This past Saturday, we lost one of the fathers of modern day surfing. Hawaiian surfing giant Montgomery "Buttons" Kaluhiokalani passed away in California due to complications from lung cancer at the age of 54. Buttons is revered as one of the most dynamic surfers from the big island, with a heart as big as the island itself.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1959, he was the son of an African-American military man and a Hawaiian mother. He caught his first wave in Waikiki at the age of seven, and never stopped shredding.
Growing up on the North Shore, his natural prowess and bold style began to turn heads in the surf community. Buttons, along with Hawaiian surfers Mark Liddel and Reno Abellira, began a movement of spins and cuts in waves that mirrored the skate films of their time, and had never been seen in the water before. Their progressive moves helped shape surfing into what it is today.
Unfortunately, Buttons' acclaim as a surfer was severely shadowed by drug use. He told the world of his heroin addiction in a YouTube video in 2007. "My surfing fell to the wayside," Buttons confessed in the video. "My marriage and family fell to the wayside. I got lost in my own disease."
He picked himself up over the next few years, got sober and eventually became a spokesman for the clean lifestyle he was leading. He started Buttons Surf School back on the North Shore and this past June, he was given the Ocean of Possibilities Award to commend his work helping the disabled learn to surf. He is survived by his wife, Hiriata, his eight children and his nine grand-children.
Rest in peace, Buttons, and aloha.