THE 100 GREATEST SURFERS OF ALL TIME
Non-scientific, entirely biased and much more entertaining than the usual list fodder
Jeremy Flores, fakie floater, Panama. Photo: Timo
The 100 greatest surfers of all time seemed like a good idea at the time. A good idea in broad terms, and a better concept to celebrate the SE ton at least, rather than regurgitating pages and pages of mags past with that wretched self-fascination. ‘Look at our hair in 1999! And our baggy Carharts!’ That oft-perpetrated, nauseating navel gazing. No, not that. Because, really, who cares? So we sat down to compile the 100. There was no official vote. There was no Gallop sample of at least 15,000 to make it legit. This is not a reflection of our vast audience’s diverse, informing taste. None of that. This is just what we did.
We drank beer and also wine. We ate cheese and biscuits. We consulted the shaman. We meditated. We ohm’d. We thought deep and hard. Considerably deeper than we typically tube ride. Someone would say “What about so- and-so" and we’d frown and shake heads and snort, “you wanker." Then, after a passage of time, climb down meekly, “oK yeah perhaps he can go in upper 80’s somewhere."
We were conscious of our grom glory years, being mostly 30-somethings. We were paranoid about a Good Times/Focus love in. We mused identity issues like, “Should we push the Euros in it, bearing in mind the title of our rag?" We promptly decided to have no truck with racial quotas. A meritocracy then, even if, admittedly, a subjective one. After all, that was our only real shot at it. With this kind of thing only really being done by either American or Aussie titles before, herein lay our chance at giving bias to neither.
So in the end, this is what we came up with. We think it’s a reasonable little collection of 100 greats. Great meaning very big, great meaning very good. There are 7 women in our 100. 1 father son combo. 2 twins, 2 brothers, 2 Brazilians. I world title influenced by jihad. (not Khodr, actual). I bahai convertee, 1 former Hare Krishna, 1 transexual, 2 surfers who lost eyes to leash accidents. Images depicting one naked buttock, one member of INXS, one silk robe, one large glass of beer, one regular glass of wine, countless shakas.
We’d love the result to incur a wee sporting debate, perhaps even an argument, between passionate, partisan surf fan readers. If someone gives a bro a Chinese burn when the whole Damo vs. CJ debate gets a little heated, so be it. This is not aimed at being factual document, it is not Wisden. Statistics are few and far between.
It was meant as an entertaining, engaging, maybe even informative read between surfs. Which is something we’ve been thanked for/asked for a closer approximation of to varying degrees over the past 99 issues.
Here’s to a few more.
- Paul Evans[part title='Mike Boyum']
Mike Boyum did not ‘discover’ G-Land, but was among the first people to surf it and set up the world’s first ever surf camp there, opened for business in 1978. Using the camp profits to fund various international drug smuggling operations across America, Asia and Australia, Boyum’s legendary tale includes draft dodging, going on the run from both the cops and drug dealers before ending up in the Philippines and discovering Cloud Nine. After developing a fascination with fasting for spiritual and health reasons, Boyum’s diary told of him lying in the midday Philippine sun hallucinating with hunger, whilst fantasising about various recipes. He starved to death on the 45th day of his fast. Check out Mike oblowitz’s movie Sea of Darkness.[part title='Buzzy Trent']
First off, Buzzy is just a fucken cool nickname, isn’t it? Bravo for that. Charles Trent Jr was one of the pioneering big wave riders on the Makaha and then Waimea scene in the 50’s, attributed with the phrase, “Big waves aren’t measured in feet, they’re measured in increments of fear" (presumably unimpressed with SI units) and the first person to call a big wave board a ‘gun’. A student and prodigy of Bob Simmons, Trent was one of the three riders along with George Downing and Woody Brown of the iconic Makaha point AP shot that sparked a big wave craze luring the likes of Noll and Curren to the Islands. Trent would walk away from the sport, disillusioned with contests, sponsorship and ‘hotdogging’, claiming he only ever wanted to surf for fun.[part title='Flea Virostko']
Flea Virostko’s horrendous leap, Eddie 2004. Photo: Joli
