RIP Rick Proczka – Big Hanalei Bay

Big wave surfer, husband, father, and respected Kauai community member, Rick Proczka, lost his life surfing a perfect but dangerous swell at Hanalei Bay yesterday. There were about 15 of us surfing with him when he died.

The lineup at Hanalei is huge. It takes about a half-hour to paddle around the reef from the beach to get to the takeoff spot, sometimes longer if you get caught inside by a set on the way out. There are strong currents, reef variables, 20 knot trade winds, and river chop to contend with – which when combined with large surf and fading light, makes it impossible for surfers to keep track of each other.

Yesterday evening, shortly before sunset, the tide was very low making the already large surf even more dangerous than usual. The swell was pulsing with big freight-train barrels spinning off for hundreds of yards down the line.

The last time any of us saw Rick Proczka, he was taking off on a big set wave as the sun was setting behind the mountains.

Rick’s board was spotted by his friend who was paddling out near the beach. After a short time searching for Rick, he called 911 for a search and rescue team.

Shortly after the phone call, 3 jet ski’s and a helicopter began the search in the fading Saturday night light. Rick was found on the surface shortly after the rescue team was deployed, drifting toward the middle of the bay.

Rick died doing what he loved, at the spot he cherished, but it is still a tragic loss. All of his friends and fellow Hanalei surfers are grieving. Ricks passing is another reminder to love strong and live life to the fullest.

After surfing Big Hanalei Bay for 40 years – Rick was a legend. Next perfect set wave is for you Rick. Your heart and soul will always be with us out there.

RIP Legend Richard Proczka

Surf photo taken of the Bay (not yesterday), Courtesy Mark Johnson.

I took the sunset photo at the Hanalei pier shortly after Rick was pulled from the water.

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46 Responses to RIP Rick Proczka – Big Hanalei Bay

  1. Jonathan Amaral says:

    Thank you for writing this. Rick was my uncle. He will be missed.

  2. Gus LeBlanc says:

    Rick has come out to Colorado in the summer for the last five years. I have gotten to know him very well. He was my buddy. He was so chilled and humble. Last summer, Rick came with me on the river stand up paddling. He was so joyful to be around. He hadn’t done SUPing on the river before and he was so amazing at it. I am 12 years old and am a ski racer in Vail, Colorado. Rick always asked how I was doing in my races. It is so tragic that we lost him. He was a surfing legend in his own time. I will miss his trips to Colorado.

    Rest in Peace Rick.
    Your Buddy,
    Gus

  3. David C says:

    All I can say is that he was an awsume man to work for always mellow but strived for perfection and it worked for him . so sad to have him leave us so soon. I will miss the morning phone calls and instructions. The crew will finish up what we started for you just the way you wanted flawless and perfect. we will miss you a great deal Rick but at least you were doing what you loved. R.I.P Dave and you crew!

  4. Steve Oberg says:

    Rick was a good friend, such a kind soul. I feel such a loss. We had some really good times over the past 40 years. Please pray for Charlene, Andre, and JJ, and the rest of his family. I am stunned! I never thought he would get taken down at Hanalei. We have lost a good man.

    • Janice Bond says:

      Hi Steve,
      Brought back long ago memories when we used to worship on the beach & the brothers tried to teach me to surf Hanalei. Whatever became of Dean who married Jerry Bond & me? Rick died doing what he loved. Hope to see you all around sometime soon. Janice Bond

  5. Lorelei says:

    What a good man, gone way too soon. He was kind, he was honest, he was a craftsman. How dreadful that he is gone. Thinking of all his friends and family tonight.

  6. I was married to Rick and lived in Hanalei in the 80′s with him and our two children. Surfing was his love and passion – we are all shocked – he surfed to many huge waves, but always paddled in. He will be greatly missed – thank you for this tribute. Waimea Rick – The Bud.

