Willy Morris, cherished but somewhat underground pro surfer known for a big smile and an even bigger frontside hack—California's answer to Australia's Richard Cram, maybe—has passed away.
Morris was born and raised in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley and began surfing at eight years old. He won the Katin Team Challenge at the Huntington Beach Pier in 1985, smoking Tom Curren, Mark Richards and Michael Ho on his way to the podium.
But Morris is known more for his presence in 80s surf media than his competitive career. “He was nonetheless one of the most visible surfers of the era (few surfers turned as forcefully; none accoutered themselves in brighter colors)” Surf historian Matt Warshaw says about Morris in the Encyclopedia of Surfing.
Morris’ rail work was splashed all over surf magazines throughout the 80s, occasionally making their covers. Morris’ surfing was also showcased in several surf films of the era including “Totally Committed” (1984) and “Ticket to Ride” (1986). After professional surfing, Morris worked in the surf industry as a sales rep and was also a talented fisherman. He continually lit up lineups and heaved buckets of water skyward anywhere he surfed.
Friends took to social media to share their condolences and reminisce the joy Morris brought to their lives.
Today the surfing world lost one of the best guys ever. Big Willy was one of the people I looked up to in my teens. He was just awesome. So many quotes about him ” Tommy’s dog” , Faria quote .. Top house to Willy’s ( Mondos ) Mendlefriend, Corny’s Scorpion Bay pal etc. Value everything, every moment and everyone . .. #willymorris #cisurfboards #alwayscool #818 😭
Shocked and very saddened to hear that Willy has passed. My heart goes out to Steve and the Morris family. Willy was such a huge part of that time period for me. Countless days of great surf together from Malibu to the Central Coast. The entire Morris family treated me as family. I learned so much from him, when and where to be on what swell, what tide, etc… From his Kennedy days to his Channel Islands days, no one was better to shoot with because he loved surfing, the sport, and the culture more than anyone. You will be missed old friend. 🙏🏻
One of nicest guys you could ever meet and he surfed pretty damn good too! Rest In Peace #WillyMorris you will be missed by many and it was a honor knowing you 🙏🏽. Photo 📷 by the late great #WarrenBolster in @surfersjournal photographer series coffee table books. Pinballs 1986. @cisurfboards #BigWilly #warrenbolster📷 #cisurfboards #80sfashion #pinballs #hawaii #powersurfer