So fierce in the water Gerry Lopez described him thus, "When you see Ben coming, don't think, just get out of the way."
If you know your surf history, you’ll know the legend of Ben Aipa.
He was the creator of the stinger design that gave ol Marky Richards, later a four-time world champ, a rocket underfoot in the winter of ’75, and who was so fierce-looking and powerful in the water Gerry Lopez described him thus, “When you see Ben coming, don’t think, just get out of the way.”
(In Matt Warshaw’s list of 15 Best Power Surfers Warshaw writes, “Rode Sunset Beach like Jim Brown on a broken-field run. Power and finesse. Rudely underappreciated at a longboard surfer.”
His two sons, Duke and Akila, have carried the shaper-surfer flame into the twenty-first century, both arch-craftsman, Akila you’ll know already as the man who built the board Kelly lit Keramas up on in 2019.
Now here’s the thing.
Ben, who turns seventy-eight in August, is sick, real sick, blood infections, heart issue, diabetes and he’s been hit by myriad strokes.
And in the US, catastrophic illness means catastrophic medical bills.
You want to help?
His second wife, Leonore, is selling all his boards via an auction house. Click here.
“He’s been my husband and now he’s my child,” Leonore told Hawaii News Now. “I take care of him as a mother will take care of her child.”
Or if picking over Ben’s personal surfboard collection feels a little ghoulish, you can drop a little cash into the gofundme account Duke has set up.
Its goal is to raise fifty k; so far it’s at seven gees.
When I heard that Ben was sick, I called his son Akila who grew up with a front-row seat to the North Shore, with a famous, and famously loved Dad.
A rare soul connected to surfing’s cultural continuum.
“Yeah, man, well, everyone knows him for his stinger, but his greatest contribution was how long he shaped for, how consistent he was, the attention to craftsmanship… there was a level of integrity in his boards for sixty years,” says Akila.
“For my brother and I there’s a sense of pride in how we build boards. We carry on the tradition.”