surf instructor hawaii ken bradshaw

Surf Instructors

Ken Bradshaw | Aaron Powell | Sunset Suzy

More than 80 years of combined surfing experience at your service via Ken Bradshaw's Hawaiian Surf School elite group of surf instructors.

Hawaii Surf Instructors North Shore Oahu

Ken Bradshaw was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where he learned to surf the age of 13 at Surfside Beach. He fell in love with surfing right away and all else came second including football and school. Searching for better waves He moved to California in 1969 where he finished High school in Encinitas. Ken was working in surf shops and at the La Costa Country Club and spa in Encinitas until he had the finances. In 1972 at age 19 he was ready to master the big waves of Hawaii and decided to move to Sunset Beach, where he still lives today.

Once in Hawaii Ken continued to work in the Resort industry, he took a job in a Diamond Head Resort.  Through this time period he continued to pursue his love for ridding big waves, and Hawaii taught him a lot in the first few years. While under the tutorage of his first Hawaiian mentor, George Downing, whose guidance, knowledge, philosophy and wisdom, not only in surfboard design and shapes, but more important, he taught Ken what it meant to be a Hawaiian Waterman and Surfer.

After a couple of years as heavy equipment operator ( backhoe) , and learning to shape and build his own surfboards he was ready to start his own business, Bradshaw-Hawaii, custom surfboards and designs he has being in business for since 1976. And to this day continues his passion of shaping Surfboards and now shapes a wide variety of boards from small wave high performance boards, guns, long boards and Tow Boards.

Ken mastered big wave surfing on Oahu’s North Shore, not only at sunset beach but also at Waiamea Bay. Ken’s ability and technique continued to improve after a few years of growth and understanding surfing the famous North Shore surf. With additional mentoring and friendships with Barry Kanaiaupuni and Eddie Aikua, two historical Hawaiian waterman.  Ken gained respect from the Hawaiian surfers as well as media recognition for his all or nothing approach to ridding big waves.

Ken’s first sponsor was Sundeck from 1979 to 1986. Then Quicksilver sponsored ken from 1986-1992. Both of which used him extensively for advertisements and personal appearances on all coastal areas of the USA and also in Japan and Australia. Since then he has traveled and surfed at almost every well known spot around the planet. He has worked hard to refine his knowledge of big- wave ridding, He really focused on surfboard design experimenting with his own boards. Bradshaw Hawaii really grew, and Ken was hand shaping as many as 25 boards a week during his peak shaping period.

Ken won the Duke Kahanamoku Surfing classic in 1982. At Sunset beach

A few years after the great Hawaiian Water man Eddie Aikua’s tragic death. Quicksilver began to run a contest in memory of Eddie. It is a big wave invitational event held only in conditions worthy enough for Eddie. Ken was invited to the first event which was held at Sunset beach in 1985 the rest of the Eddies are run at Waimea Bay the epicenter for big wave ridding. Ken has competed in 4 Eddies. They run on average every 4 years and this single contest has become the most prestigious in the sport of surfing.

In 1993 Ken started experimenting with Tow Surfing, as he wanted to ride bigger waves and surf the outer reef swells that max out Waimea. He now was able to access waves miles offshore with much more efficiency with the help of a PWC; he became completely obsessed with towing and the limitlessness of the sport. In 2001 when the Eddie was going to run there was also a International Tow Surfing contest at Jaws in Maui, ken was told the Eddie would not run so he went to Maui to compete in the contest, only to find out the next morning that the conditions cleaned up and Quicksilver decided to run the event, leaving Ken and 5 other surfers unable to get back to Waimea in time for the event. That was the last year Ken was invited to The Eddie you could say he choose Tow Surfing over Paddle surfing, To this day ken still avidly tows and rarely surf’s Waimea as it has become so crowded over the past decade.

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 Tow surfing which has become a fast developing sport here in Hawaii.

Ken has appeared on the pages of major magazines throughout his career and often referred to as the Legendary Big Wave Rider. Also featured in various movies and multiple television programs as well as national add campaigns, here are a few examples:

Magazines include: Surfer, Surfing, Surfers Journal, Forbes Magazine, Smithsonian, Outside Magazine, Rolling Stones Magazine, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, and books.

  • A Nissan Xterra commercial,
  • A  Hartford Insurance commercial.
  • An IMAX Movie “Extreme”,
  • An educational documentary for P.B.S titled “Condition Black”
  • A Documentary for the Learning Channel (TLC). Three one hour specials titled “Extreme Survival”.
  • Another T.L.C program titled “Extreme Surfing”
  • National Geographic “To catch a Wave”
  • BBC program titled “Walking on Water”
  • NBC program titled “The Ultimate Wave”
  • ABC program titled “Out There” and ABC Wide World of sports several times.

Ken’s dedication to good health, nutritious foods, and exercise is of utmost importance to him and his drive to be the best. He lives a very clean life style no drugs, and rarely drinks. He keeps his body in shape all year round and enjoys surfing small waves as well;  it keeps him agile and in synch with the ocean so when it’s on he is always ready. In the summer time he also trains by swimming long distances and he free dives trough lava tubes and caves all this helps his confidence in large surf. Kens other Love is snowboarding, every year he spends about 3 weeks on the mountain usually in the spring time when the waves start to slow down here in Hawaii.

On January 28, 1998, Ken rode the biggest wave in history, at an outer reef known as Outside Log Cabins on the North Shore of Oahu. 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. Kens dream has always been the same, to be one of the best big wave riders in history. There are no signs of Ken slowing down. In the last 12 years since 1998 he has surfed every large swell and is still waiting for a storm to form and come together perfectly to create another day as perfect as 1998.

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