Do you like your big wave surfers to be the calculated, super fit, professional type? or the other kind? Flea is the other kind. A three time winner of the Maverick’s comp, and hero/victim of one of the most photogenic wipeouts of all time in the 2004 Eddie, Flea was part of a West Side Santa Cruz movement that featured outlandish pro surfers with animal nicknames who charge hard, and unfortunately as it would come to light, party equally as hard. Diminutive in stature and struggling with chronic asthma, Flea nevertheless has been a standout at Maverick’s pretty much since its unveiling to the world in the 90’s. After battling with meth and alcohol addictions, Flea now runs a rehab program in Santa Cruz called Fleahab.[part title='Koby Abberton']
Koby & Bruce,Teahupoo. Photo: Joli
Probably most famous for his role in the movie Bra Boys, Maroubra’s Koby Abberton first shot to prominence winning the ‘98 Gotcha Tahiti Pro, the event that unveiled how heavy the Tahitian break was to the larger surfing public. Hailing from a far from idyllic domestic situation as a kid (he was born at home since his heroin addict mother didn’t want to go to hospital in case she ‘got in trouble’), along with a crew of slab chargers from Maroubra that championed Kernell point slab ours, Abberton is best know for tube riding ridiculously gnarly slabs and reefs, having various run-ins with the law, a series of not-backing-down beefs with one particularly celebrated heavy Hawaiian, and generally living a life a far cry from the clichéd beach bum hippy surfer.[part title='GEORGE FREETH']
Do you study pre WW1 surfing much? Neither do we. But if you were to, you might find interest in one George Freeth, Hawaiian/Irish Waikiki beach boy who reportedly became the first person to surf on mainland uS in 1907 (before the Duke!). Now actually, that isn’t even true, two Hawaiian princes surfed Santa Cruz in 1880’s, but hey. Jack London wrote of him “A young god bronzed with sunburn" That’ll be the Irish part.[part title='PETER DROUYN / WESTERLY WINDINA']
Peter Drouyn lay curled on the cold tile floor, thoroughly defeated, a nature documentary on albatross playing on the TV. Surfing had both raised him and ruined him, and after two decades of travelling the world to find his true self – a clue, a crumb, anything – he lay there alone, vanquished and penniless. Then, on the stroke of midnight, he got up, walked out the door, and simply became someone else. Now, ascertaining where Peter Drouyn ends and Westerly Windina begins, well, therein lies some intrigue, for she’s much more than the man she once was.
Peter Drouyn’s contributions to surfing in Australia – unjustly – remain largely uncelebrated. He was the progenitor of power surfing in Australia, though you will hear few of his peers credit him in that way. Likewise with his role in the development of the shortboard. But MP and Wayne Lynch both idolised him, he was Australian champion in 1970, he invented man-on-man surfing at Burleigh Heads in 1977 and he took surfing to China. But Peter Drouyn was eccentric, he “wouldn’t play their game", and he was destined to become a scribble in the margins. “They stole the whole thing and Peter was completely written out of history," offers Westerly, who today refers to Peter in the third person. “He was used. Totally used. It just seems to me that he was so misunderstood on every level. He was ostracised because he was too bloody good for them."
He was ostracised because he was too bloody good for them.
Fiercely intellectual, Drouyn studied, and has degrees in Law, Modern Asian Studies, Engineering, Marine Science and Dramatic Arts. And then he travelled the globe, living a Quixotic existence while searching for some kind of meaning in places like Angola, yemen, Kazakhstan. But he arrived home broke, broken, and driving taxis for a living on the Gold Coast. Then one night he got up, went down the beach and danced in the moonlight. It was the night Westerly was born, and while many of his peers unkindly joked that it was all a sham, a publicity stunt, in early 2013 Westerly traveled to Thailand and underwent gender reassignment surgery. Now she’s all woman – sporting platinum hair like Marilyn Monroe, wearing blue hot pants and hot pink lipstick – and she’s happier than Peter ever was. “Westerly’s achieved what she’s wanted for years and years... while she’s had to go through the tragic life of Peter."
