Sion Milosky: an inspiring big wave surfing and a devoted family man | Photo: Milosky Family Archive

He's one of the legends of surfing history who passed away too soon. Sion Milosky was 35 when he rode his final wave.

He was known as the underground charger who rode for the joy of surfing, not for sponsorship or media attention.

Sion Milosky was born on August 11, 1975, in Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii.

He was the son of a Californian hippie who moved to Hawaii around 1970, chasing the Aloha spirit. His Polish surname was inherited from his step-grandfather.

Sion got in touch with the salt water at the age of three, catching waves on a bodyboard at Poipu Beach.

While attending Waimea High School, "Bam Bam" was already an accomplished wave rider, influenced by Tom Carroll.

Sion Milosky did almost everything to support his wave-riding passion.

He worked as a dishwasher, pizza delivery boy, cook, fisherman, carpenter, boat and car repairman, waiter, and bartender.

He then established his business, welding wrought-iron gates for driveways of Hawaiian homes.

Sion Milosky: a generous, fearless big wave surfer | Photo: Milosky Family Archive

Primus Inter Pares

In 2009, Sion married Suzi Olaes and moved from Kauai to Oahu to be closer to the North Shore's big surf, paddling and descending giant Pacific Ocean waves.

Interestingly, despite being attracted to XXL waves, Sion started his career as a longboarder.

The welder-turned-swell-hunter was a true waterman who excelled in surfing, diving, and fishing.

Milosky surfed his last wave on March 16, 2011. It was the ninth ride of an epic six-hour session at Mavericks, the Northern California surf break.

The wave that took his life left him unconscious at the Pillar Point Harbor mouth.

He suffered a two-wave hold-down at dusk. Surfers who were nearby still tried to bring him back but without success.

The big wave surfing community had lost one of its dearest members, known for his friendly demeanor and determination.

Miloski was the second surfer to die at Mavericks after the legendary Mark Foo in 1994.

The Hawaiian goofy-footer was slowly making a name in surfing's elite division, especially in Oahu's North Shore outer reefs.

In 2009, he caught a wave at Himalayas that crowned him the North Shore Big Wave Challenge champion.

At the time, it was considered one of the biggest waves ever ridden.

Sion won Surfing Magazine's North Shore Underground Surfer of the Year a month before passing away.

With part of the $25,000 prizemoney, he flew to San Francisco to surf the last swell of the winter season at Mavericks.

Sion Milosky: surfing for the joy of doing it | Photo: Bielmann/Volcom

The Last Wave at Mavericks

He stayed at Ken "Skindog" Collins' home in Santa Cruz.

Milosky's first taste of the coldwater surf break was on Monday, March 14, 2011.

Two days later, Sion returned to the Mavericks lineup and paddled out at 3 pm on his custom-made 10'5" gun.

Despite the onshore winds and choppy conditions, there were 40- to 50-foot waves detonating off Pillar Point.

Milosky rode the first wave of a new set around 6 pm.

At the time, local surf photographer Curt Myers reported that a massive liquid avalanche dragged him underwater, with his board tombstoning and likely plunging him about 20 feet deep.

Shawn Dollar wiped out on the subsequent wave, shifting the attention away from Milosky, Myers mentioned.

Ken Collins, a Mavericks local himself, never forgot Sion Miloski's spirit and image on that fateful Wednesday evening.

"He had a big smile on his face and just turned around and paddled into this bomb," recalled Collins.

"That was the last time I saw him. The wave just sent him straight to heaven."

Approximately 20-30 minutes later, Nathan Fletcher discovered Milosky roughly a mile down the coast near the entrance of Pillar Point Harbor.

He was wearing a simple, lightweight life vest that might not have helped him resurface in time.

Jet skis brought Milosky to the shore, where surfers on the beach attempted to revive him while others gathered and prayed, according to those present.

Emergency responders arrived at 6:56 pm and took over the resuscitation attempts.

At that time, Milosky was not breathing, and his heart had stopped.

Although LifeFlight was reportedly requested, the Coastside Fire Protection District Battalion Chief stated that the rescue helicopter is generally not used for patients in full cardiac arrest.

"I'm pretty sure he wiped out - the board came away, and he had no leash," Grant Washburn said at the time.

Another fellow big wave surfer stated, "He looked perfect. They'd removed his wetsuit; his eyes were closed, no apparent damage of any kind."

"Just a perfectly peaceful, healthy person. You felt like you could just jolt him back to life."

Milosky was pronounced dead at the AHMC Seton Medical Center Coastside in Moss Beach at 7:46 pm.

An Inspiring Human Being

In a November 2010 interview with Surfing Magazine, he expressed that one of his aspirations was to be invited to the Jay at Mavericks Big Wave Invitational.

Following his passing, Milosky was nominated for the 2011 Billabong XXL Monster Paddle Award, becoming the first surfer to receive a posthumous nomination for an XXL Award.

Sion had won the Quiksilver Makahiki Longboard Championships and the North Shore Big Wave Challenge and had secured third place in the Oxbow World Longboard Championship.

The Sion Milosky Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that unites communities through the art of surfing.

Its mission is to educate youth and communities on ocean safety and environmental stewardship while promoting Hawaiian cultural values globally.

The Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) was established in his honor.

Sion's humility and generosity were evident in his willingness to help others. He was friends with Andy Irons, who passed away a few months before while Milosky's was surfing Mavericks.

He took pride in his blue-collar background and excelled in tasks ranging from building vehicles to constructing gates.

Through his craftsmanship, "Bam Bam" found fulfillment in providing for his wife and two daughters, Kauanoe and Sariyah.

One of Sion's most iconic pictures is the one featuring himself surfing with Sariyah on the north shore of Oahu.

The Live Like Sion Gromfest, the Steep and Deep Pipeline Backdoor Photo Challenge, and the Killa Papio Fishing Tournament are two events honoring the Kauai surfers' legacy.

Live Like Sion

Sion Milosky: the surfer who said that the ultimate aim is to get barreled | Photo: WSL

Milosky's altruistic nature is also always remembered.

A few months before his death, a woman was swept out to sea in front of Sion's house at Rocky Point after dark.

As the fire crew arrived and started unpacking, Sion grabbed his longboard and silently paddled out into the pitch-black, turbulent waters.

For 45 minutes, he searched and called out until he miraculously found the woman alive.

In disbelief, he pulled her onto his board and paddled her back to shore, saving her life.

She never thanked him. The story never made the news, and he never received an award.

Sion didn't seek recognition; he simply did what needed to be done.

The hashtag #livelikesion invites us to remember the humorous, laid-back, fearless, and generous individual who passed away doing what he loved most.

"It's not about making a big drop," Milosky once revealed in an interview.

"The ultimate aim is to get barreled. Powering into the biggest wave and the biggest barrel. That would be a nice feeling - for people to say, 'Hey, Sion, he caught some of the biggest waves ever ridden.'"


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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He's one of the legends of surfing history who passed away too soon. Sion Milosky was 35 when he rode his final wave.