Kaio, Kealoha


Quiet Hawaiian big-wave surfer rider from Laie, Oahu; third-place finisher in the 1963 Makaha International contest. Kaio (born: 1935) didn't begin surfing until 1956 at age 21, on an old discarded redwood plank. "I was just out of the military," Kaio later told surf writer Nick Carroll, "diving, fishing, drinking, and smoking. Surfing cleaned me up."

Just two years later, Kaio was riding Sunset Beach, the big-wave capital of Oahu's North Shore, and by 1963, with just five years of experience in the water, he'd almost magically become a refined and elegant presence in the lineup. "Ricky Grigg was the best surfer," Kaio said. "I saw how he would throw his hands up on the takeoff, and still have them up during bottom turns. But I decided, instead, to work on keeping my hands and arms low down." Surfing magazine pointed out that this stylistic trait was passed to Hawaiian surfers like Eddie Aikau and Jeff Hakman, who in turn influenced virtually every big-wave rider that followed.

In 1963, the same year he made the Makaha International finals, Kaio helped train Fabian, Tab Hunter, and the rest of the stars of Columbia Pictures' Ride the Wild Surf. Kaio competed in the inaugural Duke Kahanamoku contest in 1965, but by the end of the decade, with eight children to feed—Kaio himself was one of 11 children—he'd left the surf scene to work as a commercial fisherman and a garbage truck driver. In later years, Kaio became an accomplished racquetball player.

When Kaio died in 2005, at age 71, he had 38 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.