Greg Noll, Surfing Superstar Who Tackled the Big Waves, Dies at 84

An eyewitness stated in “Riding Giants” that Noll paddled out in opposition to a backdrop of a “huge, massive, black wall” of water. “He stands up and he’s this little speck on this gigantic wall and you’re saying, ‘Oh, my God, he looks like this tiny cartoon figure.’ He gets into his stance — ‘Grrr, I’m going!’ — and he drops down, drops down, drops down and he gets to the bottom of the wave and it’s starting to come over the top of him and he kind of steps off the rail. There was nowhere to go. That was it.”

He had worn out at the backside of a wave that he stated was 10 toes greater than any he had ever surfed.

“I was under the wave and all I could see was a tiny patch of sunlight,” he advised The Honolulu Star-Advertiser afterward, and he needed to swim a mile in opposition to swift currents to return to shore.

Fred Hemmings, one other big-wave surfer who was there that day, advised the newspaper, “If it had been anyone else in that situation, he would have died.”

At that time, Jed Noll stated in a phone interview, he “stopped his pursuit of riding the biggest wave ever every winter. But he didn’t stop surfing.”

Several days after, when Noll was again at Waimea Bay, he saved a Navy seaman from drowning. “If he hadn’t brought him in, the guy would have drowned,” a buddy, Henry Prece, advised The Star-Advertiser.

“He had a number of rescues over the years,” his son stated.

Greg Lawhead was born on Feb. 11, 1937, in San Diego and moved about 120 miles north to Manhattan Beach, Calif., when he was about three after his mom, Grace Zalabak, a homemaker, divorced his father, Robert. When she married Ash Noll, a chemical engineer, Greg took his stepfather’s surname.

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