Tributes are pouring in from around the world after beloved former surfing pro John Shimooka died aged 51 on Monday.
A Surfing NSW executive, the Hawaiian-born Australian’s death overnight led to an outpouring of grief in his adopted country and abroad.
“The team at Surfing NSW is deeply distressed at the passing of one of our own, John Shimooka,” the organisation said.
“A talented former world tour surfer, commentator, black belt and General Manager of Partnerships for Surfing NSW since 2018, ‘Shmoo’ was a much-loved member of the global surfing community and the Surfing NSW family.
“He will be remembered for his passion for the lifestyle as well as his energy and enthusiasm.”
“Everyone in our organisation joins his son, Brandon, immediate family, and his extended worldwide network of friends, in grieving his loss.
“It is our saddest day.”
The WSL paid tribute to Shimooka’s “major impact on the surfing world” in a statement on Monday.
Having made his name on the world tour in the late 1980s before a resurgence in the 1990s, Shimooka retired aged 29 following the birth of his son Brandon.
By then he had already moved to Sydney with his Australian wife Lisa.
“Being on the road so much, you learn to appreciate your family and your home,” Shimooka said in 1999.
“When I looked at my new baby boy, I knew it was over.”
But he was not lost to surfing, instead taking up commentary roles that kept him front and centre in the community before taking up work with Surfing NSW in recent years.
Surfing icon Kelly Slater shared a picture from May, when he reconnected with Shimooka with a surf in Sydney.
“My heart’s ripped out,” American surfing icon Kelly Slater said.
“I’m sorry, Shmoo. I thought we had this.”
Retired Australian surfing great Tom Carroll said: “No sense. I thought so too. Shmoo RIP.”
Aussie commentator Ronnie Blakey wrote: “Lots of love for that man. What a character. Condolences to you (Slater) and all that knew and loved him. He is gonna be missed.”
French professional Jeremy Flores mourned the loss in a post on his Instagram account.
“This has to stop. Another uncle gone way too soon,” he wrote.
“Will miss you Shmoo. Much love to the whole ohana (family).”
Shimooka’s death comes just five months after his friend and fellow Hawaiian surfing great Derek Ho died of a heart attack aged 55.
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