- Sean Doherty[part title='Derek Hynd']
Derek Hynd, Chile. Photo: O’Brien
A former middling pro who lost an eye in the early 80’s to a leash accident (like Jack O’Neill) who went on to become known as one of the sport’s most celebrated leftfield thinkers. Hynd wrote the Surfer Mag Top 44 reviews in the 80/90’s that everyone still wants to copy. He once wrote a Slater tribute that was about 500 words long consisting of 490 gushing adjectives separated by full stops. Some of his ideas, like The Search, were pretty decent, others, like the rebel IS tour, less so. Recently he’s explored much in the realm of finless surfing. Certainly one of the most quotable surfer/philosopher/scribes ever. Look him up.[part title='Randy Rarick']
Sports administration is a fairly unsexy pursuit, but it’s for his epic 1970’s surf travels that saw him visit over a hundred countries and surf in over 60 of them, on many occasions the first person to do so that Triple Crown honcho Randy Rarick takes his place among the greats of the sport. Co-founder of the IPS (precursor to the ASP) in 75, Rarick created the Hawaiian Triple Crown in 82 and has run it ever since. All this for a kid who moved to Hawaii aged five and started out in the sport doing ding repairs for Greg Noll.[part title='Cory Lopez']
Notable for stand out performances at big Teahupoo, first in 99 and then in 2001 where he won the Billabong Pro WCT event, his only elite level win in a season that saw him finish third (behind CJ and Sunny). originally known for airs and that somewhat overcooked rubbery layback thingy, Lopez’s big left tube credentials are what he’ll be remembered for, as core member of the Floridian big wave charger anomaly.[part title='Keala Kennely']
KK,Teahupoo May 2013. Photo: Grambeau
In an XX chromosome victory over Xy, KK famously beat AI in his first ever surf contest in Kauai. KK picked up Rochelle Ballard’s tube riding mantle and pushed it several steps further into the giant wave arena, as well as competing on the WCT for years and starring in Blue Crush. These days, she flies around the world to chase monster swells alongside male heavy weights of the sport and more than holds her own. After an absolutely horrendous face injury from a Chopes wipeout in 2011, KK could be forgiven for kicking back a bit after already proving much, but has kind of done the opposite, winning an XXL for paddling Jaws, and most recently charging May’s epic Teahupoo swell.[part title='Damien Hobgood']
Do you even know which is your favourite Hobgood? Neither do we. Damien never won a world title like twin bro CJ, but it’s pretty tough to separate them skill-wise in big left tubes. I think some people would say Damien is their favourite Hobgood, but aren’t really sure why. At Pipe, Teahupoo or Fiji (where he claimed his only tour win) he’s been a standout for over a decade, as well as an underrated technician in the beachbreaks. Would Damo have been more famous/successful if there was only 1 of them? Possibly.[part title='Chris Ward']
Wardo, Backdoor. Photo: Joli
Wardo burst on the scene at 15 as the latest radlet from the San Clemente stable, complete with skate-inspired moves and non- conformist attitude in the mould of Christian, Archy, Beschen et al, sporting a distinctive slouched shoulders square to the nose style, rather than sideways. Avid VHS rewinders marveled at his rad shit on tiny disk-like boards in Lost’s 5’5" x 19 1⁄4" alongside Cory, and for years from the late 90’s through the naughties was a kind of enigmatic outsider, rad in the air, a charger, kind of Archy 2.0. He qualified relatively late at 25, partied too much and never really pulled up trees on tour, before an attempted murder charge (with an icicle) in Mammoth brought things crashing down. Charges were later dropped.[part title='Peter Troy']
The original wandering surfer hippy, Australia’s Peter Troy visited 140 countries in the quest for discovery, pioneering Lagundri Bay in Nias in ‘75, as well as countless other surf spots. Way beyond the ‘hippy trail’, Troy once hitch-hiked from Chile to Norway introducing surfing to Rio de Janeiro on the way, rode motorbikes through Bali, Thailand, Burma, India, Nepal, and sailed the Indian ocean surfing Reunion Island, Mauritius, the Comoros and the Seychelles. He surfed 26 African coastal countries, almost the entire west coast, crossing the Sahara Desert — on the roof of a lorry to Morocco and eventually Spain, the Channel Islands and Britain. Troy’s own explanation before his death had an air of Forrest Gump’s trans- America jog reasoning, “It just kept on going. For some reason or another you’d look at the map and think ‘oh, I’ll go on down there’.[part title='Jeremy Flores']
Jeremy Flores. Photos:Timo
The sole Euro to feature here (unless we’re counting Brit-born Pottz), Jeremy will surely be higher up this list by the time his career ends. He qualified at 18, spearheaded a Euro surge that peaked with 7 Euros on tour in 2009, and is the first legit contender from Eu, winning the Pipemasters in 2010. In the last couple of years he has rightly become regarded as a hard-charging tube master, rather than just a gnarly competitor.[part title='Jim Banks']
Think of Jim Banks and think of a pioneering Indo soulman who rode the tube deeper than most, then came in to meditate on the beach, maybe chant, maybe eat vegetarian food and do some yoga. Banksy was Banksy before stencil street art, eco warrior free surfer philosophiser before Rasta. But whatever. He makes the list for tuberiding.[part title='Margo Oberg']
It was Margo Oberg vs. Brendan Margo for this slot but we gave it to Margo O. Margo dominated women’s surfing across three decades, who along with Lynn Boyer, changed perceptions about women by charging solid surf in the 70’s and helping get the women’s tour established by powerful, compelling performances in ‘man size’ juice. She won three world titles 77, 80, 81, lived in a tree house in Kauai and started one of the world’s longest running surf schools.[part title='The Malloys']
The very talented Messrs Malloy: Keith & Chris; Dan. Photos: Burkard.
