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Home News John Shimooka, 51, farewelled by surfing legends around the world

John Shimooka, 51, farewelled by surfing legends around the world

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John Shimooka, 51, farewelled by surfing legends around the world

‘Let your mind be at rest’: Surfing great Kelly Slater leads tributes from around the world for ‘one of a kind’ wave rider John Shimooka, 51 – who took his own life just one year after his wife died

  • John Shimooka, the former surfing world number 19,  passed away in November
  • The Hawaiian-born star grew up alongside mates Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcia
  • Mr Shimooka’s death comes little more than a year after passing of his wife Lisa 
  • Their 21-year-old son Brandon paid tribute to his ‘one of a kind’ dad on Tuesday
  • Surfing stars including Slater watched ceremony internationally on live stream 
  • For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14 

Legendary surfer John Shimooka has been farewelled by fellow stars including Kelly Slater in an emotional beachside service, that was live streamed around the world.

The Hawaiian-born surfer best known as ‘Shmoo’ died last month after a long battle with mental health issues, and little more than a year after the death of his wife Lisa.

Shimooka, a former world number 19, saw tributes flood in from fellow surfing greats like Slater and Tom Carroll, and friends like Bondi Rescue lifeguard Rod ‘Kerrbox’ Kerr, in the wake of his death.

While not all could be among the crowd at Wanda Surf Club in Cronulla on Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to watch on via a livestream.

Shimooka’s son Brandon bravely told the crowd he hopes his father is now ‘looking after mum’ – and said after many years battling a ‘troubled mind’ he believes he has now found peace.

Kelly Slater (pictured left) was among those to pay tribute to John Shimooka (pictured right) who was farewelled in Sydney on Tuesday after his death in November

Brandon Shimooka bravely told the crowd of mourners he hopes his father, the former surfing world number 19, is now 'looking after mum'. John's wife Lisa died in September 2019, little more than a year before her husband

Brandon Shimooka bravely told the crowd of mourners he hopes his father, the former surfing world number 19, is now ‘looking after mum’. John’s wife Lisa died in September 2019, little more than a year before her husband

Brandon said after many years battling a 'troubled mind' he hopes his father has now found peace

Brandon said after many years battling a ‘troubled mind’ he hopes his father has now found peace

With only limited numbers able to attend the service because of COVID-19, hundreds more watched on via video link (Pictured is the order of service for Shimooka's farwell)

With only limited numbers able to attend the service because of COVID-19, hundreds more watched on via video link (Pictured is the order of service for Shimooka’s farwell)

The 21-year-old told those gathered his father ‘was truly one of a kind’ and said it had been a difficult time for them both prior to his death.

Not only had they had to deal with the death of mother and wife Lisa, but also the sad news of Shimooka’s lifelong surfing friend Sunny Garcia’s attempted suicide. 

‘The past 12 to 18 months have been unfathomable, nearly losing Sunny late last year and having to say goodbye to mum in September,’ Brandon said

‘It seemed like life just wanted to keep throwing us down and not letting us come up for a breath of air.

‘I am deeply saddened that I will have to carry on life without him by my side. Dad, I am sorry we weren’t able to ease that troubled mind. 

‘I’m sorry that life was not kind to you. I’m sorry that our time together had to be cut short. 

‘Let your mind be at rest, say hi to Mum and look after her for me. I love you.’

Mr Shimooka had arrived in Australia alongside fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia in the 1980s and the pair lived in Sydney’s east.

