Hawaii surf champ, 24, reportedly dies after seizure in the water

Kalani David, the 24-year-old surfing and skateboarding sensation from Hawaii, died during a practice surf session in Costa Rica, the Associated Press reported.  

David was in the water at Playa Hermosa, Jacó, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica when he “apparently suffered some kind of epileptic seizure and drowned,” the Costa Rica Judicial Investigation Agency told the AP. His death is still under investigation. 

David, who was born Kalani David Feeney Barrientos but goes by his first two names in the World Surf League, had a congenital heart disease called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that can occasionally cause the heart to beat rapidly and trigger seizures. In 2016, he had a seizure attack while skateboarding at Prince Park in Oceanside, Calif., followed by multiple other seizures, including one that lasted for 6 hours, according to Men’s Journal.

“I couldn’t really breathe and felt really lightheaded and weird,” David told Surfer magazine in an August 2016 interview. “All of a sudden, everything just stopped.” At age 19, he had open-heart surgery.


David grew up surfing the waves and shredding at the skate parks around Oahu. He won the World Junior Surfing Championship at age 14 in 2012 and was called out for his aerial maneuvers that Surfer Today said “made him one of the most talked-about surfers of his generation.”

“Wave after wave, aerial after aerial he built the foundation of a Gold Medal-winning score,” the surfing site wrote of his 2012 performance.

That same year, David also competed in skateboarding at the X Games in Los Angeles. His biography on the X Games website identified him as part “of the generation of young kids who are way better and progress way faster than action sports athletes of only a few years ago.” 

Tributes to the young athlete poured in over social media. “Oh man,” wrote photographer Peter King on Instagram. “Love you Kalani. Only God knows His timing. Life isn’t easy. Always battling. Always Learning. Heartbreaking News.”

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