Derek Ho, first Hawaiian male world surfing champ, dead at 55

He belonged to a noted Hawaiian family that included brother Michael, also a top pro surfer, and second cousin Don, the entertainer.
Image: Derek Ho
Derek Ho at the Azores Airlines World Masters Championship on Sept. 20, 2018, in Praia de Santa Barbara, Sao Miguel, Portugal.Laurent Masurel / World Surf League via Getty Images

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By Dennis Romero

Derek Ho, the first Hawaiian man to win professional surfing's world championship, has died at 55, authorities said.

The cause of death was not disclosed by the Honolulu medical examiner's office. He was reported dead Friday.

Surf forecaster and news site Surfline reported Ho had a heart attack and slipped into a coma before his death.

The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, California, posted a memorial on Facebook.

"Godspeed Derek Ho. Your presence and spirit at Pipeline will be missed," the statement said. "The first Native Hawaiian man to be crowned world champion, your passion, drive and good nature inspired generations."

The surfwear brand and Hawaiian locals' organization Da Hui said on Facebook, "Mahalo for all the Many Classic Moments. Ride On."

Ho became the first Hawaiian man to win the world tour's championship late in his career, in 1993. Among those he beat out for the title was Kelly Slater, the winningest surfer in the sport's history, and past champion Martin Potter.

He also won the Pipeline Masters and Hawaii's Triple Crown of surfing, which includes the Masters, and big-wave contests at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach multiple times.

According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Ho was a second cousin to entertainer Don Ho. Derek Ho's brother, Michael, is a two-time Triple Crown winner who has been described as the godfather of Hawaii's North Shore, the center of professional surfing.

Michael's daughter, Coco, is a top-10 pro; son Mason is also a professional wave rider.

Derek Ho was a goofyfoot surfer, meaning he surfed left-handed, with his right foot in front. He was known as an "enforcer" for Hawaiian locals on the North Shore who sought to teach traveling wave riders respect and order.

Surfer Kala Alexander said on Instagram, "The man. The myth. The legend. Our hero."