Mr Shimooka's son Brandon (front right) carries out his father's coffin alongside good mates including Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden (front left) and Andrew Maguire (middle left)

Mr Shimooka’s son Brandon (front right) carries out his father’s coffin alongside good mates including Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden (front left) and Andrew Maguire (middle left)

Mr Shimooka had arrived in Australia alongside fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia in the 1980s and the pair lived in Sydney's east, making many local friends as they tried to forge careers as professional surfers

 Mr Shimooka had arrived in Australia alongside fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia in the 1980s and the pair lived in Sydney’s east, making many local friends as they tried to forge careers as professional surfers

Mourners formed a guard of honour as the hearse carrying Shimooka's coffing drove out of the surf club

Mourners formed a guard of honour as the hearse carrying Shimooka’s coffing drove out of the surf club

The crowd included friends, family and many people who had encountered Shimooka during his decades in surfing

The crowd included friends, family and many people who had encountered Shimooka during his decades in surfing

11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater paid tribute to his good mate during Tuesday's service, telling those gathered how the pair had planned to spend the upcoming northern hemisphere winter surfing in Hawaii

11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater paid tribute to his good mate during Tuesday’s service, telling those gathered how the pair had planned to spend the upcoming northern hemisphere winter surfing in Hawaii

Those gathered at the service or watching on around the world via live stream heard how he struck up a friendship with Bondi Rescue lifeguard Kerr when he first arrived.

Like many international surfing arrivals keen to forge a professional career in Sydney both Shimooka and Garcia stayed at Kerr’s home in the beachside suburb of Bronte.

Mr Shimooka’s father Michael was unable to travel to Australia because of COVID-19, but spoke to the ceremony over video link.

‘Shmoo touched so many lives, he gave love,’ Michael Shimooka said.

‘He was the funniest person I ever met in my life, I don’t think another one (as funny) will ever come along again. He touched so many lives… I didn’t realise how loved my son was.

‘I was privileged to be his dad, and he was special.’

After retiring from the circuit he married wife Lisa and moved to Australia, working in the surfing industry and also as a commentator on the world tour.

In recent years he worked as manager of partnerships for Surfing NSW and also ran a prominent surfing podcast, while becoming a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. 

Video messages from friends and family around the world were also played during the service including from Anela Garcia, the ex-wife of surfing legend Sunny Garcia, who also battled mental health issues.

Kelly Hu, an actress and Miss Hawaii 1993, poses for a photo with Shimooka during the Kelly Slater Invitational surf event in Fiji back in the mid-2000s

Kelly Hu, an actress and Miss Hawaii 1993, poses for a photo with Shimooka during the Kelly Slater Invitational surf event in Fiji back in the mid-2000s

Shimooka (pictured, left) regularly traveled with the world surfing tour as a commentator alongside good mates including Australian surfing legend Tom Carroll (centre)

Shimooka (pictured, left) regularly traveled with the world surfing tour as a commentator alongside good mates including Australian surfing legend Tom Carroll (centre) 

Former world number 19 John Shimooka in action catching a wave (pictured)

Former world number 19 John Shimooka in action catching a wave (pictured) 

‘I just want to say thank you,’ Ms Garcia said. 

‘Thank you for all the memories, thank you for being such a big part of our lives and the kids’ lives. We are going to miss you a lot.

‘I want you to know Brandon will always have a place with us here in Hawaii. He’s part of our family.’

Eleven-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater said he had been planning to spend this upcoming northern hemisphere winter surfing with Mr Shimooka in Hawaii.

‘I just want to thank everyone for attending today. I want to say a big thank to everyone who supported John throughout his life, more importantly recently when he was going through some tough times,’ Slater said.

‘My heart goes out to everyone, we all miss Shmoo and love him.

Shimooka lived with former pro surfer and Bondi Rescue lifeguard Rob Kerr (left) when he first arrived in Sydney, mourners heard on Tuesday

Shimooka lived with former pro surfer and Bondi Rescue lifeguard Rob Kerr (left) when he first arrived in Sydney, mourners heard on Tuesday

‘I was really looking forward to a great Hawaiian winter with John this year, we talked about it a lot. I’ll just be there surfing for him and thinking of him.’

As the coffin was carried out of the surf club, mourners formed a guard of honour. 

More than $68,000 has already been donated to a GoFundMe page set up to help Mr Shimooka’s son Brandon.

The former surfer’s friends who spoke were unanimous in the view they would help support his only son if he ever needed help. 

For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14 

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