Ken Bradshaw

Ken's Story

This page is dedicated to the one who was most instrumental in it's existence, Allyne Benson Bradshaw, Ken's Mom!

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Ken started surfing at the age of 13 on Surfside Beach, Texas in 1965. After many youthful experiences in and out of school, Ken had to choose between academics, school sports or surfing. To his parents disapproval surfing won Ken's heart. For the next year, Ken threw himself into surfing 100%. Searching for better waves, he moved to California in 1969 and finished high school in Encinitas. By 1972 he was ready to master the big waves of Hawaii and decided to move to Sunset Beach. His first clothing sponsor was Sundek from 1979 to 1986. Then Quiksilver sponsored Ken from 1986-1992.

He surfed and worked in surf shops in Encinitas, San Diego, and at the La Costa Hotel Country Club and spa until he had the finances to move to Hawaii where he could ride larger waves. Once in Hawaii, 1972, he continued in the Resort Industry in Waikiki, but this time as a Maitre'd at one of the prestigious Colony Surf Motel restaurants on Diamond Head. Through this time period he continued to pursue the largest waves his ability allowed at that stage of his surfing. While under the tutorage of his first Hawaiian mentor, George Downing, whose guidance, knowledge, philosophy and wisdom, not only in surfboard designs and shapes, but more important, what it meant to be a Hawaiian Waterman and Surfer. Ken first met George Downing while participating in the World Contest in 1972.

Ken's ability and technique continued to increase after a few years of growth and understanding of the famous Hawaiian North Shore surf, and with additional mentoring and friendships with Barry Kanaiaupuni and Eddie Aikua, two historical Hawaiian watermen surfers. After a couple years of experience as a heavy equipment operator (Backhoe), and learning to build his own surfboards, he was ready to go into business for himself. Ken's first surfboard shaping job was with Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Surf Shop in 1976. Ken started his own business, Bradshaw-Hawaii, a manufacturer of custom surfboards in 1978. Bradshaw-Hawaii, Inc. is now celebrating It's Twentieth Anniversary. Ken's business interests have grown substantially in the last two years.

Ken mastered big wave surfing on Oahu's North Shore, not only Sunset, but also Waimea. Through the late 1970's and early 1980's, he gained nicknames like Ken Kong, The Shaw of Sunset, and Planet Crusher. His rise to media coverage was all but meteoric; his first big win in professional surfing was the ABC Wide World of Sports, Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic in December 1982. During this time he was sponsored first by Sundek clothing 1979-1986, then Quiksilver clothing 1986-1992, both of which used him extensively for advertisements and personal appearances on all three coastal areas in the USA and also in Japan and Australia. His promotional tours have taken him to every surfing community in every state along every coast in the USA. (WA, OR, CA, TX, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, DE, MO, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, ME)

Since that time he has surfed at every well-known surfing spot around the world, which includes Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico, Peru, Mexico, and South Africa. He has worked hard to refine his knowledge of big-wave surfing, surfboard design, shaping boards for himself and others to become an even better surfboard manufacturer.

He won the Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic in December 1982. This was the last time ABC Wide World of Sports covered the famous "Duke" surfing contests.

Between 1990 and 1992, Ken built his home on Sunset Beach , Oahu, Hawaii so he could keep an eye on his favorite surfing break from his bedroom. He continues to live there today.

Ken has worked with the movie industry as well. He has worked with John Millius on "Farewell to the King" doing ocean stunts; and with Randall Klissor in "North Shore" performing surfing stunts, and acting as advisor to Gregory Harrison. Ken has become a lifelong friend with Gregory Harrison and John Millius.

He has worked with the Miller Brewing Company introducing two products to the surfing world. First, Lite Ice and then Red Dog beers to sponsor the prestigious Triple Crown of Surfing events in Hawaii, 1993-1997.

Ken has also sponsored and mentored several young and upcoming professional surfers such as Anthony Petruso, Ty McMillin, Hamish Campbell, Love Hodel, Noah Johnson and earlier the Ho brothers as well as the years of Mark Liddell and Buttons Kaluhiokalani. His proudest coaching accomplishment to date is Layne Beachley, the current 1998-2000 ASP-WCT Women's World Champion. Besides managing and coaching Layne's career, he shapes all her surfboards, which she rides exclusively. Other professional surfers riding Ken's boards are Sunny Garcia and John Shomooku who are members of the ASP-WCT (Association of Surfing Professionals, and World Championship Tour).

Ken's devotion to big-wave surfing took a turn in 1986 when he was determined to paddle out and ride the larger waves which were about 1 to 2 miles offshore . This happened again in 1993. Realizing he needed the help of something like a boat, Jet Ski, Wave Runner or a personal watercraft (PWC) to get him into these monsters, he was one of the first few to master the tow-in-surfing. Today tow-in-surfing has become a sport of its own...the only way to ride waves above 40 feet successfully.

Today Ken is a Co-Director of the World Tow Surfing Association. He works with the Coast Guard, Hawaiian Life Guard Association, Honolulu City, County Life Guards, The State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources and Boating Division to help set guide lines, rules and regulations for this new fast developing sport in Hawaii.

Ken has been on major TV shows such as Dateline NBC, 8/2/98 and 7/95 "The Ultimate Wave"; 20/20; ETV, 3/98; ABC's Out There, "K2 Challenge" ABC Wide World of Sports many times; BBC's "Walking on Water" and National Geographic "To Catch a Wave"; Outdoor life, 1/10/96; KABC Channel 7 News Special "El Nino" 2/5/98; Beach Beat NBC; H3O Surf News; Board Stories, Fox; and an IMAX release called "Extreme" on 12/98.

Numerous articles referring to Ken as the Legendary Big Wave Rider have been written in major magazines, such as Surfing, Surfer, Surfers Journal, Smithsonian, Outside Magazine, Rolling Stones, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, and Penthouse, to name a few.

His dedication to good health, nutritious foods and exercise is of utmost importance to him in his drive to be the best. His conditioning is Olympic in nature; he does not drink, smoke, or take any drugs. Ken's courage and devotion to his sport is exceptional. He trains constantly by swimming long distances and free diving through lava tubes and caves, rock running, and all to help his confidence level for even greater comfort in giant surf. In the springtime, Ken spends a lot of time enjoying snowboarding. As the extreme surf slows down, the extreme snowboarding begins… then the call is steep and deep.

On January 28, 1998, Ken rode the biggest wave ever ridden in history on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii at an outer reef known as Outside Log Cabins. This wave was considered to be in excess of 85 feet. That same day he also rode another 20 waves between 40 and 65 feet to make this the largest day ever ridden. Ken's dream has always been the same, to be one of the best big wave riders, and possibly the best big wave surfer in the history of the world. It looks like his dream may have come true.

Ken's business interests have grown substantially in the last two years. He has spent considerable time working with one of the industry's most experienced manufacturers of quality surfboards, Tony Channin of Precision Fiberglass. Together they have formulated a concise and intricate business plan and have begun the first phase of introducing KOA HAWAII. It begins with a surfboard CNC machine, engineered by them to be the first in-house CNC shaping machine. Second, the consolidation of two highly renowned and experienced surfboard manufacturers into one more-powerful entity. Third, marketing driven by the all time best wave rider in history.

By: Allyne Bradshaw