Surfing loses one of its greatest characters

Character: John Shimooka the man and the surfer-he will be missed by his son, friends family and the greater surfing community. Pictures: John Veage
Character: John Shimooka the man and the surfer-he will be missed by his son, friends family and the greater surfing community. Pictures: John Veage

The Surfing World has lost one of its great characters and warmest souls with the passing of Surfing NSW's General Manager John Shimooka on Monday. He was 51.

Shimooka, who was originally from Hawaii, moved to the Sutherland Shire where his late wife Lisa was from in the late '90s after finishing a career on the World Championship Tour.

A former CT surfer, industry executive, commentator and coach, he made an impact on everyone he met, and he filled the room wherever he went.

A statement from Surfing NSW said, "it is our saddest day."

"The team at Surfing NSW is deeply distressed at the passing of one of our own, John Shimooka.

"A talented former world tour surfer, commentator and Jiu-Jitsu black belt, 'Shmoo' was a much-loved member of the global surfing community and the Surfing NSW family.

"He will be remembered for his passion for the lifestyle as well as his energy and enthusiasm."

And Shmoo was very enthusiastic, his personality a force to be reckoned with-but being the life of the party isn't always ideal with close friend Kelly Slater saying "My heart's ripped out-I'm sorry, Shmoo. I thought we had this."

Slater had come to Cronulla earlier this year to have a surf and talk to John, not having seen him since his wife had passed away last year in September from cardiac arrest.

Shimooka emerged from Hawaii in the mid-'80s as a "Town" surfer a South Shore counterpoint to the North Shore "Country" dominance on the tour.

Shmoo surfed fast and was super competitive in the smaller beach breaks that made up most of the World Tour at the time with his contemporaries like Richard 'Dog' Marsh, Rod Kerr, Matt Hoy, Martin 'Pottz' Potter, Brad Gerlach and best mate 2000 World Champion Sunny Garcia.

When his longtime friend Sunny Garcia attempted suicide in September 2019, the two close personal events rocked Shmoo even though Garcia had been open about his struggles about depression and mental health.

Last year he talked at the "Surfers Unite to Fight Suicide" event in Ulladulla organised by ex-Australian pro surfer Kurt Nyholm.

He got up that night and talked about Sunny, and the need to talk about what had happened to prevent it from happening to someone else's best friend.

He was a best friend to many and the outpouring of grief from around the whole world is of no real comfort to him now. Still, the Cronulla surfing community join his son, Brandon, immediate family, and his extended worldwide network of friends, in grieving his significant loss.

The Inertia surfing website said perfectly "Shimooka was a friend to nearly everyone he met. He was a force of personality, the warmest of humans in a cold sea."

A member of Cronulla Boardrider's Club Shmoo only surfed sporadically, winning two Andrew Murphy Memorial contests in the early 2000s but helped mentor the juniors, making club surfing more professional.

He will also be missed delivering his daily "Shmoo-one-two" surf reports online when he was at a surfing contest or just checking the waves.

Shmoo said he was going back to Hawaii in December and had been looking forward to reconnecting with all his Hawaiian crew for the first time in years.

He had posted a photo of his old Waikiki neighbourhood saying he was coming home.

He is at home now.