Buzzy Trent, legendary big-wave surfing pioneer, has passed on to
ride the big wave in the sky. Trent quietly passed away in his sleep
on Sept. 27.
Known for being one of the first California surfers to make the
transition to the powerful waves of Hawaii, Trent is greatly
responsible for inspiring surfers worldwide to become big-wave
surfers. Years after he rode his last big waves, the name Trent is
still synonymous with big-wave surfing.
Big-wave surfing, back in the day, was wild and crazy by anybody’s
standards. For one thing, very few surfers knew about it, let alone
In the early 1950s, Trent was blazing new territory by surfing the
giant waves of Makaha and later the North Shore of Oahu before anyone
had even heard of Makaha or the North Shore of Oahu. Along with a
handful of other surfers such as the Preece brothers, George and
Henry, and George Downing, Trent spent time exploring previously
unridden spots such as Sunset Beach, Avalanche and Laniakea. At the
time, no one knew if the powerful, giant waves of the North Shore
could actually be surfed. Trent proved they could.
On Nov. 27, 1953, a Honolulu photographer named Skip Tsuzuki took a
famous Associated Press photograph of Trent, Downing and Woody Brown
surfing a big wave at Makaha that went worldwide. This was the first
big-wave surfing photograph that had that kind of distribution. This
photograph, as well as the big-wave surfing stories that followed,
inspired the first wave of California surfers to move to Hawaii.
Big-wave surfers such as Pat Curren, Greg Noll, Peter Cole and Fred
Van Dyke all followed in Trent’s footsteps.
Big-wave surfing has come a long way since those early days. Back
then, the lineups were empty and there were no lifeguards coming to
get you if something went wrong. The surfboards were crude and heavy
by today’s standards and it would be years before surfboard leashes
would be invented. If a surfer lost his board, there was only one
choice - swim.
Today, when the North Shores waves are up, so are the crowds.
Somehow, surfing big waves with 30 or more other skilled surfers
seems a lot safer than going it alone. It’s a lot more comforting
knowing others are out there with you, just for the fact that, should
something go wrong, there is at least the possibility someone may
come to the rescue.
In addition, nowadays there are plenty of lifeguards to keep a
watchful eye on big-wave surfers. If a surfer wipes out and looses
his surfboard, chances are a lifeguard using a high-speed personal
watercraft will be there to make the rescue before a surfer has to
swim 20 feet.
“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” said Maximus in 160 A.D.
As new generations get turned onto surfing, if they stay at it long
enough, sooner or later they will come across the name Buzzy Trent.
Trent was an explorer, a leader and a pioneer. It is a lot easier to
think about surfing big waves once you have seen someone else do it
first. Trent showed the surfing world how it’s done. One can only
imagine the courage, and supreme confidence, it took to break the
big-wave surfing barriers Trent did.
Although Trent has left the planet, his legacy continues. There will
be bigger waves to ride, new surfing spots to discover and new
challenges to be met.
Life, like a wave, only lasts so long. Every surfer only has so much
time on the planet and then, like a wave that reaches the shore, time
returns once again back to its origins.
Life is too short not to go for it while you can. Trent’s life will
continue to inspire and motivate not just surfers, but everyone, to
catch the big wave of their own dreams.
There are no waves too big to surf. There are no dreams too big to
catch. Just like Trent, trust yourself, and if you really want
something, go for it. But, if you do, give it 100 percent, give it
all you have.
Somewhere in the universe, the waves must be going off. If they are,
Trent will be there to show others how to ride them.