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Big-wave pioneer helped build Hokule‘a

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    Wallace Frank Froiseth.

Wallace Frank Froiseth, a surfing pioneer and devoted Hokule‘a supporter, died Monday at his home in Kaimuki. He was 95.

Born Dec. 21, 1919, in Los Angeles, Froiseth moved with his parents to a house near Waikiki when he was 3 years old. He spent much of his youth in the ocean, eventually learning from beachboy John D. Kaupiko how to make a surfboard.

Froiseth was a pioneer of big-wave surfing, helping to develop the hot curl surfboard (which was designed for big waves) and riding big surf with George Downing and Rabbit Kekai at Makaha and Waimea in the 1950s.

“The outer reef was always a mystery to them. … They wanted to catch bigger and bigger waves,” said Froiseth’s daughter Luana Froiseth.

Also, Froiseth and other surfers helped found the Waikiki Surf Club in 1948, competing in canoe regattas. He was the first to enter his canoe crew in the Molokai-Oahu canoe race.

In addition, Froiseth was an accomplished sailor, working with designer Herb Kane and canoe builder Wright Bowman to create the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule‘a in the early 1970s.

“There would be no Hokule‘a without Wally Froiseth,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “He was the driving force … taking care of the Hokule‘a.”

Luana added, “He loved building the Hokule‘a. It was his pride and joy.”

In its historic voyage from Oahu to Tahiti using noninstrument navigation techniques in 1976, the Hokule‘a crew proved Native Hawaiians were capable of navigating thousands of miles to find distant islands centuries ago.

Thompson recalled how after the swamping of the Hokule‘a at sea in the late 1970s, Froiseth helped to restore the double-hulled sailing canoe in dry dock and set a high standard for caring for the vessel. “In many ways he saved the Hokule‘a,” Thompson said.

Froiseth served as a federal firefighter at Pearl Harbor for 25 years, eventually holding the post of fire chief, and later became a pilot boat operator. He also operated tugs in Okinawa, Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.

The Waikiki Surf Club will give a blessing in honor of the waterman before Saturday’s July 4th Outrigger Canoe Club regatta. Services are expected to be announced in a few weeks, according to Froiseth’s family.

In addition to daughter Luana, Froiseth is survived by wife Alice, daughters Tina Dumaran and Leiola Demello, and son Tenee.

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