Original Waikiki beach boy Albert "Rabbit" Kekai passes away

May 16, 2016 | Surfing
Albert 'Rabbit' Kekai: the original Waikiki beach boy

Albert "Rabbit" Kekai passed away at 95, in Oahu, Hawaii.

He was considered the "living link to surfing's entire modern history." Albert Kekai was born in Honolulu, in 1920. He began riding waves at the age of five, when surfboards were rare, even in Hawaii.

A few years later, he would improve his surfing skills with Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing. "Rabbit," who was also a prolific runner, was one of the first surfers to turn up and down the wave with drop-knee maneuvers.

Albert Kekai is one of the founding members of the exclusive Waikiki Surf Club. As a beach boy, "Rabbit" taught surfing to tourists, and played the ukulele in the warm Hawaiian sands.

"He told me he learned Japanese to hit on the tourist girls in Waikiki as a beach boy. For a time, Uncle 'Rabbit' was said to be the best surfer on earth. I was lucky enough to share a couple of sessions at Queens and Canoes with him and 'Doc' Paskowitz together in the early 2000s," wrote Kelly Slater.

Albert 'Rabbit' Kekai: he started surfing in 1925

"Thank you for all the knowledge you have given to me, all the days I got my jersey, and you told me to get them. Surf with you again in heaven one day. I will continue to spread the Aloha around the world just like you did," added Makuakai Rothman.

As a surfer, Kekai influenced a new generation of wave riders including Matt Kivlin, Joe Quigg, Phil Edwards, Conrad Cunha, Donald Takayama, and Harold Iggy. They considered him one of the pioneers of high-performance surfing, and a longboard master.

In 1956, after serving the US Navy as underwater demolitions specialist, he won the Makaha International Surfing Championships and was runner-up in 1061. The regular-footer never stopped competing, and won titles at the United States Surfing Championships in 1973, 1980, and 1988.

He was featured in the movies and documentaries "Liquid Stage: The Lure of Surfing," and " Surfing for Life." Albert "Rabbit" simply loved surfing. Kekai kept "dreaming of the next wave" until the last minute.

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