  7. Larry Shaw says:

    Rick was my next door neighbor growing up in Monterey Park,CA. We surfed together and had some great times,Rick was a wonderful person so positive and full of life…… I hope there is great surf in heaven as he will be the first in and last one out……He will be missed…..Love Ya Rick

  8. Larry Shaw says:

    Rick was my next door neighbor growing up in Monterey Park,CA. We surfed together and had some great times. Rick was a wonderful person so positive and full of life. I hope there is great surf in heaven as he will be the first in and last one out He will be missed Love Ya Rick

    • Barbara Amaral says:

      Hi Larry, remember me, I’m Rick’s sister. Thank you for your kind words. How are you doing? It’s good to hear from one of Rick’s and my friend from the past.
      Barbara

      • Larry Shaw says:

        Hi Barbara, Of course I remember you and the whole Proczka family,those were some wonderful times. So sorry about Rick,he is missed and loved by everyone that knew him. I’m fine and living in Gulf Breeze FL now. Take Care And Much Love…..Larry

  9. Charlene Proczka says:

    Dear Community,
    I am Charlene Rick’s help mate for the last 20 years and married 15 of those,,,we raised together my daughter and his two sons as often as we could see them,,,This kind man was such a gentle,,, even tempered father and husband for us all,,,,He loved the Creator and always tried to do things right,,,,I am looking forward to seeing him again in a New World. Love to all those who knew him either in the water, or his profession as a roofing contractor or in his ministry as one of Jehovah’s witnesses . I was truly gifted to have such a man as my husband! Love to you all , char

    • Hu’i Char, Plenty blessings and peace to you and your family. He will truly be missed. Aloha pumehana, the Sausen ‘ohana

    • Ann says:

      I remember the very enjoyable chats I shared with Rick. I have told mainland friends about him since leaving Kauai. I am so sorry, Char. I can only imagine how much he will be missed by all that he has touched with his kindness.

      • Dick Roth says:

        Char -
        I’m so sorry. I thought the world of Rick and was glad I had the chance to know him. My heart is with you and your family.
        Dick Roth

    • Patty Richards says:

      I know Rick through my cousins Robert & Kathy, Char is Kathy’s sister. Char, my heart goes out to you my friend. I know how much you and Rick loved each other, the two of you were so perfect for each other. I feel so lucky that we got to go to dinner with you the last time you were here. That was such a fun night and one that I will never forget.
      I feel it was an honor to know you Rick, an honor to have you for a friend. You had such a beautiful smile and always a twinkle in your pretty blue eyes. You always have made our trips to Kauai so special whether it would be hitting the beach, teaching Haley to paddle board, taking us on hikes that only the locals would know about or going out to dinner. You always made sure to bring all your toys to share with us. You always made it so special. You will be truly missed. To me going to our place in Haena will never be the same. We always knew we would be seeing you and Char for our traditional meal at the Mediterrean Gourmet. You were such a good influence on everyone. You were such an honest and mellow guy. I will never forget you.
      Rick, thank you for the memories, and may you rest in peace.
      Love your friend always,
      Patty

    • Barbara Amaral says:

      Hi Charlene,
      What a special love you and Rick had for each other. I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you and your family and sending my love to you all.
      Barbara

    • john orr says:

      Hi Charlene,
      i am so sorry for your loss, i wish you, and Yours, Blessings, and Peace
      john orr
      we met at the orchard in Cuyama

  10. Rick is one of my good friends. We surfed Hanalei Bay together almost every day.
    I also made him plenty surfboards and he loved his boards! I’m not kidding, he must have 100 boards and loved each one! If I was to describe Rick in one word, it would be “passionate.” He was passionate about his surfing, his family, and his religion. Oh yeah, his surfboards too. Yeah, he was 64 and still riding big waves but he was built for it. “Strong and healthy” If you ask anybody that surfs the bay a lot, they weren’t worried about him. He truly had the experience and a true veteran out there. That is why it is so shocking to all of us. He is the last guy I thought would have a problem out there. Rest in peace my old time surf buddy, you will be missed… Aloha ‘oe … Papa Sau

  11. Lenny Foster says:

    A memorial for Rick Proczka will be held at the Kingdom Hall in Kilauea on Saturday, February 16th at 4 pm. All who knew and loved Rick are invited. More details to follow.
    The Kingdom Hall is located at 2453 Kolo Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754 across from the Kilauea Elementary school. If you have any questions you can call Lenny or Elaine Foster at 651-0541 or 651-0544

  12. Mauli Ola Cook says:

    I did not see Rick often but whenever we did meet I was always touched by his kind and caring ways. He was uplifting to be around. It was a delight to see a man who so openly loved his wife and kids and could express that aloha freely and with great enthusiasm. It was a blessing to have known Rick. My deep aloha to Charlene and all his ‘ohana. E ke Akua e malama i keia kanaka kupono. Moe malie ma ka poli pumehana o kau Haku.