OK, there’re three of them so it’s not really fair, but hey. They were raised on a ranch and know how to lasso and brand cattle and that kind of cowboy man shit. The best surfer is undoubtedly Dan, while Chris and Keith earned solid haole Pipe reps in the 90’s before diversifying. As filmmakers, Chris teamed up with Jack Johnson to make Thicker Than Water in ‘99, while Keith’s recent bodysurf ode Hell or High Water bears similar hallmarks of quality. Shunning lucrative sponsporships for more ethical yet significantly more modest deals with Patagonia a few years back makes it even harder to dislike these three bros.[part title='Midget Farrelly']
Australia’s most successful competitor during the 60’s, Midget Farrelly won the first ever ISA World Championships at Manly in 64 in front of an estimated sixty thousand people (sixty thou!). Despite that, and a string of other preeminent results, a long-running beef with the sexier, trendier Nat young saw Farrelly sidelined as the shortboard revolution took hold, and Midget took to manufacturing blanks. Certain Aussie old timers will anger quickly if you admit not being aware that Midget is one of the most significant Antipodian surfers that ever was.[part title='Bob McTavish']
After a 1965 trip to Noosa with Nat young and Greenough, McTavish came up with the thin railed high aspect ratio fin board ‘Big Sam’ that young used to win the World Contest in 66 and kickstart the shortboard revolution. Later, he came up with the first ever vee bottom boards, the short wide ‘Fantastic Plastic Machines’ which he and young rode at Honolua Bay as a start alternative to the conventional Brewer mini-guns. Credited with the first production swallowtails in the mid 70’s, McTavish was reportedly a meticulous record keeper, compiling detailed archives on all his design developments, only later to destroy them after converting to Krishna.[part title='Pancho Sullivan']
Pancho, power ranger. Photo: Joli
One of the most powerful surfers that ever buried a rail, Pancho ruled much of the North Shore the late 90’s and 00’s with an outrageous frontside gouge that literally killed even the meatiest of sections dead. Dead in a violent frenzy of aerosol water particles. It seemed like his place was that of the perennial North Shore freesurf ripper/Searcher, but he somehow broke the mold and qualified at the ripe old age of 32, even peaking with a 7th place finish in ‘07. For some reason everyone seems to like the out and out power guys, it’s somehow more savoury, more manly perhaps, to count them among your favourite surfers. Everybody loved Pancho.[part title='Julian Wilson']
Julian Wilson SE 95. Photo: Ryan Miller
These top 100 things are notorious for over-enthusiasm towards recents, be it 100 best albums, best films and so on. In general, great works or great people fall down the lists, not climb up them. It’s with that in mind that it’s tough to know where to put Julian Wilson. One of the best surfers in the world today, for sure. But, so? He could go on to win numerous world titles and become among the all-time greats... he could kind of turn into another Shane Beschen. Either way, Jay Dub has his spot. Mixing lesser appreciated hard charging credentials with known style and above the lip flair, all the ingredients are there. The proof thus, must be in the pud.[part title='Mark Foo']
Mark Foo 1958-1994. Photo: Merkel/A-Frame
Big wave hero from the big 80’s, Foo cut an instantly recognisable figure sporting trademark mullet, vest and a thin gold chain, ruthlessly promoting himself as a legit athlete in the form of a professional big wave rider at mainly Waimea, when it still represented the cutting edge of big wave surfing in the pre-Jaws, pre-tow era. A long time rivalry with fellow Waimea devotee Ken Bradshaw added spice to the interest factor of their quests to champion the ‘unridden realm’, as did memorable quotes Foo produced for the media like, “To enjoy the ultimate thrill, you have to be prepared to pay the ultimate price." Foo did just that, drowning at Maverick’s in 1994.[part title='Barton Lynch']
BL, 88 World Champ, still smiling. Photo: Joli
Barton Lynch was kind of a lankier, more charismatic version of Hardman, from a decade when goofies won world titles. An intelligent, articulate advocate of pro wave riding, BL was and is the kind of World Champ who you could spark up a chat with and relate to. Not a freakish, deviant talent, not a moody, introvert genius, just kind of like you in a good mood, but better at surfing. His ASP world title in 1988, won at bone-crunching Pipe sees him go down in the history books, rather than just a top bloke with skinny legs and an easy grin.[part title='Shane Beschen']
Shane Beschen, Backdoor. Photo: Frieden/A-Frame
Shane Beschen was a relatively unloved surfer. Maybe it was the neckbeard, maybe because he always looked a bit... sour. Maybe because he simply wasn’t Slater. But whatever the reason, he could certainly surf. A perfect heat score of 30 at Kirra in ‘96 (three tens back in the day, not two 15’s, stupid), helped him end the year runner up to you-know-who. But runner- up would be the best he could hope for, and in a pre-internet blog era, couldn’t exactly quit the Tour and remain relevant. Somehow, Beschen was a conspicuous outsider to the New School/Momentum generation crew, despite his surfing very much fitting the mold. Still, a champion of radical, explosive aerial surfing in contests, vs. safe, strategic, 3-to-the-beach tactics, the type of tour Beschen so often voiced for is much more like the one today’s WCTers thrive on.[part title='Pat Curren']
