Rabbit died at Leahi Hospital early Friday 5/13/16.
Rabbit Kekai – legend longboarder Photo: The Vintage Surf Auction.
“We Lost One Of The Last True Waikiki Beach Boys Today, Uncle Rabbit Kekai… Mahalo for ALL you have done & I’ll forever miss & love you… R.I.P Uncle Rabbit” Johnny Boy Gomes
Albert ‘Rabbit’ Kekai (born November 11, 1920) is a professional surfer and one of the original innovators of modern surfing. He was a dominant master of the sport in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s and also a winner of the Peruvian and Makaha International titles. “Rabbit” Kekai lived with his five siblings and parents near the shore at Waikiki. He got his first taste of surfing at the age of three when his uncle, a lifeguard, taught him how to surf, and by the age of five, Rabbit was surfing on his own. As surfing became a bigger part of his life, the boy looked to role models like Duke Kahanamoku, who instructed the ten-year-old Kekai in surfing and outrigger canoeing.
Although surfing was consuming more of his life as he grew older, Kekai managed to concentrate on his school work and excelled academically. He was offered athletic scholarships to attend college, but chose to enter the workforce after high school, and earned a living on and off the beach through numerous odd jobs.
By the mid-30s, Kekai had risen in the ranks of surfing devotees as he innovated drop-knee bottom turns and hotdogging on shortboards, and surfed on finless boards called “hot curls”. He is often mentioned as the top hot curl wave rider of the day. At this time he also began surfing on the North Shore, which is still a popular world-class surf spot.
Like most young American men of the time, Kekai served in the military during World War II, and was fortunate to be stationed in Haleiwa on the North Shore for part of his service. Not wanting to let his surfing skills deteriorate, Kekai would surf after finishing his duties for the day. He worked on the Underwater Demolition Teams, or UDTs, that operated in the Pacific Theatre deploying depth charges to destroy Japanese ships and clear the way for American troops to capture the Federated States of Micronesia from Japan. After serving three years, Kekai was discharged from the Navy.
Kekai was one of the founding members of the Waikiki Surf Club and helped it win numerous surfing championships and canoe races; he also won numerous international surfing titles independently. By the 1950s, Kekai made a point of passing on the surfing techniques he had acquired over the years to a younger generation, including Joey Cabell, Donald Takayama, Harold Iggy, and countless others. He also catered to celebrities who visited Hawaii on vacation, teaching them the basics of the ancient sport.
In August 2012, Kekai was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame.
Note: Rabbit taught Randy Rarick to surf when he was 10. Who knows what Randy’s life would have been without surfing? What would the status of Pro Surfing would be without this connection? SNN.
“Love you Uncle Rabbit. Forever in our hearts”. Kaipo Guerrero Waikiki.
Yes, Uncle Rabbit was a true joker, a kid a heart…creating more laughs and smiles than you could count 🙂 SNN