Max scored more than half his 2017 QS points tally in Hawaii, yet again showing that he can mix it with the best when the waves are good. A 40th place finish however reflects that he managed only 10 heat wins all year on the QS. Staying positive and motivated can’t be easy, especially without major sponsor support, but with massive airs in his arsenal both ways, he’s always capable of a huge upset. A student of the sport, Max is unlikely to start a punk band, hold an art show or get a sensitive part of his anatomy pierced to grab your attention. Should a good run and a bit of of fortune on the QS go his way, he won’t need to. Thing is, will it though?
“No other surfer in the world packed more mean closeouts than Lowey did in 2017”
14. Tom Lowe
No other surfer in the world packed more mean closeouts than Lowey did in 2017. And that was with the Englishman taking a more considered approach and making a conscious decision to make more waves. It seemed wherever a swell was on, be it Puerto Escondido, Nazare, Mavericks or Jaws, Tom Lowe was in the very thick of it, putting his head down and dropping over the ledge. When you consider the Cornishman is mixing it with the heaviest of crew from surfing’s big wave epicentres while hailing from a coast that generally closes out at shoulder high, his carry on becomes even more impressive.
13. Wavegarden Cove
While seemingly locked into some kind of idealogical Hatfields & McCoys blood feud with the Slater Surf Ranch in the eyes of fans and perhaps WG themselves, the comparison is utterly moot. The Cove technology is legit, fun, and with proliferation into various pubic facilities across Europe rumoured to be not far away, it’s seemingly much more likely to be surfed in the near future by you and your crew… Raimana probably won’t be shooting you off his ski, but you’re ok with that, right? In terms of web hits, well y’all seemingly can’t get enough of man-made waves on demand; the number of hits the wee R&D test site pool clocks up warrants its place as a Euro Power Ranker of note.
“In a surfing world where Tomas Hermes can make the cut aged 30, and Willy Cardoso can qualify weighing 110 kilos, Vasco knows he has what it takes”
12. Vasco Ribeiro
Another impressive wildcard display at the Peniche showed that Vasco has the ability and temperament to make it all the way. A fifth at Ballito mid-year was the key in giving him his best ever QS finish (32nd) in his fifth year chasing the dream. In a surfing world where Tomas Hermes can make the cut aged 30, and Willy Cardoso can qualify weighing 110 kilos, Vasco knows he has what it takes to join his mate Kikas on tour. At times looking more like Saca than Saca, the style maybe isn’t the purist’s cuppa tea, but Vasco has been raised a competitive animal since a wee lad, and won’t lose much sleep over that.
“Consistent heroics at Nazare and legendary efforts at Puerto Escondido”
11. Alex Botelho
Alex’s massive boost up the rankings — not that they existed before now — was courtesy of consistent heroics at Nazare and his legendary efforts at Puerto Escondido. For the BWT event at Mex Pipe Botelho flew in the night before, chancing his arm as alternate and charged all the way to the Final. As an invite in the Nazare Challenge he now has the opportunity to secure a permanent place on the BWT… and he’s as good a chance as any surfer there when playing Russian roulette in the Portuguese teepees. With a mellow, understated vibe and distinct lack of ego that belies his madman approach in heavy surf, you’ll struggle to find someone that doesn’t only have good things to say about the strapping Algarve native.
10. GB Surf Coach
“He’s not the best thing to happen to surfing in 2017, he’s the best thing that’s happened to surfing ever.” That was Joel Parkinson, former World Champion and GB Surf Coach’s No. 1 Fan. GB Surf Coach has taken the Surf Instagram world by storm with his searing insights and free technical advice for all surfers. From advising Stokesy on his look to admonishing Tom Curren’s lack of style, GB Surf Coach has been the only voice of honest reason in an ever self-masturbatory surf world. Without him, I shudder to think where we would have ended up. His blend of fiercely guarded anonymity and rapier sharp social commentary have some drawing inevitable comparisons with Banksy.
9. Jorgann Couzinet
The Hossegor based, Reunion born surfer startled everyone, probably himself, with an electric QS leg in Oz. Yet what was even more surprising was how he held on to his top 10 ranking almost to Hawaii, and was still within a shot of qualifying at Sunset. He did it with little backing, huge amounts of peroxide and even more self-belief, making his year even more commendable. One of the great Euro stories of 2017, he’s done enough to convince that one day he can go all the way. Or, given how the QS can work, disappear for a decade of lower ranked semi-obscurity.
8. Natxo Gonzalez
A modern renaissance surfer, it’s easy to forget that the Basque goofyfooter is only 22 years of age. His already impressive big-wave surfing reputation has been further enhanced in 2017 with his signature black and white striped guns being hurled over the ledge at all the premier big-wave locations, and very recently, a 10 point effort at Punta Galea that it has been scientifically proven impossible to watch and not utter, “Fuck me sideways…” under your breath. Away from the big waves he has taken the adventure mode of his mentors Kepa and Aritz to the next level, with his clip “A Dream Come True” setting the standard for new wave discovery.
