Surfing legend Derek Ho has died at the age of 55 ©Getty Images

American surfing legend and 1993 world champion Derek Ho has died at the age of 55 after suffering a heart attack.

Born in Hawaii and from a Chinese family, Ho won at world title at the age of 29 and became the first native Hawaiian to do so.

He triumphed at the 1993 Association of Surfing Professionals World Championships - that organisation has since become the World Surf League.

On Friday (July 17), Ho was hospitalised after suffering a heart attack- he fell into a coma and passed away later that afternoon.

Standing goofy on the surfboard, Ho became a top surfer of Hawaii's Banzai Pipeline as a teenager alongside his older brother Michael.

By the time he was in his early 20s, he had already won a Pipe Masters event and went on to become a four-time Triple Crown winner.

He also landed on the cover of Surfer magazine.

Up until last winter, Ho was reportedly still surfing big waves.

He leaves behind two nephews, Mason and Coco, who are both professional surfers too.

Matt Warshaw wrote in the Encyclopaedia of Surfing that: "Ho was quick-footed, with a sharp, angular, slightly formulated attack.

"Tuberiding was his strength, and in hollow waves, especially at Pipeline, he rode with sublime precision and elegance.

"Two-time world champion Tom Carroll was Ho's equal at Pipeline, but the Australian's approach was rougher and more power-driven, whereas Ho time and again drew perfect lines through the deepest part of the wave - updating the approach invented by seventies Pipeline ace Gerry Lopez."

Australian surfer Mick Fanning led the tributes to Ho when he said: "Uncle D was always such a friendly and funny guy towards me.

"Full of life and quirky in the amazing Ho family way.

"To see him still surfing places like Pipeline as good as anyone at 55 is a huge inspiration.

"Your memory, legacy and character will live on and inspire many in the future."

A fundraiser for the family of Ho has been started too.