It’s with heavy hearts that we report beloved surfing pastor and Huntington Beach icon by way of Hawaii, Blaine “Sumo” Sato, tragically lost his two-year battle with colon cancer on Sunday. He was 55.
Sato, known by most as Sumo, was a perennial figure in the Huntington Beach surf community – with his iconic shaved head and wispy white beard, Sumo could be seen almost daily surfing his 12-foot board at the pier until his diagnosis with cancer.
Longtime pastor of H2O Church – run out of Huntington Beach’s International Surfing Museum – Sumo also served as the Huntington Beach Marine Safety chaplain and in 2016 famously put his hands and feet in wet cement for the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of Kelly Slater and Bethany Hamilton.
“We need more men like Sumo in this world,” said Aaron Pai, owner of Huntington Surf and Sport and longtime friend of Sumo. It was Pai who made the decision to induct Sumo in the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. “He made this world a much better place. He was my best friend (and everyone’s best friend). Sumo was larger than LIFE. Prayers and love to Sumo and to Sumo’s family.”
Even through Sumo’s years-long fight with cancer, he remained an indomitable source of inspiration and a messenger for joy, especially among addicts, the homeless, and the vulnerable.
Back in 2016, Sumo opened up to The Inertia about his early life, struggles with drugs, and, ultimately, finding God. “I never thought my life would go this way, to tell you the truth,” he told The Inertia. “Growing up in Hawaii, my parents used to bring people in, you know homeless people and stuff, and I didn’t think I’d ever be like that. Now, I’m a spitting image of my parents.”
As an ambassador for Cobian, Sumo quite literally walked the walk going house to house in Huntington Beach – a true manifestation of the company’s “every step matters” mantra. “I used to do 40 houses a day,” he told The Inertia. “I used to do them in an hour and a half. Just [knock, knock], ‘Hi, my name’s Sumo and I’m a pastor here,’ give them my card and tell them if there’s anything they ever need to call me.”
Sumo’s love for his community, his smile, and his heart will be extremely missed.
Outpourings of memories abound on social media including this one from Sunny Garcia who wrote, “Heaven got another soldier today.”
Sato is survived by his wife Diane, daughter Taylor and son Micah.