Skip to main content

Surfer missing after wiping out on 20-foot Oahu wave

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 9:28 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 32-year-old surfer had many years' experience riding big waves, business partner says
  • Witness surmises that Kirk Passmore burst eardrum in the wipeout and lost orientation
  • A Coast Guard cutter and helicopter searched for Passmore Wednesday

(CNN) -- As authorities searched Thursday for a surfer missing after wiping out on a 20-foot wave off Oahu's North Shore, his family released a statement that reads like an obituary.

Kirk Passmore, a business owner and restaurant manager, was last seen late Wednesday morning at a surfing spot known as Alligator Rock in Haleiwa, CNN affiliate KHNL reported.

Witnesses told the station that the experienced big-wave surfer fell off his board on the 20-foot swell and was hit by another wave. His partially damaged surfboard was found down the beach.

"He started coming to Hawaii when he was 14 and was an experienced and expert surfer. He was not new to big wave surfing, having surfed most of the well-known big wave locations," said a statement from his family posted on the Brigham Young University-Hawaii website.

The statement, which is under the heading, "Kirk Passmore, February 11, 1981 to November 12, 2013," says the Utah-born and Carlsbad, California-reared 32-year-old enjoyed sports, including football, basketball and baseball, "but his love was in surfing."

It also says he is "survived" by his mother, father, stepmother and three siblings.

Jamie Sterling, a surfer who saw Passmore wipe out, told KHNL, "He was seen swimming down with his feet up above the surface, and we think he broke his eardrum because what happens when you break your eardrum is you have complete loss of balance and you have vertigo."

Coast Guard crews, Ocean Safety lifeguards, the Honolulu Fire Department and fellow surfers searched for Passmore on Wednesday to no avail. The Coast Guard continued searching through the night, while other rescuers suspended their search until sunrise.

A helicopter, jet skis and a Coast Guard cutter were used in the search, KHNL reported.

Oahu's North Shore was under a high-surf warning, with waves reaching 25 to 35 feet, and some surfers questioned why Passmore wasn't wearing a flotation vest in the perilous conditions.

"See, what would have saved him is if he had a float vest on. Everybody wears float vests nowadays," Chris Owens, who searched for Passmore after seeing him go underwater, told KHNL.

Added champion paddle boarder Jamie Mitchell, "Some of the best big-wave guys in the world are out there today and they all had their flotation vests and stuff. I guess it just goes to show that it can happen to anyone at any time."

Steve Matthews, who told the station that he co-owned a surf shop with Passmore, said Passmore moved to the North Shore from California about two years ago, but he has many years' experience riding large waves in Hawaii, Mexico and elsewhere.

Passmore's co-workers at the Banzai Sushi Bar in Haleiwa said the restaurant closed down for the night out of respect for Passmore.

Passmore is 6-foot-3 and weighs about 185 pounds. He has reddish hair and hazel eyes and was wearing black board shorts at the time of the wipeout.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 5:57 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT