Meet Felipe Pomar, 1965 World Surf Champion, Tsunami Waverider and Surfing Legend

Imi Barneaud
6 min readMar 8, 2019

George Bernard Shaw once said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” and this is exactly what my conversation with Felipe Pomar sparked in my mind. Felipe Pomar is a surfing icon and is listed in the Encyclopedia of Surfing as one of the most prominent surfers of his generation. His career in surfing started in the 60's. He has an incredible life story to share. I was honored to sit down for a chat with him.

Listen to the episode here:


Felipe was the first ISF (International Surfing Federation — aka the ancestor of the WSL) World Surfing Champion in 1965. As an outstanding athlete, he has an incredible track record, and shares his experience of the first day of the rest of his life. It may not be surprise a surprise that a surfing legend like Felipe actually turned down an acting career at MGM for the love of surfing.

“I remember stopping in L.A. and going to this movie studio (Metro Goldwyn Meyer). And as I was walking into the studio there was this long hallway that had these big pictures of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and all these people, hanging on the wall. So I get down to the end of the corridor and theres this secretary at the end of the hall and she tells me

“Mr So-and-So is expecting you, please go ahead…”.

So I walk in, and there’s this man sitting behind his very big desk and we have a short talk, and he says:

« You’ll be wanting to move to L.A. and take acting classes »

So I thought about it for a minute and I said,

“Well, thank you so much, but I’ve never considered being an actor, its not something that im interested in. I don’t think I’d be very good at it as I’ve never had any interest in it. I love surfing and I’m going back to Hawaii.”

So he scratched his head and said

”This is very unusual, nobody’s ever turned me down before”.

So I said,

“Well I’m not turning you down, I want to continue doing what I love doing, and if you ever make a surfing movie in Hawaii, please keep me in mind“.

— Felipe Pomar

Felipe Pomar with The Duke and holding his Trophy

“In those days there were no leashes, there were no lifeguards and there were no jet skis. And you’d paddle out and you had to paddle back in. Nobody was going to help you or save you. So I ended up getting myself into some very scary situations.” — Felipe Pomar

In 1974 Felipe was training with his best mate Pitti Block and was unfortunately trapped in an 8 magnitude earthquake. As only a true surfer would do, they decided to risk their lives and surf the tsunami that followed. He tells us the story of this doomsday catastrophe and how he came out alive. Ps kids, don’t do this at home! This and other terrifying experiences such as a Near Death Experience could have made Felipe give up big wave surfing forever, but as he said, “when the horse bucks you off, you have to get back on”.

Felipe at Pico Alto (left) and Waimea (right)

Health is wealth

Felipe has a life filled with adventure and adrenaline. It’s not a surprise that at the age of 75 he still gets out every day for a surf. But, in fact, it was an autoimmune disease that triggered Felipe to look into alternative medical treatments and to study longevity.

Felipe Pomar — This is the story of a hero, and it’s not over yet!

In the episode we talk about how Felipe still manages to be flexible, energized and ready to surf every day without second thoughts. There are some tips and really interesting things to take from this episode about longevity.

In fact, case in point, Felipe has become a longevity coach and co-founded an organisation called SurfTill100 , that encourages surfers of all ages to develop a sustainable lifestyle. Obviously the objective is to surf till you’re 100 years old. Felipe is a living breathing example of his remarkable findings. In fact, thanks to his astonishing regime, he beat his 1968 paddle race time by 2 minutes at the age of 70!

Felipe (left) with his buddies Tom Woods (middle) and Jeff Hakman (right) — founders of Surf Till 100

I highly recommend listening to the whole conversation. This is the journey of a hero, and it’s not over yet!!

The joys of podcasting mean that you can always pause and resume the episode when you feel like it. There is an amazing amount of information to be taken out of this conversation, and Felipe is such a positive, charming and radiant human to talk to.

Felipe has Facebook but he has hit the maximum number of friends. In any case, if there’s anything to take from Felipe’s wisdom it is leave your screen alone, and get out there! Now!

Thank you Felipe for being such an awe inspiring guest.

Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves.



Felipe Pomar


Surf Till 100 :

Life extension Foundation:

Felipe Pomar EOS page:

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Imi Barneaud

My name is Imi Barneaud and I am a surfer, a mum and an entrepreneur. My podcast is a series of weekly conversations with surfers about careers.