Foundational big wave surfer Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman passed away early this morning in Mission Viejo, California. He was 81. Hoffman had been battling unspecified pulmonary issues, according to a family member.
Born in Glendale, California in 1930, Flippy (as the surfing world knows him) was a member of the first wave of California surfers to chase big Hawaiian surf in the 1950s. Along with his roommate, Bob Simmons, Hoffman was the first mainland surfer to take up residence on the North Shore of Oahu.
In 1975, Hoffman and three others paddled into giant surf at Kaena Point, pushing the big wave envelope to its furthest point at the time.
A pioneering surf traveler, Hoffman is often credited as being the first surfer to travel the coastline of Baja California and Mainland Mexico seeking new surf resources. An early adopter of SCUBA, Hoffman was an inveterate diver, working commercially off San Clemente Island harvesting abalone.
Anecdotal stories abound regarding the number of times Hoffman suffered from the “bends.” In one oft-told yarn, the U.S. Navy sent a security squad to his home, whisking him away to a federal research facility. The government was curious as to how he had managed to survive so many run-ins with decompression sickness, as none of their SEAL divers showed such durability. Along with his brother, Walter Hoffman, Flippy owned and operated Hoffman California Fabrics, a custom textile house supplying California surf brands.
The surviving Hoffman clan is one of surfing’s deepest, boasting big-wave legend Walter; Flippy’s daughter, Dana Cederberg, Flippy’s son, Marty Hoffman and wife, Santhi Hoffman; Flippy’s five grandchildren, Timothy Hoffman, Forest and Coral Lindberg, and Summer and Matthew Cederberg; Walter’s daughter, world champion Joyce Hoffman; Walter’s son-in-law, Herbie Fletcher (married to Dibi Hoffman); Walter’s grandsons Christian and Nathan Fletcher, and great-grandson Grayson Fletcher.