Vale Dane Kealoha
A rash of premature announcements about Dane Kealoha’s death haven’t been entirely inaccurate with the Hawaiian today succumbing to colon cancer.
Kealoha was raised at Waikiki on Hawaii’s South Shore, a protege of Larry Bertleman’s small wave acrobatics, however he successfully adopted his act to the big waves of the North Shore and in so doing became one of Hawaii’s earliest travelling pros.
In 1977, the second year of the IPS - as the ASP and later WSL were first known - Kealoha finished 20th after competing just half the season. From 1978 onwards Kealoha climbed the rankings finishing ninth, fourth, and then a career-high second, after Mark Richards, in 1980.
In 1983, at the height of his physical powers, Kealoha fell foul of surf politics when Ian Cairns and his newly-formed ASP made a bid to overthrow the IPS. As the IPS was led by Hawaiian Fred Hemmings they still controlled the three Hawaiian contests. Cairns and the ASP made an ultimatum: “If anyone surfs in the Hawaii contests they get fined and lose their rankings.”
Showing a level of disregard akin to another Dane - Reynolds of course - Kealoha surfed in the events, won two of them, and was promptly blackballed by the new administrators of pro surfing. Rather than pay the fine and work his way back, Kealoha bid farewell to pro surfing and began a career in surf retail - he opened a few Quiksilver and Roxy stores, plus ran a surf school - and set about consolidating his place at the top of Backdoor Pipeline’s pecking order.
With his squat power stance, Kealoha successfully converted from single fins to the Thruster. Almost immediately, his Hawaiian quiver included three fins, unlike some surfers who held out with single fins and traditional planshapes. Though the Thruster didn’t require weight shifts like the single, Kealoha was fond of a quick shuffle amidships, usually after the bottom turn and before the curtain fell. His was an often-imitated style.
Though fellow countryman Michael Ho is generally regarded as the godfather of grab rail tube riding - so strikingly employed with a plaster cast at the ‘81 Pipe Masters - photographic evidence from even earlier shows Kealoha assuming proto versions of the same stance.
By 1983, the year Kealoha won the Pipeline Masters, and also the year he was booted off tour, the technique had been sharpened to such a degree that natural footers had finally realised Shaun Tomson’s vision of deep barrel riding at Pipeline. Kealoha beat another natural footer, Michael Ho, in the final.
In both his style in heavy waves and his disdain for playing the game, Kealoha deeply influenced the next generations of Hawaiians, including Johnny Boy Gomes and Sunny Garcia. He was also widely respected for his indifference to professional surfing, in much the same way that Wayne Lynch is in Australia.
Kealoha was 64-years old. He’s survived by four sons, three daughters, and two grandchildren.
Moe i ka maluhia.
Rest in peace.
Great surfer ….
Ahead of his time blasphemous to say but was better than MR at the time ….
Sadly should of been Hawaiis first word champ …
Great surfer to this day talk about “Dane Kealoha’ing” your way out of a tube
That's sad news.
He was always one of my favourite surfers since i was a grom.
Power, style and could ride a tube better than anyone.
One day i was sitting on the "wall" at "off the wall" watching Dane Kealoha thread pitt after pitt at back door on my first winter there in the late eighties. I was so mesmerized by his harmony with that wave.
I learnt alot that arvo, then i eventually fell off the wall after my first cones of maui wowie, Woke up completely sunburn on one side fark knows how long later at the bottom of the wall. cheers Richard. And Dane was still seriously rippin.
After that, surfing with this Wave master would change the way i surfed. He (Dane )would of never known this as i never met him out of the surf there) but was always kind to me in that zone for nearly 30 years. Grateful to have a few high moments with this Great human and have taught my kids and local gromets over the years what he was teaching me. How to share waves..
All time legend…my favourite surfer growing up…watched him destroy Burleigh just before a Stubbies event when I was a grom and that was it…an idol ever since.
Probably the highlight of my surfing life was sharing a late arvo session with him at Backdoor/OTW…he just appeared in the lineup late nearing dark (at a time he wasn’t surfing much) and an almost immediate hush of reverence overcame the once rabid crowd. He paddled straight into about 4 bombs in a row and I can’t recall anyone moving the whole time. He never said a word and then he was gone.
