“To us that were close to him, George was the greatest surfer that ever lived. He was really the only one left that spanned pretty much the whole of modern surfing from riding solid wood boards to the foam shortboard.”
• Gerry Lopez -Star-Advertiserr: 3/7/2018
He was one of our most impactful icons and innovators; with family by his side, George Downing passed away Monday morning March 5th at his home in east Oahu.
He was 87 years old.
George was raised in Honolulu by his aunt and her husband, who was none other than Wally Froiseth, another Big Wave legend. This was where Georges entry into the world of Big waves began. They took with frequent trips to Makaha. Out in the water on the biggest days, the young legend to be was always studying the art of big-wave riding and surf forecasting, too. He studied equipment, survival methods and much more. Downing was a natural born learner and leader which lead to extensive experience. Ultimately it also helped him become the executive director of the Eddie Aikau Invitational for 3 decades…Would Eddie Go?! Ask George Downing.
George comes in around 5:30min…But the whole video helps us to grasp the time in which George grew up and changed surfing forever.
Downing was credited for creating the first surfboard specifically designed for big surf. Additionally, he forged the first system of detachable fins. And with his wealth of knowledge in the water and out, Downing shared it with fellow surfers – helping foster the early flood of Californians into the Hawaiian lineups.
As a three-time winner of the Makaha International surf contest (1954, 1961, and 1965), Downing went on to coach the Hawaiian team to victory at the 1968 World Surfing Championship. And for his immense impact on the sport of surfing, Downing was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
Celebrations of the life and legacy of George Downing are pouring out from all walks of the surfing community; via Instagram, Kelly Slater gave this remembrance of the fallen icon:
A Hui Hou, #GeorgeDowning. It was an honor to surf on your call when #TheBayCallsTheDay for over two decades in #TheEddieAikau. Condolences to your vast group of friends and family. You will be sorely missed and fondly remembered as a good guy and a great shaper and waterman (and even the first person to put a removable fin on a surfboard). Mahalo Nui Loa! ????♂️??
“A Hui Hou, #GeorgeDowning. It was an honor to surf on your call when #TheBayCallsTheDay for over two decades in #TheEddieAikau. Condolences to your vast group of friends and family. You will be sorely missed and fondly remembered as a good guy and a great shaper and waterman (and even the first person to put a removable fin on a surfboard). Mahalo Nui Loa!”
Talk about lasting influence. With his wealth of knowledge, leadership & Aloha in the water and out, Downing shared it with his fellow surfers; fostering some of the Californian migration into the Hawaiian lineups in the 50-60’s. The energy and evolution were synergistic. There was no going back, there is no going back.
There are so many more wonderful words pouring in from all over the world. I’ll share these with you so please come back next week. Services are being scheduled and I’ll let you know here and at SNN.
Our sincere condolences, thoughts, and prayers go out to Keone (Leayne) and Kainoa (Laurie) Downing, daughter Kaiulu Downing, grandchildren Kaohi, Kirra, Kainoa, Keola and Nalei, and two great-grandsons…and of course, to all of George’s extended family.