The Death Of Brock Little

Hawaiian Legend Passes On

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

In the Hawaiian winter of 1983, Brock Little became a big wave surfer. He was born in Northern California, but his folks moved over to the North Shore of Oahu when he was still a baby, and he soon became a fully-fledged Hawaiian surfer.

In that winter, the northern hemisphere was graced by a weather phenomenon called El Nino, and as a result massive waves battered the shore line of Oahu for months on end, resulting in so many surfers getting incredible amounts of practice and water time in big surf.

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 into 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, took a sickening wipe out, and 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. Back in 1990 that was a lot of money.

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 stunt man 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.

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,’ to surf their heats and to surf the event.

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 an Hawaiian surfer won the event, while all thoughts were on one of the greatest Hawaiian big wave surfers of all time.

Still, so many moments were compared to moment that contained Brock. Waves were compared to Brock’s waves from the past, wipeouts compared to his. His memory was all over the event, and so it should have been.

Rest In Peace Brock.