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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 3, 2005

Pro surfer dies at Banzai Pipeline

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

More than 50 people held hands in a circle on the beach at Banzai Pipeline after the death of professional surfer Malik Joyeux of Tahiti. Joyeux failed to surface after being buried by a wave. Surfers said the 6- to 10-foot waves were "not unusually rough."

HAIM COHEN | Special to The Advertiser

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Lifeguards and a firefighter rushed surfer Malik Joyeux to an ambulance after he was pulled from the water. The force of a wave broke his board and ripped the leash off his ankle. It took rescuers about 10 minutes to find Joyeux underwater, 200 yards from where he wiped out.

HAIM COHEN | Special to The Advertiser

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Surfer Sunny Garcia, center, and his wife, Raina, joined others in a circle on the beach after Malik Joyeux was pulled from the water after wiping out. Joyeux was pronounced dead at Kahuku Hospital.

HAIM COHEN | Special to The Advertiser

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Malik Joyeux walked up the beach after finishing his trials in the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters at the Banzai Pipeline last Dec. 8.

CAROL CUNNINGHAM | Special to The Advertiser

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Pro surfer Kelly Slater was visibly shaken by Joyeux’s death in a wipeout.

HAIM COHEN | Special to The Advertiser

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Slater, right, wiped away tears after Joyeux was loaded onto an ambulance.

HAIM COHEN | Special to The Advertiser

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An internationally known professional surfer from Tahiti died yesterday morning after he wiped out on a wave at the popular Banzai Pipeline surf spot on the North Shore.

Malik Joyeux, 25, has been featured on the covers of surfing magazines and on posters.

Bodo Van Der Leeden, lifeguard captain on the North Shore, said Joyeux was one of dozens of surfers riding 6- to 10-foot waves yesterday. He said Joyeux had taken off on a wave at about 10 a.m. when the lip came over him and "hit him square on."

The force of the wave broke Jo-yeux's board in half and ripped the leash off his ankle. Many people in the water and on shore saw the incident and jumped into action when Joyeux failed to surface.

Van Der Leeden said surfers and lifeguards formed a human chain to search for Joyeux. But about 10 minutes passed before Joyeux was found underwater more than 200 yards east of where he was last seen.

Emergency personnel worked on Joyeux for about 45 minutes before he was taken to Kahuku Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed.

Professional surfers Bonga Perkins and Kanoa Dahlin were at Pipeline and helped search for Joyeux. Perkins said Joyeux was one of the most popular surfers in Tahiti and was well-known in Hawai'i. Perkins said he often stays with Joyeux's family when he's in Tahiti.

Perkins said conditions at Pipeline yesterday were "not unusually rough, just one of those really nice Pipe days."

"He's super humble, a nice guy," Perkins said. "He was just out there to catch a wave, not looking for the glory, but more so catching the waves."

Perkins and Dahlin said they were cheering Joyeux on as he caught the wave and that he appeared to be in control.

But Dahlin said the wave seemed to catch Joyeux on his shoulder and the wave then exploded at him.

"Whether he hit the board or not I couldn't tell because it happened so quick," Dahlin said. "But you could just tell that he took the entire brunt of the lip on his back."

Perkins said about 70 people searched for Joyeux and they may have had an easier time finding him if the leash had stayed on his ankle.

When Joyeux was found, he was placed on Dahlin's longboard and brought to shore.

"It's just a tragic loss, another one of our brothers who passed on," Dahlin said. "You see somebody enough and you respect them as a waterman, and when you lose somebody it's as good as losing a best friend."

Lifeguard captain Van Der Leeden said yesterday's tragedy was another example of how dangerous Pipeline can be. In the past week, he said, lifeguards have seen about 40 broken boards.

"You see these surfers taking just tremendous rides on giant surf so much, you get a feeling that they're invincible. But a day like today brings it all back to reality that they are taking tremendous chances and pushing the limits," he said.

Joyeux was born on March 31, 1980, in Tahiti and began surfing when he was 8 with his brother.

He made his name riding towering waves that were much larger than the ones coming in at the North Shore yesterday morning. In 2003 he was credited with riding the biggest wave ever in Tahiti.

Joyeux was a short-board rider, but he was well-known as a tow-in kite surfer who didn't shy away from dangerous situations. On the Oxbow Web site, Joyeux said that his surfing objective was to "progress and to push my limits further."

When asked what his slogan was, he said, "Whatever doesn't kill you can only make you stronger."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.