Alfredo Sadun, MD: Hi, Malcolm. I’ve heard fascinating things about you, and I’m very glad that you’ve agreed to this interview. Can you start by telling us about where you were born and what your childhood was like?
Malcolm Ing, MD: I was born in Honolulu Oct. 31, 1934 to a Chinese American physician father and Caucasian mother of English, Irish and Scottish descent. My parents married in Philadelphia after my father completed his residency in urology at the University of Pennsylvania. At that time, interracial marriage was not common, and, in fact, both of my parents’ families tried to discourage the union, so my parents eloped!
Malcolm R. Ing, MD, pictured in 2003. First place in Hawaii State Championship, Legends Division (60 and over).
My father’s practice of urology was difficult to establish in the Depression years, but he worked diligently to make ends meet. He worked as a volunteer physician at the local venereal disease clinics and told me that in those days, the only treatment the physicians had for syphilis was mercury and arsenic.
Dr. Sadun: Any interesting events during your childhood?
Dr. Ing: My boyhood years were more financially comfortable than those of my father, who was one of 11 children. But those days also included the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. My dad, being in the U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps, was called into action that day, and I will never forget the family huddled around a radio in a blacked-out home wondering if the Japanese were going to invade Hawaii.
Dr. Sadun: Where did you go to school?
Dr. Ing: I finished my high school education at Punahou School and continued my formal, pre-med education at Harvard, where in 1954 I met Audrey Regut in Lamont Library. Knowledge is not the only thing obtained in an undergraduate library, because a longlasting love affair with Audrey began there and is going strong after 67 years! Yale University School of Medicine accepted me as a student after three undergraduate years at Harvard, and after a surgical internship at UCLA in 1960, I finished a residency in ophthalmology at Yale in 1963. I completed my fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology with Drs. Frank Costenbader and Marshall Parks in 1964.
Dr. Sadun: That must have been at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Then what?
"In the Curl" (with protective eyewear).
Dr. Ing: The Vietnam War resulted in my serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, but this duty brought me back to Hawaii and surfing. Audrey and I happily raised three girls in Honolulu, and now have three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Dr. Sadun: And academically?
Dr. Ing: While in Honolulu, I served as chair of ophthalmology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine from 1983 through 2020. I am a member of the American Ophthalmological Society and serve on the council of the Hawaii Medical Association. I have published 65 peer-reviewed articles for medical journals and contributed four chapters in textbooks on strabismus surgery.
Dr. Sadun: Well, time to talk about your other life: Your avocation which has also brought you some notoriety. I hear you surf. How did that start?
Dr. Ing: I first started surfing at about age 14; that’s when I bought my first surfboard. This board was a redwood hollow board, 12 feet in length, and it weighed 54 pounds. For the younger generation, that’s a very heavy board. There were no fins on the board, and it was very hard to turn in the waves. My present board by comparison is only 10 feet long and weighs only 20 pounds, and I can use it to “curl” in the waves as much as possible.
Dr. Sadun: But did you start surfing because of some influence?
Dr. Ing: When I was very young, I often heard my dad discuss the fact that I had an uncle. He was a Waikiki “beach boy” and he used to surf with the legendary Duke Kahanamoku. The “Duke” was not only an Olympic swimming champion, but he introduced surfing to most of the rest of the world.
Dr. Sadun: You mentioned big heavy boards that transformed. What was that about?
Dr. Ing: By the time I returned to my birthplace, Hawaii, in 1966, surfboards had changed from wood to foam and fiberglass. This meant that they were much shorter and lighter; easier to carry and better to turn in the water.
Dr. Sadun: Were you good?
Dr. Ing: I entered my first surfing contest in Hawaii in 1968; the oldest age division at the time was 35 years and older as a category. Little did I know at that time that I would still be competing in the over 40 surf meets now 52 years later! I presently hold the title in the Golden Legends Division (80 years and up) in the Hawaii Amateur State Surfing Championships.
Dr. Sadun: What do you like most about surfing?
Dr. Ing pictured with surf buddy, Hurricane Brown, at the 2019 Hawaii State Championships, Golden Legends Division (80 and over).
Dr. Ing: Mostly, I like the exercise and the rough and tumble atmosphere. This contrasts with the precise nature of ocular surgery that I still perform doing strabismus surgery, my chosen subspecialty being pediatric ophthalmology. Surfing gives me a great chance to admire the beauty and refreshing nature of the ocean.
Surfing and ophthalmology intersect in two areas. I try to protect my eyes from sunlight damage, and I wear protective shatterproof eyewear at all times on the ocean. I have also had to surgically repair eyes which have been damaged by the sharp front end of the new smaller surfboards. For all young surfers in the water beside me, I advise the use of a soft silicone tip applied at the front end of the board that decreases the chance of an injury.
As far as injuries go — not long ago, I attended a case in which the sharp tip of a surfboard entered two inches into a man’s orbit and gave the patient a penetrating wound that was unrepairable.
I testified significantly at our Hawaii State Legislature to lobby for the creation of a high school interscholastic sport of surfing. I pointed out to the legislators that I was still engaged in this sport after 50 years. I told them that I believed surfing offered a great opportunity to remain physically active, whereas other high school sports such as football were less sustainable and would not be possible as activities for senior age groups.
Dr. Sadun: Where do you go from here?
Dr. Ing: I look forward to competing in the 90-plus division in the future!