associated with the Hawaiian sport of kings.
Andy Irons was a professional surfer from Kauai, Hawaii, born on July 24, 1978. He grew up alongside his brother Bruce, another highly respected Hawaiin surfer.
In 1998, Irons won the World Qualifying Series (WQS), earning a spot on the World Championship Tour (WCT) the following year.
He quickly established himself as a top contender, winning his first WCT event in 1999 and going on to win three consecutive world titles from 2002 to 2004.
Irons was known for his competitive drive and his aggressive, high-risk approach to surfing with epic performances on his backhand in powerful barreling waves.
Despite his success, Irons struggled with personal demons throughout his career. He openly battled drug addiction and mental health issues and tried to raise awareness through his words and status.
Tragically, Irons passed away on November 2, 2010, at the age of 32. His death was a shock to the surfing world and was deeply felt by fans and fellow surfers alike.
Irons’ legacy in the sport of surfing is a complex one, reflecting both his incredible surfing talent and his personal struggles.
Patrick Shane Dorian, commonly known as Shane Dorian, was born on July 19, 1972, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He grew up in a family of surfers, and his passion for the ocean started at a young age.
Dorian’s talent quickly became apparent, and he was soon recognized as a prodigy in the surfing world with sponsorship with the global surf brand Billabong.
In the 90s, Dorian gained international recognition as a member of the “Momentum Generation,” a group of young progressive surfers including Kelly Slater and Rob Machado.
Shane’s won the prestigious Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award three times which is no mean feat when you look at the quality of the entries.
He was one of the first surfers to embrace tow-in surfing, a technique that involves using a jet ski to tow surfers into massive waves that are too large or fast to paddle into.
Alongside his surfing career, Dorian made a name for himself as a producer when he co-produced and starred in the 1996 surf film “Stranger Than Fiction,” which chronicled the rise of the Momentum Generation.
Now Shane’s son Jackson Dorian is following in his footsteps with the same fearless approach and love for the ocean.
Keala Kennelly is a professional surfer who was born on August 13, 1978, in Kauai, Hawaii. She began surfing at a young age and is easily one of the most talented surfers of her generation.
Kennelly’s probably best known for her big wave surfing, tackling waves up to 80ft high. This love of large waves led to her double win at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, a ferocious slabbing wave that’s considered one of the best barrels in the world.
She was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in 2011 and was named one of the Top 50 Most Influential Surfers of All Time by Surfer magazine in 2020.
Outside of surfing, Kennelly has pursued a career in music and acting. She has released several albums and has appeared in a number of films and television shows, including the movie “Blue Crush,” which was released in 2002.
Kennelly has also been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and speaks openly about her own experiences as a queer woman in the surfing world.
Her brave stance in the surfing world saw her recognized for her activism, getting named the 2018 Woman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
John John Florence
John John Florence is a professional surfer from the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, born on October 18, 1992.
He spent his early days learning to surf alongside his brothers Ivan and Nate where he quickly formed a lifelong relationship with world-class surfboard shaper John Pyzel.
In 2011 at the fairly unbelievable age of 13, he became the youngest surfer to compete in the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a series of three professional surfing events held annually in Hawaii.
In the years since, Florence’s surfing has gone from strength to strength, winning numerous events and carving out his place as one of the most famous Hawaiin surfers of all time.
He won his first World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour event in 2012 and went on to win the WSL World Title in 2016 and 2017.
Overall, John John Florence is one of the most talented and influential surfers of his generation. He is a true icon of the sport, known for his skill, creativity, and sheer dominance in waves of consequence.
Carissa Moore is a professional surfer from Honolulu, Hawaii, born on August 27, 1992. She started surfing when she was just five years old and quickly showed a unique talent for the sport.
Her professional surfing career began in 2008 when she won the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Open Women’s title.
In 2011, at the age of 18, she became the youngest surfer to win the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Women’s World Tour, the top tier of professional surfing for women.
She went on to win three more world titles in 2013, 2015, and 2019.
Moore is known for her powerful and dynamic surfing style, pushing the progressive side of women surfing and owner of (in our opinion) the best frontside carve on the WSL tour.
Carissa’s also served as an ambassador for various environmental and social causes, including ocean conservation and youth empowerment through sports.
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer born on February 8, 1990, in Lihue, Hawaii to parents, Tom and Cheri Hamilton, both passionate surfers who helped nurture her talent.
In 2003, when Hamilton was 13 years old, she gained international attention after a shark attack while surfing out at Kauai.
The attack resulted in the loss of her left arm, but Hamilton’s resilience and determination meant she was able to return to surfing just a few months after the attack and has continued to compete at the highest level.
The experience including Bethany’s recovery was turned into the feature-length biopic “Soul Surfer” which was released in 2011 to critical acclaim.
In 2004, she won the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships, and the following year she won both the NSSA National Championships and the Explorer Women’s Division at the Hawaii State Championships.
In 2007, Hamilton won the Pipeline Women’s Pro, which is without a doubt one of the most challenging events in women’s surfing before going on to win it again in 2014.
Bethany cemented herself in the surfing history books when she was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in 2017
Outside of the surfing world, Hamilton has been involved in a number of philanthropic efforts including the Friends of Bethany Hamilton foundation which supports shark attack survivors and amputees.
Mason Ho is a professional surfer sponsored by Rip Curl and part of one of surfing’s most legendary families.
Mason was born on March 17, 1988, in Haleiwa, Hawaii and his surfing family heritage meant he was out in the waves as soon as he could walk.
His surfing style is known for being creative, unconventional and more than anything else entertaining. From ollies over bare dry rocks to perfect tubes, Mason’s surfing is something to behold
His surfing career began at a young age, competing in a number of high-profile surfing competitions in Hawaii, including the Triple Crown of Surfing and the Vans World Cup of Surfing, both of which are held in Hawaii.
Since then he’s gained wildcards to WCT events including the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach but spends the majority of his time free surfing and creating content.
Ho’s family has played an important role in his life and career. His father Michael Ho is a legendary surfer who won the Pipeline Masters event in Hawaii multiple times, and his uncle Derek Ho was the first Hawaiian to win a world surfing championship.
His sister Coco Ho is also a professional surfer who has won a number of high-profile events and spent several years on the women’s WSL world tour circuit.
Nathan Florence is a professional surfer born on May 26, 1994, in Haleiwa, Hawaii, he grew up alongside his brothers Ivan and John, both incredible surfers in their own right.
Nathan didn’t go down the same competitive route as his brother John and it’s fair to say that up until recent years, the spotlight was well and truly on his brother.
But his infectious smile and positive attitude meant he was perfectly placed to become one of surfing best know content creators, documenting hs many surf adventures around the world.
Nathan’s no slouch in the big stuff either, he’s won several prestigious big wave surfing events, including the 2019 Nazaré Challenge in Portugal and the 2021 Red Bull Magnitude in Hawaii.