One of the first guys out at The Bay that day in 57, La Jolla’s Pat Curren transplanted to the North Shore to make pioneering steps. The legend goes he dove for food in the ocean, poached fowl from North Shore smallholdings, swilled beer and tooted cigs and charged massive water with a quiet air of general disinterest, sometimes going days on end without speaking. Noted for his impressive work designing and shaping the first ‘proper’ big wave guns with rails and rockers suited to big walls of Hawaiian water... on a kitchen table, as well as going on to sire a boy called Thomas Roland.[part title='Matt Archbold']
Archy, full throttle. Photo: Noyle/A-Frame
A consistent standout at spots like Backdoor, OTW, Log Cabins, Archy is another of the San Clemente crew that seemed to fit right in on the North Shore. An unapologetic punk rock styled wildman in an era when professionalism was increasingly becoming a must rather than an option for career longevity, he was always skating on thin ice, so to speak. Known for ink, hotrods, a don’t give-a-fuck- attitude and boozin to excess, Archy was never much of a contest surfer, but always compulsive viewing as a freesurfer, influencing everyone from Kelly to Andy. An emphasis on rail power, speed and tuberiding were Archy’s staples, three things that will hopefully never go out of fashion.[part title='Dale Velzy']
Velzy was a pioneering surfer/shaper, hailed as the first commercial board builder and the undisputed king of the fledging ‘surf industry’ in the 50’s. ‘He could out-drink, out-shoot, out-ride and out-finesse all comers’ claimed the Surfers Journal in 1994. With a penchant for cuban cigars, sports cars and flamboyant moustaches, ‘V-Land’ came into being when Velzy ‘discovered’ it shooting Slippery When Wet with Bruce Brown in 1958.[part title='George Downing']
George Downing, Eddie supremo. Photo: Joli
Another of the pioneering Hawaiian big wave surfers of the 40’s/50’s, an Associated Press shot of George Downing along with Woody Brown and Wally Froiseth surfing giant Makaha went ‘viral’ on the mainland in 1953, luring the next breed of chargers over to pick up the mantle. A scholar of the big wave science/ art in every facet from board design to forecasting, such is the esteem and authority Downing is held in that it falls on his 83-year-old shoulders to decide whether or not the Eddie runs.[part title='Damien Hardman']
Now that’s double fisting... Iceman,‘88. Photo: Joli
Very probably the most unpopular, unradical world champ there ever was, the Iceman seemed to be able to frustrate better surfers with unflappable resolve and competitive savvy. Despite double world titles, up against titans like Curren/Carroll/Elko/Pottz, Dooma will never be anyone’s favourite surfer. Today, as contest director for Rip Curl, he is as unphazed by a primadonna tantrum as he was as a competitor. So why’s he the 72nd greatest surfer of all time? Coz we fucking said so.[part title='Alana Blanchard']
Rightly or wrongly (wrongly?!?),Alana is box office. Photo: Joli
Alana might not be one of the best 100 surfers that ever lived in terms of technique, but in terms of status, merits her place. Admittedly, it might be unashamed flaunting of physical endowments (her ass) that propelled her to such heights, but whatever, with 600k Instagram followers (150k more than Kelly), for whatever reason, she draws people to the sport. To make the case for how many girls first decide to hit the beach to surf because of a desire to develop a similar ass vs. how many do so inspired by a female world champ’s top turn, will not be debated here today. We’ll just put a picture of her bum and hope for the best.[part title='Butch Van Artsdalen']
The first ‘Mr Pipeline’ before Lopez, La Jolla’s bruising, big drinking tough nut Butch van Artsdalen was one of the first haole transplants to be accepted on the North Shore and the first guy to truly attack Pipe. one of the earliest North Shore lifeguards alongside Eddie Aikau, Butch was a larger than life character, a physically impressive maestro at a number of sports, famed for surfing, drinking and brawling in equal measure. A goofyfoot who switched stance with ease in big surf and was among the early Waimea pioneers, it is said that ‘every surfer from the 60’s has a Butch story’. Tragically, most of those stories involved him drinking, which would ultimately lead to his death aged just 38.[part title='Brad Gerlach']
The late-blooming, era-defining bromance of Snips & Gerr. Photo Ellis/A-Frame
Arriving on the scene with some stir in the mid 80’s, Gerr (the one on the right) was famous for an outgoing extrovert personality and a penchant for nightlife, the very anti-thesis of Curren or the serious American straight guy pro approach. After a bridesmaid’s runner-up finish behind Hardman in ‘91, Gerr became disillusioned with the contest scene, and walked away from the tour at his peak, aged just 25. He could have gone the musician-hippy route with Donovan, but instead went on to embark on a legit big wave late career flourish with unlikely sidekick Parsons, that saw him win the XXL. Gerr’s surfing was spontaneous, fast and radical, kind of like a louder, longer haired, funnier Pottz, just not as good.[part title='Michael Ho']
