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 3:03 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
For years, Morten Storm moved between two worlds. A radical Islamist turned double agent is lifting the lid on some of the world's best-kept secrets.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
What will happen to Scotland's business (not to mention its currency) if they vote to leave?
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The Ebola virus, very deadly and currently without a cure, is fast-spreading throughout the small West African country.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Go to any provincial city in China and you'd be forgiven for thinking the national youth pastimes are online gaming and flirting.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 6:32 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
ISIS has slaughtered hundreds. Now nearly 40 nations have agreed to take the fight to the militants. But what can they do?
updated 4:51 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
North Korea calls its human rights a "superior system."
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
In Wenzhou, called the "Jerusalem of China," authorities have demolished churches.
Are you Muslim? What do you want the world to know about your religion?
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
A number of Paralympic athletes in Ghana are hoping to use sport to change negative public perceptions.
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT