Hoffman, Philip "Flippy"


Gravel-voiced surfer and textile exec from Capistrano Beach, California; a pioneering big-wave rider on the North Shore of Oahu in the early 1950s, and one of the first surfers, in 1975, to ride Kaena Point. Hoffman was born (1930) in Glendale, California, raised in Hollywood and Laguna Beach, and began surfing at age 13 at San Onofre.

In late 1952, after viewing an 8-millimeter reel of the big waves at Makaha filmed by his younger brother Walter—a surfer and navy enlistee stationed at Pearl Harbor—Hoffman made his first trip to Hawaii; he and surfboard designer Bob Simmons became the first surfers to rent a house at Sunset Point on Oahu's North Shore in early 1953. "There were just a few people out there; pig ranchers and shit," Hoffman recalled in 1992, in the blunt language that became a Hoffman trademark. "We surfed and we'd sit and we'd argue. Then some guys would come over from Makaha or Honolulu and they'd surf and then leave and we'd stay and sit and argue. Pretty much the same shit as the surfers are doing today."

On January 19, 1975, with a 15-foot swell running, Hoffman and three others became the first to ride Kaena Point, a break regarded at the time as the last big-wave frontier. Four years later, Hoffman and surfer-boardmaker Mickey Muñoz built 16-foot boards and became the first surfers to ride the North Shore's outer reefs, taking off on relatively benign 18-foot waves about three-quarters of a mile from the beach.

In the late '50s, Flippy and Walter Hoffman took over Hoffman California Fabrics, the 1924-founded family business that has for decades been a primary textile supplier to the surf-wear industry.

In 2006, Flippy and Walter were inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame at Huntington Beach. Although hobbled and requiring the aid of a walker to move around, Hoffman was at that time still surfing, riding prone on a modified longboard. Hoffman died in 2010 at the age of 80 from complications of pulmonary fibrosis; his passing was noted in a lengthy New York Times obituary.

Marty Hoffman, Flippy's son, won the boys' division of the 1977 United States Surfing Championships, placed fourth in the juniors division of the 1980 World Amateur Championships, and was a competitor in the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave contest at Waimea Bay.