6 of the Best: Power Surfers
Admire Occy, Andy, Sunny, Dane, TC & Pancho's heavenly heft
There are 4 or possibly 5 main methods of determining a surfer's greatness. After Instagram followers, number of craft breweries co-owned, famousness of wife/husband, surely come style and power.
Seeing as we have already investiagated all matters style, it's time to talk power.
Ever met Tom Carroll in the flesh? He’s fucking tiny. The stats record his height at 5’6", but that’s surely on tippytoes, standing on the yellowpages.
'That he maintained that power and control well into 50's, whilst being an ice addict, only makes his feats more impressive'
Once you digest that he is so short, you then notice the mass of the man. He looks so goddamn strong and perfectly balanced, you soon forget he is half of the size of you.
It was this physicality that he brought to surfing. He took his low centre of gravity then torqued it with sheer athleticism and a huge set of (metaphorical, we think) testicles.
Add the shift to the tri fin, his big wave balls, commitment to fitness and his ridiculous timing and he might be surfing's most powerful surfer, ever.
No wonder then that it was in Hawaii where Tom set new standards. He was the first backside surfer to be able to manhandle Sunset and the first guy to do snaps at 12-foot Pipe.
His style wasn’t exactly smooth, having that much power added rough edges and weird transitions, but it didn’t matter, for when Tommy connected with a wave the results were a brutal magic.
That he maintained that power and control well into 50's, whilst being an ice addict, only makes his feats more impressive.
Of all these power surfers on the list, none can hold a candle to Andy Irons. Cause Andy had power, but also he had style. And the combination was made him one of the best surfers to watch.
'Even now seven years after his untimely exit, and a good 15 since he was at his peak, the old footage of Andy simply hasn’t dated'
Now surfers are as good at mythologizing our heroes as any other sport. The early death of Andy has only served to ramp this up, but even now seven years after his untimely exit, and a good 15 past he was at his peak, the old footage of Andy simply hasn’t dated.
When he was on, few surfers have been able to put the same energy into the lip of heavy water waves and it do with such flair. He could crunch 10-foot Haleiwa lips, release his fins at 8-foot Cloudbreak and muscle through Pipe and Chopes with ridiculous ease.
The power surfers on this list were many things, but they were rarely sublime. Andy was that, and it is that surfing that makes him so revered.
'A thousand hardnut Hawaiian power surfers have come through since, from Johnny Boy Gomes to Sunny Garcia to Zeke Lau, but it was Kealoha who forged the template'
It was Dane Kealoha who fined tuned Michael Peterson and Larry Bertleman’s low, hard-accelerated drive and with it almost defined the modern power surfer.
Built like a brick shithouse, Dane dominated Backdoor and Pipe in the late '70s and early '80s, invented the pigdog and still had the looseness of limp to attack the lip with real flair and invention.
A thousand hardnut Hawaiian power surfers have come through since, from Johnny Boy Gomes to Sunny Garcia to Zeke Lau, but it was Kealoha who forged the template and few have been able to match his timing and power since.
It’s well known that the IPS and ASP pissing contest cost Dane a world title and the ramifications from that eventually led him to walk away from the sport bitter and twisted.
The perfect temperament then to take up a post surf career as a flight attendant. But despite only being in the spotlight for less than a decade almost 30 years ago, his power legacy lives on.
You always knew it was coming. You know exactly what was going to happen. And then boom! There it is. Sunny Garcia’s frontsize hack; as predictable as his personality was unpredictable.
And yet that hack in its prime could still somehow surprise you. It was done with such power, aggression and timing, that it caused you to do an involuntary audible “raaaagghhh".
Sunny Garcia wasn’t nuanced, or complicated, or clever, He didn’t need to be when his surfing was based one thing; pure power.
At the time there was no one tour that weighed within 25 kilos of him and he was able to use all that Hawaiian muscle to good use in waves from two foot to 20.
His best use of power was put to use at waves likes Sunset and Haleiwa, where even well past his prime, he could make QS scrappers look like insignificant parasites sucking on the testicle of a gnat.
Occy adds variety to this power list, as unlike most he didn’t making his name using his force in some of the world’s heaviest waves.
Sure he might not have had the surfing muscle to copyright Pipe like Tom Carroll, or dominate Backdoor like Dane, but the key to Occ’s surfing was that he went full throttle in everything from two foot beachbreaks to perfect Indo.
While some of the alumni could look downright ugly when the waves didn’t match their power, Occ had the flair and style to package his low centre of gravity, his huge ass and savage gouges into any pocket that came his way.
'The key to Occ’s surfing was that he went full throttle in everything from two foot beachbreaks to perfect Indo'
His performances at Bells and J-Bay still remain the highpoint for backside power surfing, and even now watching Jack McCoy’s footage from peak Occy (Green Iguana, Bunyip Dreaming et al) you see one of the most unique, and powerful, styles ever seen in the history of the sport.
Pancho Sullivan’s career went through a number of phases, from young Hawaiian charger to well-paid global freesurfer to veteran CT campaigner. One constant though was the fact that few surfers, before or since, could move as much water as the sandpaper voiced naturalfooter.
Early on he took his soon-to-be-patented frontside hacks and made his name as the new Mr Sunset. Sunset’s huge shifty bowls provided the perfect canvas for Pancho’s Bushman guns, and he was untouchable in and out of competition out there.
That he was able to take the same approach to the QS, and qualify in the mush, and then hit the CT for five years was testament to his incredible technique.
In his time on tour and he and Taylor Knox vied for the biggest man turns on tour, and while Knox had the style, it was Pancho that had the power.
When Sullivan connected his beefy rails in the sweet spot of a wave with juice the result was a thing of beauty. It’s also kept him as one of the greatest power surfers of all time.