Hawaiian surf legend John Shimooka passes away

November 16, 2020 | Surfing
John Shimooka: a talented surfer from the South Shore of Oahu | Photo: Tostee/WSL

Hawaiian surfing icon John Shimooka passed away aged 51. He was found dead at his home in Sydney, Australia.

Shimooka was a former Championship Tour (CT) surfer and a legend of the late 1980s, early 1990s.

He was a fast surfer with a charismatic personality and an infectious smile. "Shmoo," as friends affectionately called him, spent around a decade competing in the elite of surfing.

In 1989, the Hawaiian won the Aloe Up Cup after defeating Dave Macaulay in the final.

Hailing from the South Shore of Oahu, John was a highly-skilled competitor in beach breaks and always a tough opponent in every heat.

In the early 1990s, he lost his fitness and ran out of money, and by 1992, Shimooka dropped off the tour.

Parties were slowly killing him.

However, his close friend Sunny Garcia convinced him to move from Los Angeles to Hawaii to work on a comeback.

The Comeback

The move paid off. Garcia and Shimooka made it to the final of the 1995 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

In 1995, after winning a CT event in Japan, he reached 19th in the world rankings, his best position ever.

In 1999, he moved with his wife Lisa to Cronulla, Australia, and became a popular surf contest commentator and surf industry executive.

John Shimooka had been working with Surfing New South Wales as general manager of partnerships since 2018.

He was also a Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

"'Shmoo' will be remembered around the world for his flamboyant surfing on tour, epic commentary and love of the core surfing values and lifestyle," underlines Surfing Australia.

John Shimooka was battling depression. He lost his wife to cancer in 2019, and Garcia's suicide attempt also knocked him around.

He had recently supported mental health organizations and always spoke openly about his own condition.

"Shmoo" was planning an emotional visit to Hawaii for the first time in years.

John Shimooka is survived by his son, Brandon.

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