Sullivan, Pancho


Bespectacled Hawaiian power surfer, born (1973) in a bamboo treehouse located on a seven-acre commune on Kauai's dreamscape Napali Coast. Sullivan and his mother moved to Oahu in 1980, he got his first surfboard the following year, and by age 15 he was riding big waves at Sunset Beach on the North Shore.

By the mid-'90s, Sullivan had packed 190 muscle-laden pounds onto his once-lanky six-foot frame, and was turning his board with more force than all but three or four other people in the sport. For years, he had no contest record to speak. It didn't matter a bit. "In waves that matter," Surfing magazine noted, "Pancho has become one of the best surfers in the world."

In 1998, 2000, and 2003, Sullivan won the XCEL Pro at Sunset; in 2004 year he made the semifinals at the Pipeline Masters and won the Backdoor Shootout, and following year, at age 32, in one of the strangest careers the sport has ever seen, he became the oldest rookie competitor ever on the WCT. In 2007 he was the 7th-ranked surfer in the world. In 2008, just after retiring from full-time competition, continuing his oddly-inverted career arc, he snagged one more XCEL title. As of 2013, Sullivan was a regular commentator for pro tour webcasts, especially at Rip Curl-sponsored events.

Sullivan lives on the North Shore with his wife and family. He appeared in nearly two dozen surf videos, including Aloha Bowls (1994), Feral Kingdom (1995), and Tripping the Planet (1996).