Downing, Keone


Smooth and steady regularfoot surfer from Hawaii; winner of the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave contest at Waimea Bay; son of big-wave pioneer George Downing. Keone Downing was born (1953) and raised in Honolulu, and began surfing at age five in Waikiki. He won the juniors division of the Makaha International in 1968 and 1969, placed fifth in the 1970 World Surfing Championships, and was runner-up in the 1980 Duke Kahanamoku Classic.

Downing was one of Hawaii's most decorated outrigger-canoe paddlers in the '80s, helping his team to five victories in the Molokai-to-Oahu championship between 1980 and 1988, and winning the World Canoe Surfing Championships in 1988. He graduated in 1975 with a degree in commercial art from California College of Arts and Crafts, and went on to design logos for surf industry giants Quiksilver and O'Neill.

In the 1990 Quiksilver/Aikau event, still considered by many to be the most exciting big-wave contest ever seen, Downing was regarded as a longshot contender. But he selected waves perfectly, went through the one-day event without so much as a slip or bobble, and led from start to finish. He rode a board shaped by his father. Downing's $55,000 winner's check was the sport's biggest-ever cash prize at the time.

In 2013, the 59-year-old Downing was on the alternate list for the Quiksilver/Aikau event. He also owned and operated Downing Hawaii, the surfboard shop his father launched in 1968.