Unflinching big-wave surfer and world traveler from Haleiwa, Hawaii; runner-up in the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest at Waimea Bay. Little was born (1967) in Napa, California, moved with his family to Hawaii at age three, and began surfing at age seven. He was a finalist in the menehune division of the 1980 United States Surfing Championships; just over six years later the 145-pound pencil-legged rookie pro placed fourth in the 1986 Quiksilver event, held in ragged 20-foot surf at Waimea. Little was 19; Clyde Aikau, Mark Foo, and Ken Bradshaw, the three surfers who placed ahead of him, were 37, 28, and 34, respectively.
Although Little was runner-up to Hawaiian surfer Keone Downing in the 1990 Quiksilver contest, held in spectacular 25 to 30-foot Waimea surf, he stole the show with a gladiatorial wipeout on the biggest wave of the day, and followed up by pulling into the tube on a 20-footer—a rarity in big-wave surfing at the time—and nearly making it out. Little's relaxed, loose-armed style made his big-wave bravado seem all the cooler. Along with fellow Hawaiian Darrick Doerner, Little was named as the best Waimea riders in peer polls conducted in 1990 and 1993. Little went on to place highly in most of the big-wave events over the next few years.
Meanwhile, the always-sociable Little moonlighted as a photo trip pro, jetting off on sponsor-funded journeys to Tahiti, Fiji, South Africa, South Australia, France, Spain, Brazil, and Morocco, and to more exotic places like Alaska, Ireland, Nicaragua, Namibia, and Easter Island. Little's job was simply to get his photo in the magazines and to turn up in surf movies and videos. "People ask me what I do for a living, and I do nothing," the staccato-voiced surfer candidly told Interview magazine in 1991. "I pick up a check in the mail and go surfing. And when the waves aren't good in Hawaii, somebody pays me to surf somewhere else."
Little authored nearly 30 articles for Surfer and Surfing magazines between 1989 to 1997, mainly travel stories and big-wave features. He was the informal mentor to a slightly younger generation of Hawaiian big-wave surfers, including Todd Chesser and Shane Dorian, and was the most vocal proponent of the idea that big-wave riding, rather than being a spiritual exercise or a test of character, was just hugely fun.
Little and fellow Hawaiian big-wave rider Mark Foo both rode Maverick's for the first time on December 23, 1994. Around noon, Foo wiped out on a 15- foot wave while dropping in; Little and California big-wave rider Mike Parsons wiped out on the wave following and were washed into a nearshore rock out-cropping, where they both struggled mightily to get free and make it ashore. Foo had meanwhile been pushed to the bottom and drowned.
Little has been featured in more than 50 surf movies, videos, and documentaries, including Amazing Surf Stories (1986), Surfers: The Movie (1990), The Search II (1993), Endless Summer II (1994), and In God's Hands (1998). Working regularly as a Hollywood stuntman since 1999, Little has appeared in over 20 films, including Pearl Harbor (2001), Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and Tropic Thunder (2008). He was a Screen Actors Guild Award nominee for his work in 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
In 2016, Little, died of liver cancer. He was 48.
Photographer Clark Little is Brock's younger brother.