Kirk Passmore Accident Explained

posted by / News / November 14, 2013

Rescue helicopter.
A rescue helicopter searches for Kirk Passmore. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Late in the morning on Wednesday, Kirk Passmore fell on a set wave at one of Oahu’s outer reefs and never came up. Along with some of the best surfers in the world, former big wave world champ Jamie Sterling was surfing with Passmore when he took off on that wave. We spoke with Jamie a few hours after the incident, while search and rescue were still looking for for Passmore. While not confirmed, considering the state in which Passmore was last seen, the time since the accident and the size of the surf, the interview was conducted with the assumption that Passmore had in fact died.

Interview by Taylor Paul

SURFING: Can you tell us what happened?
Jamie Sterling: Kirk paddled down with some of the gang from Waimea. Shortly thereafter, he took off on one of the biggest sets of the day with Pat Gudauskas. Kirk was a little deeper than Pat and he made the drop but had too much forward momentum at the bottom and just went over the handlebars. And then — I mean, we’re just making assumptions at this point — when he surfaced it looked like he had broken his eardrum or maybe his neck because his feet popped up and he was facing down. He may have had vertigo, or lost his equilibrium. But I don’t think his head broke the surface, and at that point the next wave passed over him and his board broke. So he wasn’t attached to his board anymore and he wasn’t wearing a vest or any floatation or anything. It’s pretty hard to recover somebody even with a vest and…

Who was on water safety?
Kohl Christensen was taking turns with Danilo [Cuoto] on Kohl’s Ski. When Kurt went down, Kohl was on the Ski and started searching for him right away. There was also Kiron Jabour’s dad, João, another Brazilian guy and Hank Foto and Larry Haines on Skis. Right away, four Skis were searching for him.

I caught a wave on the next set, which came really quickly — like a minute after Kirk’s wave — and I ended up in the zone where everyone was looking and I tried to look too. But I felt pretty helpless looking for someone on a board with so much water moving around. At that point, about half the surfers disengaged from their session and started looking for him on their boards.

Who else was surfing?
Danilo, Ben Wilkinson, all three of the Florence brothers, Koa Rothman, Eli Olson, Jamie Mitchel, Nathan Fletcher, Pat and Tanner Gudauskas, Damien Hobgood. It was a pretty standout crew, along with three or four more underground guys, Kirk being one of them.

Was Kirk pretty experienced in big waves?
Yeah, he was an experienced big-wave surfer but he could have been more prepared. You know, nowadays there are flotation vests and other safety devices that we utilize. And when someone’s unconscious and they’re sinking, they need some flotation so that we can find them. But it’s so unfortunate because with Kirk, he just disappeared.

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  • Jodie

    Gnarly dude!

    Well he died doing what he loved most. Condolences to the family and hope they fluke out and find him so he can get a proper burial.

  • andrew lee

    so sad; i like to think better equipment could have helped but
    probably not.

  • Richard Lavoie

    Kirk , you will be missed … I’m in Carlsbad and everyone is talking about you … You were liked by many and well known in this area . Your parents should be proud , you lived life to the fullest and followed your dreams . Not everyone can say that . You had a great final drop , no fear rest in peace , you will be remembered .

  • eleanor

    Well what can you say ? He loved surfing and was great at it. Old father time has your number and will call you when your time is up. No other answer that I can see. RIP Kirk. See you later.

  • drey

    He died doing what he loved and living in paradise. If most of us could ever be that lucky. I send my prayers out for him and his family.

  • Barb

    We were there the day before the accident happened and watched some of the surfers that day (Tues). Wed we heard what happened to Kirk Passmore and our prayers go out to his family that we hope that he will be recovered to give the family some closure. He loved the water and the big waves and freak accidents happen. We are thinking of his family at this very difficult time in their lives and hope that friends will give them a lot of support. Condolences to you all and the surfing community.

  • Wildog

    As 1 who has reached their golden years,I have lived a wonderful Surfing Lifestyle for over 55 years. We all end up riding the best waves in Heaven and now there is another enjoying them. He did die doing what he loved and that is great. I hope when My time comes I am lucky to do the same. I have lost 3 brothers who were in the water when then had Heat attacks, there is a God. Aloha,Wildog

  • Big Daddy G

    We were on the Ocean side of that Surf…fishing…just wish we could have found Him… We’ll never forget that Day, that Hour…RIP, Kirk