Surfing Icon Tamayo Perry Dies in Tragic Shark Attack Off Oahu’s Shore

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In the warm cerulean waters off Oahu’s North Shore, tragedy struck the world of surfing this past Sunday. Famed former professional surfer, and celebrated local lifeguard, Tamayo Perry, aged 49, was tragically killed in a shark attack near Goat Island, as reported by Shayne Enright of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department.

With his infectious charm, Perry was a prominent public figure, known and loved in multiple arenas. Not only was he an accomplished surfer, Perry also had a successful stint as an actor, boasting a worldwide audience, the highlight of which was his buccaneer role in one of the globally acclaimed movie series, “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

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Brendan Buckley, the esteemed editor of Stab Magazine, a site dedicated to the sport of surfing, shared his perspective on this heartbreaking event. Buckley stated that the vague nature of professional definitions within the surfing community leads to uncertainties regarding whether Perry was the first professional surfer to meet such a tragic fate.

Nonetheless, Buckley affirmed that Perry’s standing in the world of surfing was unparalleled. His demise caused a ripple in the global surfing community as Perry was highly regarded for his skill, courage, and dedication to his craft. Having braved the world-famous Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore, known to produce some of the deadliest waves on Earth, Perry was an active participant in its perilous yet thrilling exhibition of wave-riding.

Perry and his wife, Emilia, were immersed in the world of surfing. Together they operated the Oahu Surfing Experience, providing surfing lessons infused with Perry’s extensive knowledge of the ocean and surf-culture. Perry himself had a gracing presence on the professional scene for over 15 years, with notable achievements such as his victory in the 1999 Pipeline Master trials.

Buckley shared that Perry was not a conventional competitive surfer, racing for titles. Instead, his passion revolved around seeking out massive, challenging waves – pushing the limits and transcending the boundaries of what was possible. A testament to this was his survival from a previous near-fatal accident at the Pipeline which served to further ignite his drive to promote safe surf practices.

Emilia, a professional bodyboarder from western Australia, and Perry crossed paths while she was challenging a Pipeline wave. Their shared love for the sport paved the way for their marriage and mutual instilment of ocean knowledge, evidently cherished by Emilia as she reflected upon her husband’s influence.

Perry’s commitment to the ocean was further demonstrated in his employment as a lifeguard with the City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety. Here, from July 2016 onwards, he extended his role as a guardian of the sea. Outside of his water-centric endeavors, Perry explored the acting realm, earning roles in popular franchises like “Hawaii Five-0” alongside appearances in national commercials.

Authorities rushed to Malaekahana Beach on Sunday, after receiving reports of a shark attack. Despite immediate transfer to land, Perry was pronounced dead at the site. In response, Ocean Safety personnel issued shark warnings across the area as a precautionary measure.

Perry’s loss has sent echoes of grief through the local community and beyond. Acting Chief of Honolulu Ocean Safety, Kurt Lager, praised him as a “lifeguard loved by all,” while Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi labeled Perry’s death as a “tragic loss” and commended him as a “legendary waterman and highly respected.” The last deadly shark incident in Hawaii occurred on Dec. 30 originally off Maui. This recent tragedy has, once again, highlighted the precarious relationship between man and nature.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.