Hawaii surfing pioneer, activist George Downing dies at 87
  • Thursday, November 22, 2018
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Hawaii surfing pioneer, activist George Downing dies at 87

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 1954

    Surfing legend George Downing, shown here after winning the Diamond Head Surf Board Paddling championship for the fourth straight year in 1954, died Monday at age 87.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 1965

    From left to right: Felipe Pomar, George Downing, Mike Doyle, Duke Kahanamoku and Fred Hemmings, Jr.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2008

    George Downing, left, waited with others to testify against the proposed change in the number of free stalls at the Ala Wai Harbor.

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Hawaii waterman and environmentalist George Downing, a celebrated big-wave pioneer, former Makaha champion and trusted teacher and adviser to generations of surfers, died peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning, his son Keone Downing said. He was 87 years old.

In 1984, Downing created the one-day, big-wave Quiksilver Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay. Keone Downing said his father founded the now world-famous event “because he didn’t want to do just a surf contest, he wanted something special and he wanted to do it a certain way.” He served as director of the event, and was solely responsible for calling it on or off, for 30 years.

Downing, whose Downing Hawaii surf shop in Kaimuki has been in business for decades, was also an early member of Save Our Surf, the local grassroots environmental organization, and continued to lead its advocacy and educational work after founder John Kelly’s death.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Downing is survived by sons Keone (Leayne) and Kainoa (Laurie) Downing, daughter Kaiulu Downing, grandchildren Kaohi, Kirra, Kainoa, Keola and Nalei, and two great-grandsons; his wife Gildea Lauwe Downing predeceased him.

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