“We’re not sure why Cotty decided to fade left on an 80-foot Nazare right…”
7. Andrew Cotton
We are not sure why Cotty decided to fade left on an 80-foot Nazare right and then jump off to use his back as a pillow for the descending mega neutron bomb lip, but the resulting vertebrae concertina has slowed what was shaping up to be an epic winter. Cotty had doubled down at the wave he helped Garret McNamara make legitimate, dedicating most waking moments to being a better surfer at the Portuguese behemoth. It is this dedication that has allowed a plumber and lifeguard from Croyde to be able to charge German bankers for corporate engagements. The British public love a plucky loser like Henman, but even more so, a have a go hero plucky loser like Eddie the Eagle. They loved Cotty’s record breaking Nazaré near make back in 2014, but loved 2017’s glorious near tragedy even more. With more airtime on BBC/Sky’s rolling news cycles than some natural disasters, a recent survey suggested 1 in 3 Brits believe he’s the 11-time World Champion.
“Firmly establishing herself as Europe’s greatest ever Women’s CT surfer”
6. Johanne Defay
A poor finish to the year slightly took the gloss off what had been a blistering start, where she won two QS events in Oz and then made a CT final in Rio. That pushed her close to World Title contention, before she dropped back to 9th. Still, 2018 will be her fifth year as a CT member and she is firmly establishing herself as Europe’s greatest ever Women’s CT surfer, which is either an incredible achievement, or not saying much, depending on your viewpoint. If she is to challenge for a World Title — she’s currently Europe’s best shot at one in either division — she’ll need to up her game considerably to stay with the very best. Nevertheless the Reunion Islander is indisputably a class act, and that she does it all with a vicious backhand snap and perma-smile makes her achievements all the more enjoyable.
“Flashes of his true potential showed with quarterfinals in Fiji and a solid finish”
5. Leo Fioravanti
Whether it was his starring role in the Snake Tales, surfing’s equivalent to Blue Planet, overconfidence, or mere rotten luck, Leo was brought down to earth in 2017 with a brutal relegation back to the QS. Flashes of his true potential showed with quarterfinals in Fiji and a solid finish, but the slow start cost him a spot his talent deserves. No stranger to comebacks, having arisen from the misery of a broken back at Pipe to qualify, he’ll need to again draw upon that kind of steel to get back on the CT horse. Whether his surfing is great or just very very good can’t be judged by a rookie season alone. He’s still only 20, and time is on his side to go on to great things… Or very very good things.
4. Justine Dupont
Dupont’s second place in the Pe’ahi Challenge was just reward for two years solid dedication to big wave surfing. Perhaps realising she’s never going to out-surf the likes of Gilmore, Moore, Wright et al., Justine has spent the last two winters based in Nazaré, sleeping underwater most nights and towing and paddling every swell that came. She is pushing women’s big-wave surfing into new realms and while it may have cost her a place on the CT, she’s playing the longer game, and looks set to dominate the big-wave realm for years to come. Having competed for Longboard world titles, as well as the CT and now big wave, Justine is Europe’s most rounded competitor, man or woman, ever.
“She’s pushing women’s big-wave surfing into new realms”
“Arguably easier on the eye than both Flores and Morais”
3. Joan Duru
The Anglophone world tends to want to view French sports stars as either semi-crazed wayward genius, or shrinking violets only ever a minor setback away from epic capitulation. Duru is clearly neither of the above, and is arguably easier on the eye than both Flores and Morais, with a hard to quantify but easy to see flow to his surfing most suited to elite level. Having waited so long to crack the CT, Joan overcame a slow start and fought back impressively to book his ticket for 2018. His talent was far superior to all the back markers on the CT, and with his competitive act dialed in, a future top ten place, and thus status as mainland France’s most successful ever Tour surfer, is not unrealistic. With sophomore season confidence in his favour, 2018 promises to be an intriguing season.
“His take-downs of World Champs Fanning, Florence and Medina was one of the more impressive runs of any CT surfer all year”
2. Frederico Morais
It was at Bells that Kikas proved that he had what it takes to be a permanent CT member. It was at J-Bay that he showed he could be much, much more. His take-downs of World Champions Fanning, Florence and Medina constituted one of the more impressive runs of any CT surfer all year. He ended up rated 14th, missing out on the rookie of the year award by just 50 points, but on the flipside secured a surprise fourth place in the Surfer Poll. Now after Brexit and Trump, some might consider this as the final nail in democracy’s coffin, where the voting public can no longer be trusted. Is Kikas in with the Russians? Was Dog Marsh embroiled in the shadowy world of post truths and fake news? 2018 seems to be posing more questions than answers as Kikas tries to top an incredible year.
“It seems Europe’s best ever surfer is only getting better”
1. Jeremy Flores
Jeremy Flores finished his 11th consecutive CT year in 15th place, having added a second Pipe Masters title to his other career victory at Teahupoo. In a decade on tour he’s had five top ten finishes, and he’s not done yet; turning 30 next year, he’s probably enjoying his most impressive form in years. Even more impressively, his average heat total was the seventh best in 2017. It seems Europe’s best ever surfer is only getting better. Although still something of a polarising figure both at home and abroad, it seems the controversy and acrimony that have tended to follow are largely behind him. Jeremy’s true class and the size of his achievements, during a career that’s gone from Occy to Florence, will probably only be appreciated when he’s gone.
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