Mark Foo: a big wave surfer capable of producing catchy quotes | Photo: Warren Bolster

If you were a surf journalist in the 1980s and 1990s, you would've loved to chat with Mark Foo. His catchy and memorable quotes made a splash, and were frequently exposed on the cover of magazines and newspapers.

Mark Foo was born on February 5, 1958, in Singapore, but moved with his Chinese photojournalist parents to Hawaii when he was 10. He learned to surf, studied at the University of Hawaii and, in 1977, joined the International Professional Surfers (IPS) World Tour.

However, five years later he decides to focus on big wave surfing. In January 1985, Mark Foo nearly completes an impossible ride at Waimea Bay, as he free-falls 25 feet on a 35-foot giant, connects with the wave, and then wipes out.

Foo was more than just an accomplished surfer. He loved to write and participated in many television shows. Mark pioneered the use of tri-fin surfboards at Waimea Bay and maintained a fierce rivalry with Ken Bradshaw.

In 1987, Foo and Felipe Pomar (1965 world champion) ride Pico Alto, in Peru, and confirm that big wave surfing was not a Hawaiian exclusive. There were new spots to be found, new frontiers to be conquered.

Mark Foo passed away while surfing Mavericks, in Half Moon Bay, on December 23, 1994. The Singaporean took off on his first ever wave at the California break, wiped out, and probably hit the underwater reef before drowning.

His body was only found two hours after the incident, with his leash on and attached to the broken tail of his Willis Brothers' "Phazer" 9'. No one had followed up on his wipeout.

He was, as the Times called him, the "Joe Montana of big waves. Mark Foo left us at 36 years of age, but he was already a surfing legend before his death.


Personally, I don't think anyone surfs Waimea better than I do.

I don't get off at all on the macho side of big waves.

Good surfing is making it look easy; Kenny's always used a make-it-look-hard approach.

At 13 years old, I was suicidal.

Big wave surfing is like a lost art.

I never trained a lot.

I thought big Makaha and the North Shore's outer reefs were the next step for me as a surfer. I was wrong. There were lessons, to be learned at Pico Alto. One of them being: no matter where it's breaking, a big wave is a big wave. Period.

If you want the ultimate thrill, you've got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.

My life is surfing.

Peru has got, besides the North Shore of Oahu, perhaps the biggest surfable waves in the world.

Surfing and Martial Arts are really similar. It's not just a recreation, a sport or a hobby. If you're into it, it's a way of living, a lifestyle. You live it; you don't just do it.

The goal is not to do movies, TV series or be in the magazines. The goal is, because I love surfing, to present the sport, publicize the surfers and see them get the credit they deserve.

You could be towed by boat or jet ski, but is that surfing?

Die. I never thought about it, nor do I want to.

I don't think about dying while I'm getting ready to surf, or paddling out.

I had no real religious background as a kid, and I now embrace beliefs from many religions. But for sure, surfing makes me believe in God. Surfing is the most obvious manifestation of God.

The life I've had has been good enough that I can die happily. Surfing's done that; surfing's given me that. So I can accept dying while I'm surfing.

I've never really been afraid in big waves. Or no. I guess in the really early days. My first time at big Haleiwa, maybe. Or big Sunset. I was afraid, but never enough to freeze up.

It is not tragic to die doing something you love.


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