was born into a poor sugar cane plantation family in 1942. Looking for opportunity in the merchant marines, Ben’s father moved the Aipa family to Oahu in 1946, but left a few years later. Using the profound work ethic he learned in the sugar cane fields, Ben did everything he could to help his mother make ends meet – from shining shoes in downtown Honolulu to diving for coins tourists would toss into Honolulu harbor. His unyielding determination would drive him to become a top competitive swimmer, All-American football player, legendary surfer
, master surfboard shaper, and surf coach.
Aipa didn’t start surfing until he was in his early 20s – after an ankle injury put an end to his football career. With the same dauntless resolve he had always shown, Ben trained daily in 1964 to become a pro surfer. In 1966, he was a finalist in the Duke Classic and finished fourth in the ’67 Makaha International.
He also competed in the World Championships in 1968 and 1970. In 1989, he won the grandmasters division of the U.S. Surfing Championships and the legends division in 2000 – at the age of 58!
Ben Aipa started shaping surfboards in 1964 and founded Aipa Surfboards
in 1971. With the transition period in full swing, Ben became a respected surfboard designer, credited with inventing both the double-point swallowtail and the sting. Now 78 years old, Ben has influenced so many board builders – both past and present. He has also coached a host of champion athletes, including Sunny Garcia, John Shimiooka, Brad Gerlach, Taylor Knox, the Irons brothers, the Smith brothers, and Bethany Hamilton.
Unfortunately, Ben’s health has been deteriorating over the past few years. While rumors about his condition have circulated recently, Ben is living on the Big Island and battling courageously. He can no longer do some of the things he’s always loved and struggles with simple day-to-day activities, yet he remains the ever-proud Hawaiian, honored to share his aloha with the world.
Ben Aipa is more than just another surf “legend”…as his son Duke says,
“…since our father is still with us, my brother Akila, sister Lokelani, and I humbly ask the surfing community around the world to please remember our Dad the way each of you knew him. Tough but kind, slyly funny, whatever your fondest memories of him might be - continue to send all the aloha you can from your heart to our dad, Ben. Your friend, your mentor, your coach, an innovator to the Sport of Kings. After all, it is simply yet powerfully through your love and aloha for our dad that the Ben Aipa legacy will live on.”
For those who may wish to contribute, a Go Fund Me page has been established to assist Ben’s wife with doctor bills and in-home care. Mahalo!
Until next time,