Former skilled surfer dies in shark attack off Oahu

A widely known Hawaiian lifeguard who died in a shark attack while browsing off the north shore of Oahu was a former skilled surfer with acting experience, friends and acquaintances said Monday.

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

It isn’t known whether Perry was the primary skilled surfer to die in a shark attack, because the definition of knowledgeable in the game might be vague, said Brendan Buckley, editor of Stab Magazine, an internet site dedicated to browsing.

“But as far as a top surfer that people around the world know and respect, he's the first one I know,” Buckley told The Associated Press on Monday from his office in Portugal.

Perry and his wife, Emilia Perry, operated the Oahu Surfing Experience and offered browsing lessons. According to his bio on the corporate's website, he surfed professionally for over 15 years, together with his highlight being winning the Pipeline Master Trials in 1999.

The Pipeline off Oahu's north shore is understood for making a tube that surfers ride for so long as they will. But it's also the world's deadliest wave, killing a number of the world's best surfers, Buckley said. Surfing that wave has change into Perry's specialty, he said.

Surfers either deal with competitions or on what they will do outside of those meets.

Perry “was never someone who was going to fight for a world title,” Buckley said. “He was more of a guy who just chased big, crazy waves and documented it.”

TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA - MAY 4: Tamayo Perry of Hawaii in action during the third round of the Billabong Pro Trials on May 4, 2003 in Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia. The finals of the trials will be surfed May 1-5. 16 international surf specialists from Teahupoo will compete against 32 local Tahitians in the world's best surfing wave at the Air TahitiNui VZ Trials. Three wildcards will be awarded to the top two Tahitians and the next highest ranked surfer at the Air TahitiNui VZ Trials. The wildcards will then be seeded into the Billabong Pro, which features the top 45 ASP surfers in the world. (Photo by Steve Robertson/Getty Images)
Perry surfs on the Billabong Pro Trials in Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia in 2003. According to his bio on the corporate's website, he surfed professionally for over 15 years and won the Pipeline Master Trials in 1999. (Steve Robertson/Getty Images Archives)

“For a while he was one of the absolute top guys out there,” Buckley added. “He rode some of the craziest waves of his time. He was incredibly respected by everyone there and everyone around the world for what he did.”

Perry said on his website that he had taken to heart the teachings of a near-fatal accident while browsing the Pipeline years ago.

“The lessons I learned from this event have inspired my goal of teaching my students proper surfing etiquette and safety,” he wrote.

Emilia competed as knowledgeable bodyboarder in Western Australia before moving to Hawaii at 18. She and Tamayo met when she bodyboarded out to a Pipeline wave.

“A few years later, I got a surfboard, we got married and there was no turning back,” she wrote. “The enormous knowledge of the sea that Tamayo has given me over the years is priceless.”

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

Perry's other passion was acting. He was offered several small roles within the IMDb movie websiteincluding the role of a privateer in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011. That same 12 months, he appeared in an episode of the tv series “Hawaii Five-0”. He also appeared in several national commercials.

“When I'm not acting, I'm still a real character, so it's always a lot of fun,” he said.

Honolulu Ocean Safety, in addition to town's fire, police and emergency services, responded to Malaekahana Beach on Oahu's north shore shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday after a caller reported seeing a person who appeared to have been bitten by a shark, Enright said.

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

Kurt Lager, acting director of Honolulu Ocean Safety, said Perry was “a lifeguard loved by all.”

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

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

The last fatal shark incident in Hawaii occurred on December 30, when a person was attacked while browsing off Maui about 450 feet from shore.

Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

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