Posted On July 2nd, 2015 -

Big-wave pioneer helped build Hokule‘a

By Gary T. Kubota / gkubota@staradvertiser.com

Wallace Frank Froiseth, a surfing pioneer and devoted Hoku­le‘a supporter, died Monday at his home in Kai­muki. He was 95.

19990523 CTY Uncle Wally (Wallace Froiseth), 80, oldest crew member Photo by Kathryn Bender

Born Dec. 21, 1919, in Los Angeles, Froiseth moved with his parents to a house near Wai­kiki when he was 3 years old. He spent much of his youth in the ocean, eventually learning from beachboy John D. Kau­piko how to make a surfboard.

Froiseth was a pioneer of big-wave surfing, helping to develop the hot curl surfboard (which was designed for big waves) and riding big surf with George Dow­ning and Rabbit Kekai at Makaha and Wai­mea in the 1950s.

“The outer reef was always a mystery to them. … They wanted to catch bigger and bigger waves,” said Froiseth’s daughter Luana Froiseth.

Also, Froiseth and other surfers helped found the Wai­kiki Surf Club in 1948, competing in canoe regattas. He was the first to enter his canoe crew in the Molo­kai-Oahu canoe race.

In addition, Froiseth was an accomplished sailor, working with designer Herb Kane and canoe builder Wright Bowman to create the double-hulled sailing canoe Hoku­le‘a in the early 1970s.

“There would be no Hoku­le‘a without Wally Froiseth,” said Nai­noa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “He was the driving force … taking care of the Hoku­le‘a.”

Luana added, “He loved building the Hoku­le‘a. It was his pride and joy.”

In its historic voyage from Oahu to Tahiti using noninstrument navigation techniques in 1976, the Hoku­le‘a crew proved Native Hawaiians were capable of navigating thousands of miles to find distant islands centuries ago.

Thompson recalled how after the swamping of the Hoku­le‘a at sea in the late 1970s, Froiseth helped to restore the double-hulled sailing canoe in dry dock and set a high standard for caring for the vessel. “In many ways he saved the Hoku­le‘a,” Thompson said.

Froiseth served as a federal firefighter at Pearl Harbor for 25 years, eventually holding the post of fire chief, and later became a pilot boat operator. He also operated tugs in Okinawa, Hono­lulu and Pearl Harbor.

The Waikiki Surf Club will give a blessing in honor of the waterman before Saturday’s July 4th Outrigger Canoe Club regatta. Services are expected to be announced in a few weeks, according to Froiseth’s family.

In addition to daughter Luana, Froiseth is survived by wife Alice, daughters Tina Dumaran and Leiola Demello, and son Tenee.

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