Influential Hawaiian Icon Ben Aipa Has Passed Away - Stab Mag

Influential Hawaiian Icon Ben Aipa Has Passed Away

Rest In Power

Words by Stab

It’s with a heavy heart that we report Ben Aipa, legendary Hawaiian surfer, shaper, and cultural icon, passed away last night. 

“On January 15, 2021, at the age of 78, my dad, Ben Aipa, passed away due to complications from stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease,” Ben’s son, Akila Aipa reported this morning. 

Born in Honolulu in 1942, though Aipa didn’t start surfing until the end of his “semipro football career” in his early-’20s, according to The Encyclopedia of Surfing’s Matt Warshaw. 

“After an ankle injury ended his semipro football career… He trained for surfing with the single-mindedness he’d developed as a linebacker, not missing a day in the water for all of 1965, and the following year he won the Hawaiian Inter-Island Championships and was a finalist in the Duke Kahanamoku Classic at Sunset Beach.”

Aipa’s contributions to surfing can’t be overstated, the heavyweight Hawaiian combining unmatched power with a confident grace and style.  

Named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Shapers of all time by Surfing in 2004, Aipa began shaping shortly after surfing, early on shaping the board Fred Hemmings would go on to win the first World Championship on in 1968, then launching his now-iconic Aipa Surfboards label in 1970. 

According to Warshaw, “Aipa soon came into his greatest influence as a designer, first inventing the double-ended swallowtail in 1972, followed two years later by the split-rail sting; both designs were ridden to electrifying effect by a group of Aipa-led Hawaiian test pilots including Larry Bertlemann, Michael Ho, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, and Mark Liddell. Aipa served as an informal trainer/coach for these surfers, all of whom competed during the early years of the pro world tour, and he continued to coach in the decades to come, working with pro standouts Sunny Garcia, Brad Gerlach, Kalani Robb, and the Irons brothers, Andy and Bruce.”

Throughout his later years, Aipa continued to shape and compete, a major figure in the 90s Longboard Renaissance, and a top-tier competitor throughout that era, winning both the 1989 United States Surfing Championships grandmasters division and the legends division in 2000. 

“I’ll remember my dad as a father, surfer, shaper, designer, athlete, friend, mentor and a grandfather,” Akila wrote. “Thank you for loving and mentoring so many generations of surfers in competition, and most importantly life. Your contributions to our sport and industry leaves a legacy with everyone you were able to share with, help and inspire.”

“I love you dad. Give grandma, grandpa and aunty a big hug for us. Aloha ‘oe e makaukāne.

“Pau ka ‘oe hana, pio ka ‘oe ahi, pala ka ‘oe ‘āhui.” (Your work is done, your fire is extinguished, your banana bunch has ripened.) – ‘Ōlelo Noe‘au 2606”

*I would like to spread his ashes at Bowls on his birthday August 17. Hopefully, we’ll be through this pandemic and everyone that wants to make it can come. Mahalo.”

Rest In Power.

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