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.