Surf Phenom Kalani David, 24, Dies After Suffering Seizure While Riding The Waves

At 14, he won the gold medal at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Panama.
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Hawaiian Kalani David performed in the surf contest in the Red Bull Airborne France three years ago.
Hawaiian Kalani David performed in the surf contest in the Red Bull Airborne France three years ago.
Damien Poullenot via Getty Images

Surfing and skateboarding prodigy Kalani David, 24, died Saturday after suffering a seizure while he was riding the waves in Costa Rica, according to a number of media reports.

David had a congenital heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can trigger a rapid heartbeat and seizures. Although he had heart surgery six years ago, David continued to pursue the sports he loved.

Born and raised on Oahu, David began surfing as a toddler and skateboarding when he was just 4 years old. By the time he was 14, David was already a top-ranked surfer and skateboarder. That was the year he won the gold medal at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Panama.

“Kalani was one of the most talented surfer/skaters on Earth,” wrote Kelly Slater. “Constantly pushing the limits every time he was on his feet. Condolences to the huge community of friends Kalani had coast to coast and across the globe.”

David suffered his first seizure six years ago while skateboarding in Southern California. He recounted on Instagram that he fell on his face and woke up in an ambulance. The episode briefly stopped his heart and triggered three more seizures in the hospital.

Months later, he seized in bed for some six hours until friends found him. That’s when he underwent heart surgery in an attempt to treat the condition.

Despite his health issues, David continued to surf and skate. He told Stab magazine after the surgery that if he was forced to make a choice between surfing or skateboarding — or death — he would pick death.

Fans and colleagues took to social media to share tributes to David:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the heart procedure used to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

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