Hawaiian surf star, sparring partner of Sunny Garcia and former world #19, John Shimooka, dead at fifty-one

Tributes pour in for popular tour surfer, manager…

The diminutive former world number nineteen and jiujitsu black-belt, John Shimooka, whose motto was “life is too short to be serious” has reportedly been found dead at his Sydney home. 

Shimooka, a suave motherfucker with excellent hair who had just turned fifty-one, quit the tour in 1999 to move from Hawaii to Cronulla, in Sydney’s southern suburbs, and raise his son Brandon with his Australian wife Lisa.

“When I looked at my baby boy I knew it was all over… I finally found out what we’re really put on earth for, to reproduce beautiful little human beings like Brandon. I have loved children all my life, and to have one of my own is the ultimate. He’s my jewel,” Shmoo told Hawaii’s Star Bulletin. 

Shmoo won a tour event in Japan and was runner-up to his best pal Sunny Garcia at Bells in 1995, riding an ultra-fast Greg Webber. He circled the tour for a dozen seasons, finishing nineteenth in 1995.

From Hawaiian photographer Brian Bielmann: “There’s a lotta broken hearts out there today, aloha John Shimooka Your Beautiful soul touched so so many.” 

A gaming card from 1992 said Shmoo “dances to the beat of a different drummer. His reputation as a party animal may overshadow his abilities in the water, whether tearing the tops off Ulu barrels or going airborne at a California beach break, but does he care? Of course not, as long as he has a chance to speak his mind. In which case he would probably say life is too short to be serious. Shmoo lives the classic surfer’s lifestyle: surf the best you can and have fun while doing it.”

After leaving the tour, Shmoo got deep into jiujitsu and became a manager for popular surfers Craig Anderson and Jordy Smith.

Two months ago, on the first anniversary of his wife Lisa’s death, Shmoo posted a moving tribute on Instagram. 

Last year, Shmoo spoke at a surfing contest organised by another former pro, Kurt Nyholm, to raise money for Head Space, an Australian charity that provides mental health support for 12-25-year-olds.

“Shmoo spoke of his struggles and the dark places they’ve taken him,” another tour surfer Toby Martin said. “Now we have Sunny(Garcia). So it has to stop, and we need to find ways to help. This event offered a passive way for surfers to reach out. It was a platform so surfers could let their guard down. That helps stop guys from becoming isolated, which I know from my own personal experience is where the problems start.”

Man suffering a depressive syndrome, manifested when forced to stop surfing.

Surfers claim “depressive syndrome” and “emotional imbalance” to climb through loophole circumventing France’s no-surfing edict!

"Selfish. Creative. Rebellious."

An encouraging letter received this morning from Hossegor, a surf-rich town in south-west France and a favourite of BeachGrit, less so for shaper Matt “Mayhem” Biolos who describes the joint in winter as “like the Blair Witch Project.”

Worldly readers will have read of a spike in COVID-19 infections in France, the Republic’s president Emmanuel Macron warning the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”. Kinky Manny “My bodyguard is not my lover”, who began dating his teacher, later his wife, when he was sixteen, said that France must “brutally apply the brakes” to avoid being “submerged by the acceleration of the epidemic”.

Manny said that people need to fill in a form to justify leaving their homes, you can’t cruise around at night and social gatherings are banned.

“Like in the spring, you will be able to leave your house only to work, for a medical appointment, to provide assistance to a relative, to shop for essential goods or to go for a walk near your house,” he said.

Importantly, for the safe of the Republic, no surfing.

Our reader, broadydaz, writes,

On the 28th of October, things started to get shitstain-in-your-pants serious in France for surfers.

The President had just announced the country was locking down for another month from Friday morning. Surfers started to lose their mental biscuits as the thought of being forbidden from surfing: It had already happened once this year earlier in March and it lasted for two months.

(Editor’s note: Read “The last time armed men imposed curfew here, the 3rd SS Panzer division Totenkopf was patrolling Bayonne!”  and “Vichy gendarmerie bring down jackboot on rogue VALs!”)

Vichy gendarme proudly poses with busted parallel fin riding VAL earlier this year.

Apart from a handful of crafty and courageously selfish surfers who got an occasional fix the majority of the surfing population went dry.

It was a heavy lockdown and even driving around was risky.

This time however there were loopholes and the biggest one was the beach was open. Albeit only for the privileged minority that lived within one kilometre. Also for a sportsman who needed to train.

Boom, loopholes.

The last day of the freedom was only accessible for the few who would brave Belharra. The Friday (day one) of the lockdown was primed to be all-time and after watching the forecast closely for ten days it was maddening everyone to tears.

Day one dawned and the webcams proved the forecast correct.

They also witnessed something else. Startingly or perhaps not at all, surfers were surfing.

How could there be so many professionals! At every spot.

Paddling out at Hossegor’s prime big wave location La Nord punters were surprised that it was crowded! Even more surprising was the atmosphere, surfers were happy to see other surfers.

Safety in numbers. Solidarity. Rebellion. Revolution.

Macron had said the forces of law and order would go easy on everyone till they returned home from holidays Sunday night.

Rumours were rife. The police were sending reinforcements and they would arrive the following Tuesday.

Surfers were frenzied over the offshore conditions for days. Fines were to be 135€ and surfers starting calculating how much a three-hour session of six foot waves should cost.

Then dividing sessions into 135€ Tuesday came and no sign reinforcements.

New loopholes surfaced.

Medical certificates could get you a surfing pass.

Surf Instructors had the greenlight.

