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Ho, Michael


Indestructible Hawaiian pro surfer from Sunset Beach, Oahu; world-ranked #3 in 1978, and the Triple Crown winner in 1983 and 1985; described by fellow Hawaiian Dane Kealoha as "the godfather of the North Shore."

Ho was born (1957) in San Mateo, California, the son of a former Waikiki beachboy, raised in Waimanalo, Oahu, and first surfed at age three. He won the boys' division of the 1970 United States Surfing Championships, and the following year placed third in the juniors division. As a pigeon-chested 15-year-old, he took fifth in 1972 World Surfing Championships, and was praised as the event's most exciting and progressive surfer.

Ho became one of Hawaii's first full-time professional surfers, and in 1975 finished runner-up in the Duke Kahanamoku Classic and the Pro Class Trials. Ho was already being called the world's finest "position" surfer, meaning he invariably placed himself in the most critical section of the wave using the simplest and cleanest line. He often rode with a ramrod straight back, knees apart, his right arm distinctively held out from his body, hand dangling at the wrist. (Younger brother Derek Ho, the 1993 world champion, surfed in much the same way.)

At 5'5", 135 pounds, Ho was never able to explode through a turn the way his heavier peers could, but nobody was quicker on their feet, and few were as innately stylish. He was one of the world's best tuberiders in the mid- and late '70s (he helped invent the "pigdog" tuberiding technique), and his skills only improved throughout the '80s. Gregarious around friends and family, the mustachioed Ho kept a wary distance from the rest of the surf world, and was a somewhat shadowy figure during his 13 years (1976–88) on the pro tour.

Ho performed well at world tour venues around the world, but never won a pro circuit event outside of Hawaii. On the North Shore, however, he was a competitive force for more than 25 years: a five-time Pipeline Masters finalist (winning in 1982, even though hobbled by a cast on his right wrist); an eight-time Duke finalist (winning in 1978 and 1981); a four-time winner of the Xcel Pro (1988, 1990, 1991, and 1996); a two-time Triple Crown winner (1983 and 1985); and a four-time competitor in the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave event at Waimea (finishing fourth in 1990).

In one of pro surfing's most remarkable competitive achievements, the 40-year-old Ho finished runner-up in the 1997 Pipeline Masters. A mainstay in the World Masters Championships, an annual event for ex-pros over the age of 36, Ho won the event in 2000, and made the quarterfinals of the 2011 event in Brazil. In 2012, Ho was inducted to the Surfing Walk of Fame at Huntington Beach.

Over the decades Ho appeared in more than 35 surf movies and videos, including A Sea for Yourself (1973), Super Session (1975), Free Ride (1977), Tales of the Seven Seas (1981), Follow the Sun (1983), Shock Waves (1987), and Aloha Bowls (1994). 

Ho's two children, Mason and Coco, are both professional surfers.