Buttons Kaluhiokalani, 1959 – 2013

posted by / News / November 2, 2013

He was born in 1959 as Montgomery Ernest Thomas Kaluhiokalani, but we knew him as “Buttons.” And we knew that grin. That afro. That flare in the water that inspired us to go switch, carve 360s, be spontaneous and most importantly, to lighten the f–k up. Because surfing, and life, is about having fun. Today we mourn the loss of a legend, who passed this morning at the age of 54 after a battle with lung cancer. If you’re young, too young to have Buttons inspire you directly, rest assured he influenced your heroes. Below are a few videos to remember the good times, and we hope that during your next surf you’ll be wearing a smile and going switch in Buttons’ honor.

Check back in the coming days as SURFING remembers one of the most influential surfers of all time.

RIP Buttons…

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  • Hugo González Chalela

    Rest in peace World Champion! The world loves you!!!
    From Cartagena, Colombia

  • Center Line

    RIP Buttons

  • Kyle Van Band

    He inspired generations of surfers here in San Diego. From La Jolla to Cardiff, to Oceanside, I remember when guys pulled off gnarly tricks, even in the late 80s, like a helicopter in the pocket or a huge 360 floater on a 8’+ wave, guys would hoot and congratulate each other, but the biggest grins were received from the ultimate compliment, “Dude, that was like Buttons.”

  • Hawaii pono I

    We grew up surfing with Buttons and Mark Liddell at K-Bowl,V-land,Ala mo.Bowls haleiwas they was always so cool and smooth in the water .Buttons we will miss your smile and energy may you be in eternal happiness.Aloha wau ia oe!!

  • Regis Brasil

    Buttons was featured in an issue of Surfing Magazine in August 1984. The title of the mag said: The Twenty Who Rip. I read that article several times and I learned that the Aloha attitude was his trademark. A lot of young surfers from the 80´s grew up on his name and I´m sure that he´ll never be forgotten. Rest in Peace Buttons.

  • Larry (Elton John nickname)

    1973-1975 Waianae/Makaha side. Great early memories of Buttons. Rell. Sun and I paddled canoe for the Makaha Canoe Club. Buttons would hang out. Make jokes. He would try his board shapes out at Makaha. I left the islands in 1977 and made a career in the military. Those high school years were amazing. RIP my braddah.

  • Tony Ramirez

    O ke Akua, keep our little brother in your arms, which is da best tube ride. Thank you, mahalo and si Yu’os ma’ase’.

  • Lane Pono

    Used to practically live down at Ala Moana Courts back in the summer of 74. Buttons with his ehu afro and Mark Liddell with his long straight hair would work the whole stretch, from kaiser bowls to point panics. We were just kids then, full of jokes and laughter. I joined the Air force and left home for awhile. I never ran into Brahdah Buttons again since that magical summer of 74, but his love for the waves and surfing Hawaii when Hawaii was still Hawaiian was never forgotten. Aloha No Pumehana

  • Dom

    I was lucky enough to have buttons teach me how to surf on the north shore. Was awesome meeting him. Really nice guy. RIP legend.

  • Trevor

    Hard to believe he was doing cutbacks like that so long ago

  • Paul D

    I remember the times when we were children paipo boarding at Graveyards they call it Walls now, and surfing Queens surf, then Kaisers and the Bowl, I remember hanging out with you and Charles Neal during breaks when we went Washington intermediate school, as we got older we saw each other at many different surf spots on the North, East, South shores and always had some great sessions and the best part for me was you always put a smile on my face… Thank You for your Friendship …..Aloha my Brother



  • Drew

    Spreading Aloha and making the whole world a better place. Rest in peace.

  • kevin osullivan

    RIP Buttons from Cape Town South Africa

  • Pete

    Rest in peace brah, your name will always live. God Bless

  • Alex A.

    I met Buttons through the Mauli Ola Foundation. My son had just been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, and had just moved to Hawaii. After our first surf event, Buttons offered surf lessons to my son, and we took him up. We had a lot in common, Butts and me, and became friends. We both had young sons the same age. I met so many now close friends hanging at Buttons house. There was always something going on….I met his family, he met mine…..he and his family are a big part of my life. I never knew of him as a “legend”. I had never heard of him before we met. We were BROTHERS…..I’ll miss him. But if you know Buttons, you know his spirit was in the ocean, even before he passed, I would sit out at chuns, and the water would be flat….he would start paddling and a wave would just come up and take him…..I know part of him WAS the water. Now chuns will always be a place where I can go to surf with my brother.

  • marcio

    vlw brother por tudo q fez pelo surf e por todos ,boas ondas onde vc estiver ,fica em paz…

  • http://1600wilikinadr.B402,wahiawa,Hawaii Linn Lucas

    We will miss u butts, Rip

  • Howard Ottaway

    Buttons was my idol when i was a kid growing up, i learnt to switch foot thanks to his inspiration, & it was my good honor to meet him on an early surf trip to Tavarua Fiji back in 86, & it was my real pleasure to surf & be in his good company, a gifted surfer who showed much humanity in his style to life, God Bless him, & so sorry to hear of his passing……..

  • David Scott

    Your last words to me were “I love you brother” & I love you for that.

  • Mario Kaluhiokalani

    This article on my dad was very nice! However, his birthday is not 1959, it is 1958 he was 55 not 54. I am his son and I have his original birth certificate for proof. So if we can please get the word out to all the websites that are publishing it wrong, it would be really great.

  • David Boland

    Mario, my brother and I spent a lot of time on the north shore 1978-80. Your father was a living legend. May he rest in peace.