Cross, Dickie


Honolulu-born surfer who drowned at Waimea Bay in 1943, in what many surfers still regard as the most terrifying big-wave episode ever told. Dickie Cross, along with older brother Jack, was a fixture on the Waikiki surfing and paddleboard-racing scene in the late 1930s and early '40s. While still in middle school, the two boys made a sailing canoe in their backyard, and sailed it, alone, from Waikiki to Molokai, a distance of 40 miles.

On December 22, 1943, Cross and Woody Brown, a 31-year-old New York-born surfer-pacifist, drove from Honolulu to the North Shore of Oahu and set out to ride some eight-foot waves at Sunset Beach. Cross was eager to learn how to ride bigger waves; Brown was known for his sleek "hot curl" boards, which were designed in part to take on heavier surf.

A larger-than-average set arrived just as the two surfers paddled into the lineup at Sunset, and each successive group of waves continued to build, forcing Cross and Brown to paddle further and further outside in order to remain beyond the surf line. Realizing their route back to the beach had been cut off, they decided to paddle two-and-a-half miles down the coast to Waimea, where they hoped to make it to shore through the bay's deep-water channel. But Waimea was also washed out. As Brown later told the story, Cross suddenly bolted toward the beach, lost his board, and disappeared under the next set of waves. His body was never recovered. Brown timed his approach with more care, but was nonetheless unconscious by the time he washed ashore.

Cross's death contributed greatly to what California big-wave rider Greg Noll later described as the "Waimea taboo"—a general fear that kept surfers from riding the break until 1957.