  13. Tanya Novoa says:

    Oh!! We will miss Rick so much. He is a quiet soul… but not so quiet in our minds as we remember so much about him now… The comments from the children are so very honest. They say “He was never loud”.. “He is the nicest person.. no drama..” We will miss him so much. He had so much positive energy to share with us all, Faith in Jehovah… Service in the morning and Surf in the afternoon.
    Love from your neighbors up the street Novoa’s

  14. Gabe Prieto says:

    Rick was such nice guy. His genuine and caring personality will be sorely missed. He was such a good surfer & waterman, he would be the last guy you think would have a problem out there. Aloha to all his family.

  15. Bob McLean says:

    I love this guy, like the rest of you. Hey, what’s not to love. If you had just met Rick on the street you’d think he was this really nice professor or something. You would never know what a charger he was. Like Mark said he had so many boards. And he knew just what to bring to the beach (from his surf shop) for each little variable in surf condition (like a professor, a surf professor). I have met lots of surf stoked guys in my time but I think Rick tops my list. Still so amped to hit the waves. And still ripping after all these years too. Always such a pleasure to be in his company, always. I enjoy the same hope as Charlene has expressed but like all of you who knew him, I will too will miss him greatly.

  16. Rick Protzka was an inspiration to me in many ways. Generous of heart, even of temperment, a gentleman, excellent waterman, family man, complete professional at his work….much more. It’s a total surprise and not a surprise at all that his road would come to the end doing what he did so well. Our time here is fleeting. Rick was an example of someone who used their time wisely and for good purposes. He was an impeccable roofing contractor and roofer. He inspired loyalty and respect in the people around him. He was a careful and prudent man who made the moves he had to make when they needed to be made in a careful safe way out in the surf. When he showed up at the beach with his boards all kinds of people would wander over to his truck to chat with him. He was well loved and respected by those who knew him and of him. This is the loss of one Hanalei’s surf icons. Pure and simple. And it’s going to take some time for us to adjust to the fact that one of Hanalei’s most respected humans won’t be there when we paddle out as he always had been or available to stop by to look at our roofs or inspire us spiritually. Truly a day to count our own blessings and mourn the loss of our dearly departed friend. Rick you will be sorely missed. Auwe…..

  17. rick leibow says:

    when is the memorial? surfed with this guy for 19 years, gotta pay my respects!

  18. Charlene (Rick’swife ) has been my friend for over 35 years and Rick for the past 10
    When I first met Rick. I was so greatful that Charlene had found such a kind, loving, humble and generous man to share her life with. On my visits to the island Rick gave me my first surf lesson on Hanalei Bay and my first stand up paddle boarding lesson on Hanalei river. Always a gentleman whether in the water or as his guest out fior dinner, I will miss him dearly and am greatful for the times I did get to spend with him. My big love and hugs to you, Charlene. Always your loving friend
    Joy Bella Heilig

  19. Surf Stories on KKCR is inviting everyone tomorrow to join them on the show telling stories about Rick’s life.

    Please let Rick’s closest friends know we could use their stories.

    Call in tomorrow Wednesday from 5-6pm. 808-826-7771
    or 808-826-7774

    http://www.kkcr.org/djs/surfstories.htm

    Listen Live – http://www.live365.com/cgi-bin/mini.cgi?station_name=kkcr&site=PLR-kkcr&tm=3795

  20. Justin piva says:

    Dear Rick,
    You were my surfing inspiration. You taught me to try my hardest at anything I do. Every summer we went to Colorado we hiked, paddle boarded, biked, and all other sorts of things. You were such a humble person, I remember last time you visited me and my family in California and you said when I went to Hawaii we would surf together. You were the beat uncle anyone could ask for. I only knew you for 12 years but you had a dramatical affect on my life. You were not only my uncle you were my role model. I will miss you so much, I will keep you close to my heart forever.
    R.I.P
    Sincerely,
    Justin
    Brett
    Kathy
    Robert

  21. Andrew Salony says:

    Char
    I am so sorry to hear of your loss and was touched deeply by your works that served as such a beautiful tribute to his life
    My thoughts are with you and yourchildren

