People, Surf cultureObituary:  Brock Little 

-Words by Mat Arney, images by Buzzy Kerbox & film by Sports People Hawaii

Brock Little

March 17th 1967 – February 18th 2016

Above: Brock Little dropping into Waimea during the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, photographed by Buzzy Kerbox.

As surfing matures, it is an unfortunate reality that the frequency with which obituaries must be written and published increases. Whilst the passing of our sport’s elder statesmen from the effects of old age is sad, it is the deaths of those surfers who unfortunately fail to make it to old age, whether due to accident or illness, that shock us.

Born in 1967 in Napa, California, to teacher parents, the Little’s made the move to Oahu when Brock was four years old. Brock began surfing at Waikiki aged seven, and just nine years later during the El Niño winter of 1983 he paddled out for the first time at Waimea. He was sixteen years old. Three years later in 1986 he placed fourth in the Quiksilver Eddie event, and cemented his place amongst big wave surfing’s legends at the same event in 1990 when he came runner up to Keone Downing but stole the show having air-dropped out of the sky at 25-30 foot Waimea (he didn’t make the wave). Later in the same heat he pulled into a barrel on a twenty footer. He fell, jokingly calling it his “$50,000 mistake”.

Little had a successful career as a professional surfer, with a reputation as one of the world’s best big wave chargers and also as a travelling photo pro. He never seemed to take himself, or his career, too seriously though. He paddled out and charged huge waves because he enjoyed it; he found it incredibly fun and denied ever having any sort of “death wish”. He had his brushes with it though, most famously on his first visit to Mavericks with Mark Foo in 1994. On that fateful day in December, Little and Californian big wave surfer Mike Parsons took off together on the wave after Foo’s, were washed into the rocks and barely made it out. Little survived his first experience of Mavericks; Foo sadly, did not.

Through the late 1980s and 1990s, Little wrote regular articles for the American surf print media (both Surfer and Surfing) before in 1999 embarking on a second career when he began working as a stuntman on Hollywood movies, appearing in films including Training Day (2001), Transformers (2007) and Tropic Thunder (2008).

And then, just three weeks ago, he made the announcement via his instagram account that he had cancer. Having already undergone one round of chemotherapy which was unsuccessful, Little decided against going through the same process again. With the clock ticking the surf world rallied around and Brock Little faced his final weeks the same dignity and grace that he exhibited when dropping into huge Waimea – which is how we should all remember him.