Big Wave Surfer Woody Brown Dies at 96

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE – Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 21 April, 2008 – KAHULUI, Maui — One of the world’s most renowned surfers died last Wednesday at Hale Makua, Kahului, The Maui News reported. Big wave surfer Woodbridge Parker “Woody” Brown was 96.

“Woody Brown was one of the first and greatest icons in the history of surfing,” Sen. Fred Hemmings said Friday. “He was the essential surfer, an iconoclast: extremely independent, futuristic and, most especially, healthy,” saidHemmings, the 1968 world surfing champion who inaugurated the world professional surfing circuit in 1975, “which explains why he lived for 96 very productive, wonderful years. And I only hope more of us who call ourselves surfers can live the way Woody lived. Sad as anyone passing is, what a joyous life.” 

Woody Brown. Photo Courtesy David L. Brown, Surfersvillage

                                                                       Woody Brown. Photo: David L. Brown, Surfersvillage

Woody Brown was born Jan. 5, 1912, in New York. At age 23, he struck out with a new bride for the West Coast and was among the first surfers off San Diego, building his own hollow plywood surfboard in 1937. When his wife died in childbirth in 1939, he again headed west, to Tahiti, but got stranded in Hawai’i because the government wasn’t issuing visas right before World War II.

He went on to surf with all the greats in waters off Waikiki, the North Shore of O’ahu, Makaha and each of the Neighbor Islands, where he was the walk-up house guest of welcoming Hawaiian families. Buddies called the lanky waterman “Spider.”

Brown built the prototype of the modern catamaran in 1947 and pioneered taking Waikiki tourists for catamaran rides, which provided his living for four decades. He outlived two wives, and fathered two daughters and three sons, the youngest of whom is 19. Brown, who surfed regularly until he was 90, rubbed shoulders with Charles Lindbergh, Duke Kahanamoku and old Hawaiians who lived the life of a former era, he said.

“He was just a lot of fun to be out surfing with,” recalled Terry Quisenberry, a surfer, paddler and fence builder in Haiku. “I could always tell it was Woody, sitting up on his green board, paddling along. He really enjoyed surfing with everyone because his enthusiasm was just so contagious. He’s also very nice to everyone.”

Read the full Surfersvillage report HERE, which is courtesy of