Born in 1936, Del Cannon grew up in Long Beach, California. An avid waterman, he excelled in swimming and water polo in high school and college. After catching his first wave at Doheny State Beach on a borrowed surfboard, Del was hooked on surfing. His first shaping job came at Burland Surfboards in the San Diego area, and before Del opened his first shop in San Clemente in 1965, he had graduated from Cal State Fullerton and had shaped for such well-known brands as Ole, Gordie and Hobie. In 1969, Cannon was the U.S judge at the World Surfing Contest in Australia and was the head judge at the “Duke” contest at Waimea in 1972.
Cannon made his first trip to Hawaii in 1957 and was among the band of audacious surfers credited with riding Waimea Bay for the first time. Others in that group included Bing Copeland, Pat Curren, Mickey Munoz, Greg Noll and Mike Stange. In 1970, Del and his wife Alice moved to Maui and called the Hawaiian Islands home ever since. While on Maui, he made surfboards, worked as a substitute teacher and occasionally flew to Oahu to shape for Lightning Bolt. In 1974, the Cannons moved to the Big Island, where Del built his own boat and for more than two decades was a charter fishing boat captain.
Remember a couple of early Bruce Brown surf films, Slippery When Wet (1958) and Barefoot Adventure (1960)? Del Cannon appeared in both. Brown once said, “Del was a good surfer and a great swimmer, but he was really a great actor! He had screen presence. He could get a lot done with just the slightest expression. And he’d do anything you asked.”
On November 27, 2021, Del Cannon passed away peacefully at the age of 85. We honor all that he accomplished as one of the true pioneers of modern surfing.
Photos courtesy of the Del Cannon family