North Shore resident and experienced big wave surfer, Kirk Passmore, is missing after falling on a 20ft set wave at Outside Alligator's on Wednesday morning. According to witnesses, he failed to resurface following a heavy wipeout, and was then pummelled by an extended set. A search and rescue operation was launched immediately after surfers raised the alarm, however, to this point no body has been found.
Fellow surfers in the line-up witnessed the scene, but were unable to help. "He was seen swimming down with his feet up above the surface and we think he broke his ear drum because what happens when you break your ear drum is you have complete loss of balance and you have vertigo," surfer, Jamie Sterling, told Hawaii News Now. "So you have vertigo and he was swimming the opposite way and another wave came over him. So he had a two waves hold down. And after that we didn't see any more of him and we couldn't spot him."
Wednesday morning saw the biggest surf of the North shore season thus far, and according to Chris Owens, another witness, Passmore had been the only surfer out who wasn't wearing a float vest. "They were trying to grab him but they had nothing to hold on to," said Owens. "You know like, everybody out there. See what would have saved him is if he had a float vest on. Everybody wears float vests nowadays."
Passmore moved from California to the North Shore two years ago, however, he had been visiting and surfing big swells on Oahu for years prior to relocating.
Outside alligators claimed the life of Todd Chesser in 1997. This latest tragedy has once again driven home the tangible dangers of surfing the North Shore, even for the most experienced of wave riders.