Former pro surfer known for riding pipeline waves dies in shark attack off Oahu

A well-known Hawaii lifeguard who was killed in a shark attack while surfing off Oahu’s North Shore was a former professional surfer with acting credits to his name, including a role in one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

Tamayo Perry, 49, was killed Sunday near Goat Island, Shayne Enright of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in a statement.

It’s not known if Perry was the first professional surfer to be killed in a shark attack, since the definition of a professional in the sport can be blurry, said Brendan Buckley, the editor of Stab Magazine, a website devoted to surfing.

“But in terms of a high-level surfer that people around the world know and respected, he’s the first that I’m aware of,” Buckley told The Associated Press Monday from his office in Portugal.

Perry and his wife, Emilia Perry, operated the Oahu Surfing Experience, offering surfing lessons. According to his biography on the business’ website, he surfed professionally for over 15 years, highlighted by winning the Pipeline Master trials in 1999.

The Pipeline off Oahu’s North Shore is famous for creating a tube that surfers ride for as long as they can. But it’s also the most deadly wave in the world, killing some of the world’s best surfers, Buckley said. Surfing it became Perry’s specialty, he said.

Surfers either focus on competitions or what they can do outside of those meets.


Perry “was never like somebody that was going to contend for a world title,” Buckley said. “He was more of the type to just kind of hunt down big, crazy waves and have that documented.”

“For a while, he was one of the top, top, top people out there,” Buckley added. “He got some of the craziest waves of his era. He was insanely respected by obviously everybody there and everybody around the world for what he did.”

Perry said on his website that he took to heart lessons learned from a near-fatal accident while surfing the Pipeline years ago.

“The lessons I’ve taken from that event have inspired me to my goal of instilling proper surf etiquette and safety into those whom I teach,” he wrote.

Emilia competed as a professional bodyboarder in western Australia before moving to Hawaii when she was 18. She and Tamayo met when she was bodyboarding out to a Pipeline wave.

“A few years later, I picked up a surfboard, we got married and there was no turning back,” she wrote. “The vast amounts of ocean knowledge that Tamayo has ingrained in me over the years is priceless.”

Tamayo Perry began his career as a lifeguard on the North Shore for the City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety in July 2016, Enright said.

Perry’s other passion was acting. He had several small roles credited to him on the film website, including playing a buccaneer in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011. That same year, he appeared in an episode of the television series “Hawaii Five-0.” He was also in a couple of national commercials.

“When I’m not acting, I’m still quite a character, so there’s always a ton of fun to be had,” he said.

Photographer Brian Bielmann had known and worked with Perry for 25 years, shooting the surfer in both Hawaii and Tahiti. Perry and several friends wound up at a party about five months ago, when Bielmann said they had an incredible bonding experience.

“There’s about five of us there, and we’ve all called each other and just said, ‘We just are so thankful that we had that night with him,’” he said. “Everybody is just shaken to the core. I mean, it’s a gnarly thing to have happen no matter who it is, but to find out it was Tamayo, it’s crazy, man.”

Honolulu Ocean Safety and the city’s fire, police and emergency medical services departments responded to Malaekahana Beach on Oahu’s North Shore just before 1 p.m. Sunday after a caller reported seeing a man who appeared to have suffered shark bites, Enright said.

Lifeguards brought Perry to shore, where he was pronounced dead, Enright said.

Ocean Safety personnel posted shark warnings in the area following the attack, Enright said.

Honolulu Ocean Safety Acting Chief Kurt Lager said Perry was “a lifeguard loved by all.”

“Tamayo’s personality was infectious and as much as people loved him, he loved everyone else more,” Lager said at a news conference.

“Tamayo was a legendary waterman and highly respected,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, calling Perry’s death “a tragic loss.”


The last fatal shark incident in Hawaii was Dec. 30 when a man surfing off Maui was attacked about 150 yards (137 meters) from shore.


Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press

Mark Thiessen is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Anchorage.