Surfing: big waves have claimed lives of several surfers | Photo: Shutterstock

Surfing is not a lethal sport, but monstrous waves have already claimed a few lives. Let's take a look at notorious athletes who perished in the surf.

Surfers have been cheating death for a long time. In big wave scenarios, you can't be fooled, and it's in your face - death is a living threat.

Unfortunately, the history of the sport includes a few tragic chapters in which accomplished surfers lost their lives chasing their dreams.

For some people, big wave surfing and the glory that usually comes with it are worth dying for. Why? Because the pleasure, the joy, the thrill, and the adrenaline levels often beat fear.

The number of deaths in surfing doesn't put the sport on top of the list of the most dangerous outdoor activities, but if you connect the dots - large swells, reef bottoms, sharp corals, and exploding wave lips - you will quickly reach a dangerous equation.

Right. But shark attacks still are the most common cause of death in surfing.

So, if you survive the ocean's predator, you can always try your luck in the extreme surf. And in this particular field, death by drowning is your next opponent.

Waimea Bay: one of the most dangerous surf breaks in Hawaii | Photo: WSL

Big Waves, Huge Risks

Big wave surfers understand the risk they are exposed to, and they know that drowning is definitely not a peaceful way to leave this world.

They will talk about their families - the wife, the husband, the kids, the relatives, and the close friends.

So why would they risk their lives doing something that may kill them? Because they need to go. And that's it.

Hawaii still is the most dangerous region in the world when it comes to dying while surfing. In particular, Oahu's North Shore claimed a few lives.

The good news is that today, life-saving standards are higher, and the precautions are numerous.

The introduction of jet ski assistance and life vests improved the surfers' safety even when the threats remained the same, and the waves ridden were bigger than ever.

Dying while surfing is not a good way to pass. Would you go surfing if you knew the risk of death was high?

The following men died doing what they loved. May their memories be remembered forever.


Dickie Cross | 1926-1943

Dickie Cross was a surfer, sailor, and paddleboard racer from Honolulu, Hawaii. He became a star after building a canoe and sailing it from Waikiki to Molokai.

On December 22, 1943, Cross decided to step up his game. He and his friend Woody Brown drove to the North Shore in search of big waves.

They paddled out at Sunset Beach, but the powerful swell forced them to paddle two and a half miles down the coast to Waimea, where they thought they could make it to the shore.

Brown washed ashore unconscious and survived. Dickie's body was never recovered.


Joaquín Miró Quesada | ?-1967

Joaquín Miró Quesada: he died in 1967 surfing Pipeline

Joaquín Miró Quesada was one of the most influential surfers in the history of Peru. He was one of the first to challenge La Herradura and Pico Alto. Quesada won several national surfing titles.

In 1967, Quesada went headfirst into the reef at Pipeline and passed away a few hours later. He was the first-ever fatality at Pipeline.


Mark Foo | 1958-1994

Mark Foo was born in Singapore. He competed as a professional surfer on the IPS World Tour between the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

Foo began chasing big swells on the North Shore of Oahu and became a regular at Waimea Bay.

On December 23, 1994, Mark Foo drowned at Mavericks, the big wave surfing break located in Half Moon Bay, Northern California. Two photographers captured the moment of death.

According to local surfers, Foo's leash got entangled on the rocky bottom, and he could not release himself and get to the surface.


Donnie Solomon | ?-1995

Donnie Solomon was a rising surfer from Ventura, California. As an enthusiastic supporter of the Red Cross, he encouraged surfers to receive first aid, CPR, and lifeguard training.

On December 23, 1995, Donnie Solomon paddled out at Waimea Bay. After failing to catch a wave, Donnie found himself in the impact zone.

As he was trying to get back to the lineup, he was hit by a giant wave's lip, went over the falls, and drowned.


Todd Chesser | 1968-1997

Todd Chesser was born in Florida and moved to Hawaii with her mother at the age of three.

He rapidly climbed the competitive surfing ladder and reached the top of the US rankings. But he wanted to chase giant swells.

On February 13, 1997, he paddled out at Oahu's Alligator Rock and surfed for two hours.

Then, suddenly, a 25-foot set caught him, and he didn't surface. Aaron Lambert and Cody Graham found him and tried to revive him, but it was too late.


Briece Taerea | 1974-2000

Briece Taerea was a beloved Tahitian big wave surfer who knew Teahupoo like only a few.

On April 27, 2000, one week before the Tahiti Pro, the local charge found himself caught inside in shallow waters, trying duck dive a giant wave set.

Taerea's head hit the reef violently. The surfer also suffered severe neck and spinal cord injuries. He spent two weeks in a coma before passing away.


Malik Joyeux | 1980-2005

Malik Joyeux was a French waterman raised in Moorea, French Polynesia. He started surfing at the age of 8 and rapidly became a master in the large surf.

Joyeux, nicknamed "petit prince," won the 2003 Billabong XXL Tube of the Year for an impossible barrel at Teahupoo.

On December 2, 2005, Malik Joyeux lost his life after being hit by the heavy lip of an eight-foot wave at Pipeline.

The brutal wipeout broke his board, and his body was only found 15 minutes later at Pupukea by Myles Padaca.


Peter Davi | 1962-2007

Peter Davi was an accomplished and respected big-wave surfer from Monterey, California.

On December 4, 2007, Peter Davi drowned at Ghost Tree in California. While other surfers were being towed into 70-foot waves, Davi decided to use his arms to paddle into a big one.

His body was found later floating in a kelp bed in Stillwater Cove.


Sion Milosky | 1976-2011

Sion Milosky was a talented goofy-footer from Kalaheo, Kauai. He built a career as a longboarder, but his name is better known for his skills in the big-wave surfing scene.

Milosky was a good-spirited sportsman, a loving husband, and a father of two young girls.

On March 16, 2011, Sion Milosky drowned at Mavericks. According to witnesses, after catching a handful of bombs, Milosky suffered a two-wave hold-down and drowned.

His body was found by Nathan Fletcher nearly a mile away from the wipeout spot.


Kirk Passmore | 1981-2013

Kirk Passmore was an experienced surfer who was familiar with big waves, including Todos Santos, Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Puerto Escondido, and Mavericks.

On November 13, 2013, Sion Milosky paddled out with Jamie Sterling at one of Oahu's outer reefs.

Unfortunately, after taking off on a big set, he wiped out, and his body was never recovered.

Photographer Larry Haynes caught Passmore's final ride.

Words by Luís MP | Founder of

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