  22. House Eric says:

    I didn’t know Rick but somehow, strangely, feel moved to tears by his passing. Maybe, partly because my introduction to Hawaii was a trip to Kauai staying in a house right on the beach in the middle of Hanalei bay. Some awesome memories surfing there in water so clear you could see the bottom. A truly magical place on the planet. And partly because I was married to Charlene’s sister back in the 70′s and knew her like a sister. I think anyone Charlene would choose to be with would have to be a beautiful soul. Sorry to hear of his passing Char. My heart goes out to you. With love, Eric

  23. Gregg Garrett says:

    I’ll always remember Rick from the early days in Montebello and the passion he had for the surf. He and many friends quickly adopted into the beauty of the surf lifestyle only Rick took it to another level early on and never let up. He was always a health nut preceding all the current fads all in the name of doing better what he loved to do. The next wave I ride you’ll be on my mind brother RIP.
    Gregg Garrett

  24. Listen to the recorded Surf Stories radio show remembering Rick – http://soundcloud.com/surf-stories/rick-proczka

  25. kimo martin says:

    Rick is one of my alltime Kauai classics. I surfed with him since 1972 on Kauai and he was always a big wave charger and while I spend most of my time on the golf courses of kauai Rick was still charging big Hanalei. Rick was my friend , roofer , fellow surfer, and I will miss his energy. RIP WAIMEA RICK

  26. Nick Westcott says:

    When I moved to Kauai in 1972 and saw this person ripping sizeable waves and asked I was told thats’ Rick Proczka, a big wave rider. Later through friends I was introduced to him and was surprised to find he was such a personable, kind and humble person. Will never forget his style coming down big waves!!! He was such a cool guy!! Later roomates brought him to our house on Oahu’s north shore near Sunset Beach and he was getting ready to ride Waimea Bay and asking for local tips as he was not familiar with it. He was sooo excited to go try Waimea Bay and get used to its huge waves!! Great Guy and a warm and understanding person and a great loss to the Hawaii surf community and many others. At least he passed doing what he loved and dedicated his life to. Aloha Rick and surf a few in Heaven for us. Hope to see you there. Best wishes to his family.

  27. Mike S. says:

    RIP Rick…

  28. Richard Fernandez says:

    I knew Rick since he was 12 years old. He, Larry Shaw and my younger brother Charlie were best friends growing up and they spent a lot of time at our house during that time. When he moved here to Kauai, he found a place that he loved and cherished very much. Rich grew up to be a humble, hard working and caring man. He will be sorely missed he on Kauai and throughout the mainland. RIP in Rick, I will miss you……….Richard Fernandez

  29. Val says:

    Rick was one of the first people I met on Kauai and he was always a dear, sweet, and gentle soul. Aloha Rick, RIP…you’ll be sorely missed by everyone who knew you!

    May your family have peace knowing you’ll all be together again someday…

    Love,
    Val

  30. Ron Glover says:

    Charlene, my heart and love is with you and yours.
    In Spirit,
    Ron

  31. Donny Andrews says:

    Hello Charlene…I am so sorry for your loss. It seems like a lifetime ago since I saw you. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Donny

  32. furcat says:

    like many of us that have surfed hanalei bay for many years, I surfed with waimea
    rick a lot. I remember when he first came here and surfed some great hanalei bay with him. Over the years we surfed a lot of big hanalei bay together and watched him get some incredible waves. I especially remember rick getting some fanstatic steep drops that he made. We had just surfed together the other day and we talked about his shoulder injury getting better but still not 100%. Like all of us I am shocked that rick is gone but will celebrate his life with respect and honor that all big wave gladiators deserve when they pass. Here is to you waimea rick, see you in the line up in the forever surf wave that only a few of us will ever understand and appreciate.
    furcat

  33. Steve Terre says:

    Charlene,
    There is not much I can say that hasn’t been said beautifully and soulfully by all of Rick’s friends and loved ones. I never knew the man, but he feels like a a true brother of the ocean. And like those of us with salt water in our veins, we must return to our birthplace like a spawning salmon returns to the river of its birth.
    The tragedy here is in the timing. No one gets to chose the hour of their passing, but this seems so premature. We hate to lose those we love and especially those who make the world a brighter place. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Mahalo.

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