Bandy-legged surfer from Hawaii; winner of the 1956 Makaha International; an original hotdogger in the mid- and late '50s, and sometimes additionally credited as the sport's first tuberider. "He looked nothing like the archetypal blond-haired, stompy-wompy surfer boys of the day," one '60s-era observer noted. "As a matter of fact, he looked like my Italian buddy's dad who ran the local fruit & vegetable shop."
Canha was born (1932) and raised in Puunene, Maui, moved with his family to Oahu, and began surfing at age 15 in Waikiki. He became a regular at Makaha in the early '50s, riding an all-black balsa surfboard. After winning the 1956 Makaha International, he traveled to South America and won the 1957 Peru International, taking out both the small- and big-wave events.
Canha was the era's most influential Hawaiian performance surfer. With his low center of gravity, the prematurely bald goofyfooter was rock solid on his board, and his turns were well-placed and powerful. In 1962 he began riding the fast-breaking waves at Ala Moana, at the west end of Waikiki, and by using a unique rear-weighted stance that would years later become a standard for tuberiding, Canha was able to slot himself behind the curtain with some frequency.
Progressive as he was, Canha was nonetheless one of the last balsa-board holdouts, and was still riding one as late as 1963, four years after most surfers switched over to polyurethane foam boards. Meanwhile, Canha remained unapologetic about his life as a good-time surfer— what the sport's bluebloods disdainfully called a "surf bum"—and seemed pleased with himself while describing his union-protected truck driving job during a Surfing magazine interview in 1967. "It's bitchin'. I work three months, then draw unemployment for the rest of the year and have a great time."
Canha appeared in a small number of surf movies in the '60s, including Surfing Hollow Days (1962), Cavalcade of Surf (1962), and The Endless Summer (1966).