The Life and Death Of Brock Little

Brock Little Was a Surfing Legend

Where it all began for Brock: Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Getty Images

Brock Little,  born on March 17, 1967, was a celebrated big-wave surfer and stunt performer from Haleiwa, Hawaii. He died on February 18, 2016.

Early Life and Surfing Career

Brock was born in Northern California, but his parents moved over to the North Shore of Oahu when he was still a baby. In the winter of 1983, the northern hemisphere was hit by a weather phenomenon called El Nino, and as a result, massive waves battered the shoreline of Oahu for months on end. This gave a number of young surfers the opportunity to hone their skills on big waves.

Brock was one of those surfers, and after that winter he had transformed himself into a very courageous and highly skilled big wave surfer. More importantly, people started noticing him and his big wave efforts.

This resulted in him being awarded an invite to the most prestigious big wave competition in the world at the time – the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event at Waimea Bay.

Brock will always be remembered for two waves he rode during that event. The first was the biggest wave of the entire contest. If he had ridden that wave to completion he would have won the event. Instead, he fell and took a sickening wipe out. The images were shown around the world.

The second was a tube ride: possibly the biggest tube ride ever attempted in the world up to this stage. Brock slipped and fell inside the tube. That wave would have won him US$50,000.

Brock continued to push the boundaries of big wave surfing in Hawaii and followed the dream of being a sponsored surfer for a few years. His quest for thrills eventually saw him in Hollywood where he worked as an award-winning stuntman for many of the action movies of the time.

The sport of big wave surfing took a few monumental leaps over the last few years, with the advent of the successful and adventurous World Surf League Big Wave Tour. While Brock played no part in this, he was acknowledged by many of the best big wave surfers in the world as an inspiration and an influence on their surfing and careers. Brock was quiet and humble, carried himself with dignity, and was a total charger out in the ocean whenever it got big.

Brock Little's Death and The Brock Swell

It was a shock to the surfing world when he announced, via Instagram, that he had cancer of the liver and that his health wasn’t good. It was a short struggle with the disease before he passed away among friends and family on February 18, 2016.

On Thursday February 25, 2016, a giant swell rumbled into Waimea Bay. As soon as it started showing, people started calling it the ‘Brock Swell.’ It showed up in time for the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event at Waimea Bay, the very event that had made Brock famous and made him into the man that he became.

It was a savage swell, this ‘Brock Swell’ with the contest venue, Waimea Bay, closing out often enough, and proving to be very close to unsurfable whenever the big sets rumbled through.

Still, after a little trepidation among the elite big wave surfers in the world, someone said ‘Brock Would Go,’ a play on the advertising slogan “Eddie Would Go’ that surrounds this event.

Every big wave surfer in the world knew Brock or was friendly with him. At the very least they had deep respect for him, and it ended up with every surfer paddling out in those gigantic conditions, during the best swell in a decade - ‘Brock Swell.’

Eventually it was Hawaiian surfer John John Florence who took the win at the event, earning his first big wave title in the process. It seemed that all was right with the world when a Hawaiian surfer won the event, while all thoughts were on one of the greatest Hawaiian big wave surfers of all time.