HONOLULU – (Monday, June 4, 2007) – It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of legendary Waikiki Beachboy and standup paddle (SUP) surfing pioneer Robert “Bobby” John Ah Choy. Ah Choy, 66, passed away on Monday, May 21st, 2007. It was little more than a month ago that Ah Choy steered an escort canoe of Beachboy legends out at Waikiki for a tribute and scattering of ashes of famous Hawaii singer Don Ho.
News of Ah Choy’s death will be particularly hard-felt by the rapidly growing world-wide community of standup paddle surfers (SUP). Many newcomers to the sport, especially those outside Hawaii, have only recently discovered the story of Bobby and his contributions to the sport of SUP.
Ah Choy and his brother Leroy were pioneers of SUP at Waikiki in the early ’60s. They developed the unique method of catching and riding waves with a canoe-style paddle while searching for ways to get closer to Waikiki surfers in order to take their photos. What started out as a photographer’s platform evolved into a unique way of enjoying the waves. Today, SUP is currently enjoying a major revival in all surfing communities around the world. The sport is reaching new heights, exploring new wave-riding methods, and is gaining impressive international participation and attention.
“We are only glad that Bobby was able to witness and enjoy the fruits of his contributions to the world of standup surfing,” said Todd Bradley, of C4Waterman, who wrote a recent article about SUP and Bobby in Surfer’s Journal, titled “Upright”, in Volume 16, No. 6. “I think it was a real joy and great source of satisfaction for him to see new generations embrace a form of surfing that he has enjoyed for decades.”
On the heels of SUP’s revival, Ah Choy competed in the very first SUP contest held in Waikiki last July. Fittingly, he made it to the final. While the final was won on paper by Brian Keaulana, the victory will go down as Ah Choy’s. Keaulana presented the title and trophy to Ah Choy during a moving tribute at the official awards ceremony.
Born in ‘O’okala, Hawai’i, Ah Choy was an outrigger canoe captain and Waikiki beachboy. He is survived by his son, Robert Dutcher; father, John; stepmother, Thelma; brothers, Ricky, David and Michael; sister, Susanne Young; stepsisters, Judy Bell, Elaine Wong and Linda Chelewski; and his girlfriend, Karen Schmidt. A service will be held this Thursday, 10 a.m., at Kuhio Beach.