Uncle Mike, still got it. Photos: Hank/A-Frame
‘Uncle Mike’ has been a fixture on the North Shore since the 70’s, winner of two Triple Crowns, the Duke, the World Cup and perhaps most famously, the 82 Pipe Masters with a cast on his broken right wrist (the one he uses to grab the rail to pig dog). He spent ten years in the ASP Top 10, and still charges as hard as anyone, nailing an alarming second reef Pipe bomb this past winter for an XXL nomination at the ripe old age of 55. Also regarded as one of the best all round Sunset surfers, ever, Mike is older brother to Derek, and father to today’s pros Mason and Coco.[part title='Mike Hynson']
Starring alongside Robert August in the Endless Summer, the best surf film ever made, Hynson gets a little bit of credit for every Pipe barrel ridden from about ‘67 onward. Why? The ‘down rail’ design, which is of his invention, allowed early Pipeline specialists to finally cut the corner on their bottom turns. “We could finally put ourselves in the eye," said the mystic Hynson. The downrail has been called the Rosetta Stone of modern surfboard design as it literally unlocked and expanded surfing as we know it today. The creation came about after some heady, if not totally tripped out ‘experimentation’ on Maui. - JH[part title='Ian Cairns']
Kanga, Bells sheepskin & tash, 1976. Photo: Joli
One of the ‘Bronzed Aussies’ along with PT and Mark Warren, Ian Cairns was instrumental in pro surfing’s embryonic 70’s stages. A powerful multiple WA champ and a big, tall unit, Cairns needed a bit of wave to work with, one of the reasons he did so well in Hawaii, winning the Smirnoff, Duke Classic and World Cup, and becoming the second ever World Champion in 77. When the shit went down in Hawaii in response to Bugs’ ‘We’re Tops Now’ Surfer Mag article, Kanga admitted getting himself a bat for his boardbag and a shotgun for his car, and being more than prepared to use them in self-defense. He took time off from competing in ‘78 to do the surfing scene for Gary Busey’s Leroy the Masochist in Big Wednesday, which is pretty cool.[part title='Mark Healey']
Healey’s Pipe covershot from SE99. Photo:Timo
If ever there were a downtime stress buster to charging macking Pipe, petting Great Whites as if they were friendly Golden Retrievers must be it. Mark Healey grew up on the North Shore and is a fixture in big waves anywhere, as well as all-round waterman who garners a pretty solid mainstream audience through documentaries showcasing his submarine, lung powered exploits. He spearfishes for dinner (four minute dives) and bow hunts swine to keep supermarket costs down, but still finds enough time for stuff like going left at Mav’s, charging Teahupoo, all over the North Shore and anywhere that presents him a man- size aquatic challenge. “you can never conquer the ocean" Healey said recently, “the only thing you can conquer is your own limitations." Shit is deep.[part title='Jack O’Neill']
OK he probably wasn’t a world class surfer, and this list isn’t about ‘industry’ dudes as such, but at the same time, sometimes you just have to bow to greatness. Jack lost an eye testing the leash, his son Pat’s invention (presumably too elastic, that one) wearing the product he pioneered, the wetsuit. He trademarked the term ‘surf shop’ in the 60’s, although never enforced it. While the Meistrell brothers of Body Glove fame in LA perhaps made wetsuits first, o’Neill’s were the first specifically for surfing, with a nylon weave laminated to the neoprene, and such innovations as zig zag stitching. you’re able to surf in winter (and in summer too, probably) in no small part due to him.[part title='Mike Parsons']
Snips, Cortez Bank. Photo: Murray/A-Frame
Talk about a PR makeover. Snips somehow went from unsightly, unloved, somewhat anal 80’s tour journeyman nicknamed after a root vegetable to a god-like big wave hellman. He won the XXL and set a then Guinness World Record in 2008 at Cortes Bank for the size of the mountainous hunk of Pacific ocean Gerlach towed him into, all done with a measured air of calculated risk rather than any loose cannon mad man grasp for glory. While he and Gerr got along like oil and water back in their competitive days, the apparent chemistry of their tow surfing partnership powered them to the forefront of the naughties big wave scene. Today, Parsons coaches and mentors Brother Andino around the world on tour, and probably knows and understands the pro game about as well as anybody alive.[part title='Larry Bertlemann']
Bert strums, Bert tunnels. Photos: Merkel/A-Frame
“I was anti-Gerry... he was making capital L’s and I wanted to make figure 8s" said the Rubberman of his unique approach to wave riding. Along with Buttons and Mark Liddell, the Rubberman wanted to do radical direction changes, break out from stuffy, souly straight lines. And he did it with some success. Riding shorter boards in solid surf, inspiring the Dogtown crew to revolutionize skateboarding (the ‘Bert’ slide), getting non-endemic sponsorships, riding around Sydney in chauffered Roller, all done with an outrageous ‘fro, Bertlemann paved the way for a fresh, rad approach to riding waves. Slater called him “The first New Schooler" while Pottz hailed Bertlemann as “the Godfather of high performance."[part title='Gabriel Medina']
Will Medina do epic battles with John John for future World Titles? We sure hope so. Photo: Joli.
