Article

Flippy Hoffman Passes Away at 80

| posted on November 16, 2010

Flippy holding a new board at the Makaha House circa 1952-1953.

Flippy holding a new board at the Makaha House circa 1952-1953. Photo: The Hoffman Family/SHF

Big-wave pioneer, industry leader, and surfing legend Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman passed away on November 10 at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, CA. He was suffering from complications with unspecified pulmonary issues.

As one of the first Mainland surfers to move to Hawaii’s North Shore to tackle massive winter swells with surfboard designer Bob Simmons, Flippy was a true pioneer for our sport. He took surfing into uncharted territory, charging new waves in Hawaii and becoming one of the first surfers to explore the coastline of Mexico to hunt for surf. His adventurous nature was not limited to surfing, as Flippy was also a skilled diver. He would search for abalone off San Clemente Island, and was notoriously too tough to let the “bends” slow him down.

When Flippy and his brother, Walter (also a big-wave pioneer), took over the family business in the late 1950s, they contributed even further to the sport that they loved. Hoffman California Fabrics became the main supplier of textiles to many of the early surf labels. Flippy Hoffman was one of the godfathers of our sport, and will be dearly missed. “Flippy has always explored new territory from the very beginning, being the first to body surf Pipeline and the first to ride Phantoms on a wave runner at 80 without the use of his legs. He lived the life of a true pioneer,” said Flippy’s nephew, Herbie Fletcher. “Flippy did it his way, and he killed it.”

Flippy’s legacy will continue on through his family who share the same love for the ocean that he did. He is survived by his brother Walter, his son Marty, his daughter Dana, and his five grandchildren. He will also be deeply missed by Walter’s children, which include Walter’s daughter, former World Champion Joyce Hoffman, son-in-law Herbie Fletcher Herbie Fletcher (married to Dibi Hoffman), grandsons Christian and Nathan Fletcher, and great-grandson Grayson Fletcher.

Flippy Hoffman on the right, and Bob Simmons on the peak. Makaha Winter of 1952-1953.

Flippy Hoffman on the right, and Bob Simmons on the peak. Makaha Winter of 1952-1953. Photo: The Hoffman Family/SHF

Photo: Fletcher Family Archives

Photo: Fletcher Family Archives

Photo: Fletcher Family Archives

Photo: Fletcher Family Archives

  • Blake O

    This guy could be on the Mt Rushmore of Surfing surely a giant in the sport he and his brother and family along with the guys they surfed with cast a long and formidable shadow for the rest of us to stand in. May he and all the pioneers of our lifestyle Rest in Peace and may we never forget their contributions. We are all a bunch of wusses compared to these guys.

  • zach

    Blake O – your opinion?

    Pioneers? KUDOS to Hoffman which he deserves. RIP goes without having to say it, but I did.

    Time, place, opportunity,luck. We are all a part of the progression.

    Surfing moves on.

  • GC

    True master foundation layer….aloha Mr. Hoffman

  • Jesse

    With no disrespect to Andy Irons and his family whatsoever ( I was a fan ) I wondered after reading this why the passing of guys like this doesn’t prompt a response like Andy’s death. I understand that Andy’s death was more tragic and he is better known by the current generation, but this guy was riding big waves before anyone else even KNEW they existed and that they ought to be scared of them. To me Flippy was a more important surfer in the grand scheme of the sport. He doesn’t get a tribute video on surfermag because there was no one around to film him? This is a big loss also no? Where’s the paddle out?