Hawaiian surfing legend Derek Ho passes away at 55

July 20, 2020 | Surfing
Derek Ho: the Hawaiian surfer won the Pipeline Masters twice | Photo: Sloane/WSL

The first-ever Hawaiian world surfing champion suffered a heart stroke, slipped into a coma, and passed away at 55.

Derek Ho was born on September 26, 1964, in Kailua, Hawaii. He rode his first wave at the age of three.

During his teenage years, he was arrested several times. At the age of 18, he spent ten days in prison, but from that moment on he dedicated his life to a pro surfing career.

In 1984, Ho won the prestigious Duke Kahanamoku Classic.

Two years later, he got barreled for eight seconds in a Pipe tube that spat twice. The feat inspired young Hawaiian to chase Pipe Masters and Triple Crown titles "like Uncle Derek did in 1986."

"Everybody that thinks of Derek thinks of Pipeline. Derek was so respected he got every wave he wanted, deservingly so, and he was super stylish and smooth," surf photographer Brian Bielmann told KHON2.

In 1993, at the age of 29, Ho won the ASP World Tour and became the first Hawaiian to clinch the world title.

"Everybody was so ecstatic and proud because we all know the best surfers are from Hawaii, simply because we have the best waves in the world," adds Bielmann.

"And for someone to actually get that - to hold that trophy high for Hawaii - was really cool."

Derek Ho: Hawaii's first world surfing champion | Photo: Heff/WSL

Hawaiian Royalty

At 5'4'', the talented goofy-footer was one of the most respected surfers in the Hawaiian Islands. He often cited Gerry Lopez as a source of inspiration.

Uncle Ho, as we was known in the archipelago, won the Pipeline Masters twice and conquered the Triple Crown of Surfing four times (1984, 1986, 1988 and 1993).

Derek was the uncle of Mason and Coco Ho, the brother of Michael Ho, and the cousin of the famous Hawaiian singer and nightclub entertainer, Don Ho.

In 2018, he participated in the 2018 Azores Airlines World Masters Championships. On January 29, 2020, Ho surfed his last heat at the Volcom Pipe Pro.

Derek Ho never missed a powerful, XXL winter swell on the North Shore of Oahu, and in April 2020, he surfed one of the last swells of the season.

Uncle Ho was Hawaiian royalty and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest in the line-up.

Derek Ho is survived by his daughter Kianaho and son Makoa.

For more on the Hawaiian surf legend, watch "Wave Warriors," "Shock Waves," "Surfers: The Movie," "Aloha Bowls," "TV Dinners," and "Side B."

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