He is still only a teenager and still a bit spotty, but already merits a place among greatness. After becoming the youngest ever surfer to win a WQS event at 15, he came to tear the tour a new one in 2011, instantly validating the (now abolished) mid-season rotation that Bobby Martinez was bleeting about, winning two of the first four WCT events he competed in. Assuming major shit doesn’t fall on him, debilitating injury doesn’t set in or the tour isn’t moved to Cortes Bank/Mav’s/ Jaws/Waimea type venues only, it’s hard to image Medina not collecting multiple World Titles in the not-so-distant future.[part title='Mark Cunningham']
The ultimate bodysurfing ambassador, Cunningham deserves his place on this list simply for the amount of waves ridden with the amount of skill, board or not. Mark Cunningham started bodysurfing because the spot he grew up surfing on the East Side pre-leash required bodysurfing in after your board, which he enjoyed so much he stopped bothering taking the board out, and took swim fins instead. A career lifeguard on the North Shore now retired, Cunningham not only exudes cool, ocean knowledge and aloha to all who meet or encounter him, but also looks amazing in a pair of Speedos for a dude in his 60’s.[part title='Jeff Hakman']
Mr Sunset. Photo:Joli
Relatively few surfers have earned the title ‘Mr’ something with a North Shore surf spot after, but Jeff Hakman did just that, becoming known as Mr Sunset from a young age after era-defining North Shore performances executed with a trademark low slung stance. Winner of the Duke contest at 17 and the inaugural Pipemasters in 1971, he was considered the best big wave surfer in the world in the late 60’s early 70’s, winning two more Duke trophies and finishing runner-up to Reno in the ‘74 Smirnoff at Waimea in what was then the biggest surf ever contested. Starting Quiksilver USA with Bob McKnight, and later Quiksilver Europe in 1984 with Harry Hodge, heroin addiction nearly saw Hakman lose everything. Read more about him in the excellent ‘Mr Sunset’ by Phil Jarratt.[part title='Peter Townend']
PT, 1976. Photo Joli
The first ever world champ in 1976, PT won the then IPS tour before anyone really knew there was one, but hey. one of the ‘Bronzed Aussies’ along with Ian Cairns and Mark Warren, (more of a promotional surfing boy band than an early Bra Boys style crew) after considerable competitive success, PT went on to various leading surf industry roles as promoter, marketer, coach and administrator in the uS. As a result of several decades spent in America, PT probably has the weirdest accent in surfing, an unlikely Cali-Aussie fusion.[part title='Adriano de Souza']
Haters say De Souza surfs with similar shape to this celebration. Bells victory, 2013. Photo: Joli
After two decades spent clinging to the top rung of surfing, it is only in the last five years that Brazil has affirmed itself as a genuine superpower on the world stage. The man you can thank (blame) for that is Adriano De Souza. There’s no looking back for Brazil now. They’re producing some of the best young talents in the world - versatile surfers, too, as both Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo have shown on tour - and a maiden world title feels like an inevitability. The chances are it will fall to Adriano. The youngest world junior champion in history at 16 years old, a World Qualifying Series winner, and with five top ten finishes on tour in his seven year career, including three top five finishes, he has a formidable record. He is undoubtedly the greatest Brazilian surfer of all time and although he may well be eclipsed by the likes of Medina, it will be him they thank for giving them the self-belief to do it.
Unlike the surfers beneath him, however, Adriano is not an aerial specialist and really has no one clear strength in his surfing. It’s all-round tenacity that’s his biggest weapon, a byproduct of his rough upbringing in the weak, competitive beach breaks of Sao Paulo. “one thing that will forever stick with me growing up in a favela (slum) I met all kinds of people and lots of them were hard working, honest people. It’s common belief that in favelas there are only drug dealers and thieves and it’s not true. I am one of many who grew up in the favelas and fought for my dreams," he said recently.
