Buffalo Keaulana "2005 Surf Pioneer"

One of Hawaii's most naturally-talented surfer

PHOTO: Buffalo and The ActivEmpire's Leila Endersby at the 2003 Quiksilver ASP Masters held at Buffalo's Makaha.

PHOTO: Buffalo & LeRoy Grannis

PHOTO: Buffalo accepting induction 2005.

Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana, patriarchal Hawaiian surfer and lifesaver, is known as the Mayor of Makaha, especially considering that he’s given rise to a Westside dynasty that’s now in its third generation. 

Richard Keaulana was born in 1935 in Honolulu and his family settled in Makaha while he was still a young boy. He learned to surf in the gentle rollers off Waikiki, eventually graduating to the level of “beach boy” during the 1950s.

Dubbed “Buffalo” by friends due to a large head covered in copious amounts hair, he was considered one of Hawaii’s most naturally-talented surfers. His smooth style, switch-stance skills and nose for the pocket made him an annual favorite at the Makaha International contest, an event he won in 1960. In fact, Keaulana captured six top-four finishes in the contest between 1957 and 1965. Built with the sturdy frame of a Polynesian warrior, he was also considered by many at the time to be the world’s best bodysurfer.

A consummate waterman, Keaulana was named Makaha’s lifeguard chief in 1969, a position he managed for the next two and a half decades. In 1972, local officials erected a statue in his honor in front of a library near Makaha. Buffalo’s Big Board Classic — a surf contest and beach party held at Makaha for over four decades — has become a community mainstay. Two of his six children have gone on to noteworthy careers in surfing: Brian, a world class waterman and big-wave surfer; and Rusty, a three-time world longboard champion (1993-95).