Historic Seaplane Finds New Life As Surf Explorer

Bill Sharp, Billabong Project Manager
Bill Sharp, Billabong Project Manager
Mark Dunkerly, Hawaiian Airlines CEO
Mark Dunkerly, Hawaiian Airlines CEO

(KHNL) Some of the world's top surfers are about to begin a two-year surf expedition across the pacific. A journey that starts aboard a World War Two era propeller driven seaplane.

KHNL News 8's Cindy Paliracio checked out the refurbished amphibious aircraft today. 

The former airliner originally belonged to the Coast Guard.  It hasn't been used in decades. It took workers more than 18 months to re-furbish the clipper and turn it into the ultimate surfing exploration craft.

When Hawaiian Airlines first began inter-island service in 1929 the seaplane clipper was the airline's first commercial aircraft.

"There was a time in the beginning of our history, some 76 years ago, when all of our airplanes were sea planes, and that was the only way to get between the island in the state" said Mark Dunkerly, Hawaiian Air president and CEO.

But as faster and more high-tech aircraft became available, seaplanes became a thing of the past, until now.

Surf company Billabong and Hawaiian Airlines teamed up and refurbished this former Coast Guard seaplane into the ultimate surfing exploration craft.

"As surfers, its just the ultimate way - it's the ultimate fantasy island way of going surfing" said Bill Sharp, Billabong project manager.

So what makes the clipper so special? Well it can land on the runway and on the ocean. And that means surfers will be able to explore waves on remote islands in the Pacific.

"These aircraft are amphibious, they can land on the runway or in the water,  in the early days of aviation, most of the neighbor islands had water airways we use to use."  said Dunkerly.

Three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons along with other pro-surfers like Shane Dorian and Keala Kennelly will take part of the two-year surf safari.

"That's what this is all about, this is more for surf explorations, find new spots, and surf these waves that no one has surfed before" said Irons.

"Between here and there there are a lot of little islands and little atolls, and the only way you can get there is by sea planes" said Sharp.

The Billabong Hawaiian Clipper will spend the next several weeks flying around Oahu and the neighbor islands before venturing into the South Pacific.