It was magical.
What a story!!!!
An Inspirational man & surfer to many.
He put family & surf tradition before fame & flame
Burley Boys salute Dane...
Most exciting Goldie Surf Comp Final alongside Kelly (vs) Joel
Relive 1980 Stubbies
Dane features in interviews thru-out these hi-lites..
Quite a special send off!
Final Peter Harris (vs) Dane Kealoha
When Dane pulls out his go to 360*us locals were impressed with Dane's surfing.
Local fav's Burley Barrel riding won the day!
Crowd were stoked with Surfing's High Point thanks to Dane...Ripper Mate!
Also recall early 80's Japan got huge & Heavy as Dane lit the place up..
Can't recall which year or Mag but he was power surfing & carving into it like a boss!
In that era it was a pretty awesome progressive display! One of the best!
He was the default #1 & lead surfer at that time.
Sad to hear the loss of a God of the sport. He was a true pioneer that we should all pay respect to by catching a late drop and threading a sick backdoor pit the next time we go surfing.
One of a kind.
Bugger another one of my hero's is dead and was only a few years older than I. He was THE man in the early 80's and should have been world champ except for arsehole Cairns and his sneering side kick Townend who had never heard of a thing called compromise. A true legend who retired and 25 for professional surfing. RIP Dane. PS. What happened to Peter Harris?
RIP Dane. One of my all time fav surfers as a grom. One pic in particular burned into my memory is of him standing tall and proud in Backdoor cavern. I think the Hawaiian flag was big and bold on his board too.
I am a little reluctant to write this as I can't confirm it but a few years ago talking story with a bloke who knew both well told me that Fast Eddie was absolutely shit scared of Dane. Because Dane was a gentlemen and family man he took a very dim view of people that slapped women. I’m not sure how true that is but on the same token, I find it hard not to believe.
Ps- great story CRG above. That's a keeper.
Sad news, RIP Dane.
Love that footage of him owning that frigid Californian right in 1986, "Amazing Surf Stories"
I was at the 1980 Stubbies at Burleigh (three cheers for single mums who get their kids into surfing), an eight year old trying to make sense of the crowds on the headland.
Everyone was stoked for the local boy Peter Harris but it seemed like the real superstar was Dane Kealoha.
After the results were announced I joined the scrum at the front of the stage and waited and got Dane's autograph on a scrap of paper.
Not surprisingly I lost the autograph in a matter of a day or two, something I've regretted ever since, but it was a privilege to be there and see him.
Really sad news. I was lucky enough to meet Dane in Hawaii in the early nineties. Such a lovely down to earth bloke. RIP
Many years ago, I met Dane at a trade show in San Diego that I was there for with an Australian Surfboard company that happened to be doing the boards he rode for under license. Heavy lineup including JBG. Anyway, he heard I was going back through Hawaii and his face lit up. He said to come out to Pipe with him and he'd get me a few waves.
I have visions of this massive figure, cut from granite excitedly telling me he was going to take me to 12-foot second reef. I nearly shat myself on the spot.
Anyway, unfortunately (Or fortunately) our accommodation fell over and we didn't end up going. He was such a super nice guy and instantly was going to take a 20-year skinny beach break surfing kid to his home break. And I know I would have had to go if he said so.
Sad news. He had a commanding presence.
Saw him ripping at the ‘80 Stubbies. If it wasn’t for a local doing so well out of nowhere Dane was our pick. Back when Twinnies ruled the waves! Dane, Bertlemann, MR, Peter Harris and local legend GT just seemed so much faster and covered more wave face than anyone else. And those gorgeous shots in Surfing World where his orange and yellow spray just popped against the backlit barrels. What a time to be amongst it… or maybe it was just the mull?
Ha ha! Probably a little bit of A and a little bit of B.
And a Sniff of MDupree
There would not be many people understanding THAT reference udo....
Sounds like he was a great bloke. As a kid he just seemed the epitome of a Hawaiian heavy but obviously shared waves. RIP
these blokes were untouchable in their era, RIP
I reckon I’ve noticed a bit of Dane/ Larry on Carissa’s board livery lately A mate of mine got Water Cooled to put his spray on a thruster circa 1982. I think I might have to have a look in his garage!.