Walter Hoffman, surf industry pioneer and big-wave surfer, dies at 92

Iconic Dana Point surfer Walter Hoffman with Gerry Lopez on June 21, 2024, during a gathering at Rainbow Sandals in San Clemente. (Photo by Laylan Connelly/SCNG)
Iconic Dana Point surfer Walter Hoffman with Gerry Lopez on June 21, 2024, during a gathering at Rainbow Sandals in San Clemente. (Photo by Laylan Connelly/SCNG) 

“No one had a better life than Walter, his life was in the best of times to be a surfer and he lived every moment of it to the fullest,” said iconic surfer and longtime friend Gerry Lopez. “I’m sure he passed with a smile for all the good waves, good friends and good times he enjoyed.”

Hoffman was also the patriarch of a family tree of surf influencers, including raising step-daughter Joyce Hoffman,

Walter Hoffman, an early-era big wave charger and board builder who helped kick-start the surf clothing industry, died Tuesday, July 9, at age 92.

“Surfing has lost one of its true pioneers as Walter Hoffman has gracefully kicked out. A surfboard builder, big-wave innovator, titan of the surf industry and committed family man, his legacy will live on in countless ways,” wrote Jake Howard, editor-in-chief of Surfer Magazine, in a tribute following news of Hoffman’s passing.  

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Hoffman and brother Phillip, who went by “Flippy,” spent their younger years in the Los Angeles area, sons of Rube Hoffman, who started California Fabrics in 1924.

By the ’40s, the family was spending summers in Laguna Beach, where the teenage brothers enjoyed the laid-back beach lifestyle – surfing big redwood boards, diving for abalone and having bonfires on the sand after long, cold ocean sessions, before the days of wetsuits.

Dick Metz, a longtime friend and founder of the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center, first met the Hoffmans during those years when he was a lifeguard for Laguna Beach.

Walter Hoffman joined the Navy during the Korean War and because of his water skills, was sent to Hawaii to be a lifeguard at Pearl Harbor, Metz said.

That’s where a group of surfers, including Hoffman and the likes of Buzzy Trent and George Downing, lived together, spending summers in Waikiki and winters on the North Shore, becoming pioneers of big-wave surfing.

“There weren’t shapers like now, there weren’t shops,” Metz said. “Everybody would make their own board or if you didn’t like doing it, you’d get a guy like Walter to.”

Hoffman was one of the early-era board makers, using balsa wood and other materials, long before fiberglass and foam were introduced to the craft. In 2021, Hoffman was inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach for his early boards that helped pave the path for big-wave surfing.

Hoffman and brother Flippy were also inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in 2006 for their contribution to the surf culture — namely their impact on surfwear.

Following his time in Hawaii, Hoffman learned the fabric business and bought a home on Beach Road in Dana Point in the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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