10 Famous Surfers That Died While Surfing

Surfing is an exciting water sport that challenges people to conquer the ocean. Despite being highly dangerous, it has become one of the most popular activities with millions of fans around the world. Today, we will talk about 10 famous surfers who tragically lost their lives while doing what they loved the most. 

1. Mark Foo (1958-1994)

Born in Singapore, 36-year-old Mark Foo was a pioneer of extreme wave riding. Known for his fearlessness, he was surfing in the most challenging areas, one of which was Mavericks Beach in Northern California.

He tragically drowned in front of hundreds of witnesses while riding. Despite the wave being just 4.5 meters tall, experts suggested that Foo’s leash got caught on a rock, dragging him underwater.

His last seconds before drowning were captured by local cameramen who later sadly commented that, hopefully, this accident will "make kids think twice"​​ about trying to conquer Mavericks. 

2. Donnie Solomon (1966-1995)

Donnie Solomon was a talented and influential professional surfer who made his name in the sports community between the 1980s and 90s. As an active Red Cross supporter, he encouraged surfers to have a lifeguard and first aid training. Unfortunately, his promising career ended with a heartbreaking drowning incident at Waimea Bay in December 1995.

While surfing, he ended up in the so-called "impact zone," the area in which a wave’s lip smashes flat water. Later, Solomon’s lifeless body was carried up by beach guards. 

3. Todd Chesser (1968-1997)

A well-known big-wave rider, Todd Chesser, was passionate about surfing from the cradle. His mother was an amateur surfing champion who moved to Hawaii with her 3-year-old son after his surfer father died in a car accident. Besides being a professional surfer, Chesser also tried to conquer Hollywood as a stunt surfer.

In 1997, he should have been filming the scene at the surf break, Pe'ahi (Jaws), in Hawaii, but tragically died not long before at the nearby surfing spot, Alligator Rock. A 28-year-old Todd Chesser, who was about to get married, got caught by a massive 7.6-meter wave and drowned. His body was found later that day in the nearby area. 

4. Ace Cool (1965-2005)

Alec Cooke, known under the nickname ‘Ace Cool,’ died at Waimea Bay in 2015. He was a veteran surfer who put his name in history books with his infamous record riding on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii in 1985.

Back then, he broke a record by surfing gigantic waves up to 10.6 meters while being dropped from a helicopter with his board. 30 years later, trying to break another record, he rode two monstrous waves before vanishing in the troubled waters of the Pacific Ocean.  

5. Malik Joyeux (1980-2005)

Malik Joyeux was a young star in the professional surfing community. Even in his early 20s, he was already a recognized surfer by earning the prestigious XXL Tube Of The Year award back in 2003.

He was well-known as a big-wave rider who tragically lost his life at the age of 25. The grim irony is that Joyeux was hit by a relatively "small" wave of 2.4 meters, which, as suggested by experts, threw him onto the reefs.

6. Peter Davi (1962-2007)

Another accomplished and respected surfer, Peter Davi, lost his life while trying to ride a wave higher than 20 meters. He competed in numerous competitions around the world. Besides this, he was also frequently featured in surfing magazines. In December 2007, he drowned at Ghost Tree in California.

Despite repeated warnings by forecasters, Davi went on to surf to his death. Shortly after, his body was recovered by the rescue team, which attempted to revive him unsuccessfully. Once again, his tragic death proved that even pro surfers are sometimes unable to overcome the power of nature. 

7. Sion Milosky (1974-2011)

A proficient long-boarder, Sion Milosky became one of a few unfortunate victims of Mavericks' brutal waters. His surfing career was cut short after he was caught by two monstrous waves that prevented him from reaching the surface. His lifeless body was later recovered almost a mile away from the drowning spot. 

8. Kirk Passmore (1979-2013)

Todd Chesser wasn’t the only one who lost his life at the infamous Alligator Rock. The professional surfer and filmmaker Kirk Passmore shared the same destiny as his prominent colleague by drowning while riding a monstrous wave.

The last footage that appeared online showed how Passmore jumped from his surfboard into the ocean. Despite this, rescuers searched for Todd immediately. Unfortunately, his body was never recovered. 

Later Passmore’s friend, Jamie Sterling, pointed out in an interview with Surfer Magazine, the importance of wearing flotation vests and other safety devices. He said that if Kirk was wearing one of them, it could have been easier for rescuers to find and help him. 

9. Mikala Jones (1978-2023)

A pioneer in creating point-of-view surfing content, Mikala Jones, lost his life at the age of 44. His incredible GoPro videos gave viewers the ability to see how it feels to ride inside the wave tube. The accident happened while Jones was surfing in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia.

Suffering a fatal cut to his leg, the surfer lost a significant amount of blood. Later, his daughter posted on Instagram, "I’m happy he was doing what he loved the most".

10. Márcio Freire (1975-2023)

In January 2023, a Brazilian veteran wave rider, Márcio Freire, was killed while surfing a giant wave at Nazare, Portugal. By passing away at the age of 47, his death became one of the latest fatal cases involving professional surfers.

Freire was featured in 2015’s "Mad Dogs" documentary and was a well-known internet influencer in Latin America.

Conclusion

All these deaths show us that even the most experienced surfers can lose their lives in a tragic accident. Sometimes, simply by ignoring safety measures, and at other times due to tragic circumstances. Once again it is a reminder for all of us to keep in mind that the most dangerous hobbies usually carry a very high price to pay when things go wrong. 

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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