Then more rumours.

Everyone was abusing authorities and the beaches would be closed from Wednesday to everyone till February. It freaked the surfers out so they surfed more. Others that hadn’t been surfing gave up and went surfing.

Doctors recorded an increase in surfers needing prescriptions to surf.

People were very sick, troubled, needed to surf. New rumours that medical certificates didn’t work and instructors weren’t allowed resurfaced.

Soon no-one would be able to surf.

The surf got better, the wind went more offshore.

More swell. All sorts of size. Big waves, small waves, hollow and fast waves.

More rumours. Second fines would be 3000€. First fines would be 3000€.

Surfers discussed their different certificates.

Surfboard builders were professionals too. They needed to test the equipment.

Every surfing parent needed to train their children.

Surfing became for those few weeks a revolution for some.

It spoke of the passion they had inside their hearts.

They were selfish. Creative. Rebellious.

The beaches would close. But still, they surfed.

New evidence suggests spate of Killer Whale-on-boat violence not tied to revenge but to fun: “They just play, play and play. And the game is getting worse and worse!”

They love it. And don't know why.

It was first reported, here, two months ago, that a pod of Killer Whales off the coasts of Spain and New Spain (i.e. Portugal) was exhibiting never-before-seen behavior in carrying out coordinated attacks on boats. Scientists and researchers puzzled and puzzled over what it could all mean and, a month later, many concluded they were revenge assaults over injuries sustained.

That the Killers “may have felt compelled to act when they saw a sailboat in order to slow it down by going after its rudder.”

Well, another month on and the situation has grown much worse with attacks increasing in both ferocity and damage. Some last for hours with terrified passengers and sailors praying for a merciful end.

Scientists and researchers reconvened to get to the bottom of this wild business, identified the three culprits and named them Gladis Black, Gladis White and Gladis Grey and have now abandoned the revenge theory, settling on an assumption that the big boys are just having some good ol’ fashioned fun.

Renaud de Stephanis, a biologist who is part of the team investigating, told the BBC, “I’ve seen them hunting. When they hunt, you don’t hear or see them. They are stealthy, they sneak up on their prey. I’ve seen them attacking sperm whales. That’s aggressive. But these guys, they are playing. It’s mainly two of those guys…that are just going crazy. They just play, play and play. And the game is getting worse and worse. They love it. And don’t know why. It just seems to be something they really like and that’s it.”

Well now I like them and like everything they are doing.

I get it and am going to swim out to the lineup at Cardiff Reef and start ramming the fins of every SUP I see with my head for fun.

By the way, did you know that Elvis Presley’s beloved mother was named Gladis but she spelled it Gladys?

Very cool.

Listen: Surfing superhero Mark Occhilupo on quitting the booze, being a daddy to nine kids and his beginnings as a “little cross-dressing Italian Scotsman from Kurnell!”

And being slapped by Hawaiian lifeguard and having rail bitten by famous big-wave surfer… 

God bless the great Mark Occhilupo, and I mean that sincerely. Surfers come and go, light up an epoch and then disappear, usually without glory. 

Occhilupo, however, turns sixty in five years time (“Sixty in five years time? Don’t say that!”) and still lives a surfer’s dream.

He has a “little nook” at Rainbow Bay and is up at three-thirty every morning, and never with a hangover for he quit drinking three years ago (“It was my nemesis”), chasing the four am Gold Coast sunrise and those precious few uncrowded runners.

Warshaw’s EOS describes Occ as being “built like a duck” and surfing “like a big cat.”

He has been largely ignored by the ravages of ageing and is a finely balanced combination of enthusiasm and confidence. 

He is a world champion and a runner-up to the world title, is still regarded by most as the best surfer ever at Bells, and possibly Jeffreys Bay, and has a spirit that bristles with a scorching flame. 

In a wonderful profile by Sean Doherty five years ago, Occ self-described as a “little cross-dressing Italian Scotsman from Kurnell.”

Many stories today.

Logan (pictured foreground) appropriately bullish.
Logan (pictured foreground) appropriately bullish.

World Surf League CEO Erik Logan pledges to “help restart economic engine” severely damaged by Covid-19 by “bringing world’s best surfers to the North Shore!”


But oh drat, here we go again. The world ready to go back under lock and key as dreaded Covid-19 cases rage across the United States of America, Europe, Australia. The global economy losing the oxygen it so desperately needs to fire. Last lockdown, everyone except face mask makers lost their job and many business were forced to shutter.

People only fed, clothed, kept warm thanks to largess of government.

This coming lockdown, though, there is surprising new player ready to provide much needed stimulus.

Our World Surf League.

As you well know, the 2020/21 World Championship Tour sparks to life on Maui (on the women’s side) and Oahu’s North Shore (for the men). According to Hawaii News Now, spectators will not be allowed on the beach and the WSL will be broadcasting from private homes in order to have “no active presence at Pipeline and Sunset.”

Even still, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan is bullish about professional surfing’s impact, telling the CBS affiliate, “We feel really, really confident of leaning and help restart the economic engine by bringing the world’s best surfers to the North Shore.”

I don’t know what the leaning business is about but am very proud of our favorite pastime’s power.

Do you think that the world’s best surfers going to the North Shore will help restart Hawaii’s economy or the global economy?

I think maybe global since, again, the WSL will have “no active presence at Pipeline and Sunset” but also because I’m generally anti-depressive.

In any case, very exciting and inspirational. I hope that CEO Logan gets many calls from world leaders thanking him, and us by proxy, for our service.

Extremely cool.