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.