It’s as close to a Rocky Balboa story as you’ll get in surfing. But in the gentleman’s club that is the modern day World Tour his passion and commitment hasn’t gone down well. “When I saw what the guys were saying about Adriano I was like, ‘oh I’m not gonna do that.’ you know, cause, they’re always talking about it and I don’t want that. I stay away from it," says fellow World Tour surfer Filipe Toledo. This year Adriano is well and truly in the hunt for the title, but don’t expect him to turn the passion nozzle off. “I came from nothing, no hope, no planning, no money. Today I am one of the top five in the world. My passion comes from that eight year old boy who dreamed of competing, meeting Kelly Slater, being in magazines. I try to show the world how much I’ve fought to be where I am today, I hope they can understand my journey and see how much this means to me." - JS[part title='Taylor Knox']
Taylor Knox, by contrast, the purist’s purist. Photo: Olson/A-Frame
The contemporary rail purist’s favourite surfer, Taylor Knox survived 20 seasons on tour in spite of himself, his rail technique being so good he kept requalifying without any noticeable tactical savvy. After a skate accident set him back as a grom, a rigorous rehab regimen including a focus on ab work would became the hallmark of his core- orientated power surfing. Full rail speed and precision from a low stance, Taylor is recognizable a mile off. Despite winning 50 grand of K2’s money for a big wave at Todos Santos in 1998, Taylor will always be known for his scorching power arcs on righthand open faces that at their best, none of his various contemporaries, not Slater nor Andy nor Joel nor Mick could match.[part title='Nathan Fletcher']
Nathan Fletcher, fresh as daisy. Photo: Laurel
Christian’s younger brother, Nathan started out his career doing what used to be called ‘cross-over’, riding skateboards, snowboards and moto-x bikes with varying degrees of success before becoming known as the full-on wave riding hellman he is today. Noted for raucous tube performances at Teahupoo and Pipe, as well as big nasty drops at Maverick’s and the outer Reefs, Nathan also helped usher in the quad craze of recent years that has in some way influenced all top surfers in barreling waves today. More of an anti-hero than shiney all-American sports star, Nathan Fletcher doesn’t mind blowing a bit of cig smoke out of his skull in between tackling some of the beefiest swells in the universe.[part title='CJ hobgood']
2001 ASP World Champ CJ is lauded for charging big lefts, but his air game has remained relevant even through recent paradigm shifts. Photo: Frieden/A-Frame
One of the Tour’s most prominent Christians won an ASP World Title partly due to radical Islam. It’s not the 2001 ASP World Champ’s fault that the season he won was the 5 event season (without winning an event) with cancellations due to 9/11, but that’s the way history remembers it. Despite that, CJ’s credentials in big barrelling reef surf along with twin bro Damien are not disputed, while his movie parts for Globe down the years have held their own with the very best. Quite how so many Floridians (Slater, Hobgoods, Cory) have gone on from piddly beginnings to be known for mastery of heavy reef surf is one of the sport’s little quirks.[part title='Mike Stewart']
Mike Stewart, one of the most tubed humans in history. Photo: Burkard
Mike Stewart is one of the most barrelled and most respected wave riding humans that ever was, most of that for his exploits at Pipeline. A pioneering pro bodyboarder in the 80’s, Stewart and Ben Severson took on Teahupoo in 1986, while his mastery at Pipeline is universally feted, be it bodyboarding or bodysurfing. Tom Curren, when once pressed on the greatest wave rider in the world responded, “Surfing doesn’t get any better than Mike Stewart at Pipeline." His latest bodysurf skills can be seen in Come Hell or High Water.[part title='Montgomery ‘Buttons’ Kaluhioliakalani']
Buttons with Rory Russell, winter 12/13. Photo: Joli
It’s kind of tragic that perhaps Buttons’ best known deed was getting rugby tackled on TV by Dog the Bounty Hunter in a seedy Town carpark in 2007 in after skipping bail for drug related offenses. Eddie Rothman once called Buttons “The innovator of modern day surfing", a radical, afro’d 70’s icon who rode tiny Ben Aipa single fin stingers to pioneer the carving 360, tailslides and assorted radical skate-inspired in the pocket moves. These days, Buttons is reformed, clean, back on the North Shore, running a successful surf school.[part title='Bob Simmons']
Attributed with numerous great leaps forward in design such as the first twin fin, the first foiled boards (they were previously planks), shaping the first Styrofoam blank in ‘48, it was Simmons the oddball surf character as much as the designer that makes him stand out. A kind of eccentric guru to a crowd of would-be greats including Buzzy Trent, Matt Kivlin, Peter Cole and Joe Quigg, Simmons was also one of surfing’s original mysto-man recluses, roaming the California coast alone dawn patrolling, scouting for waves. He had a handle on the fundamentals of surf forecasting, and used them to stay one step ahead of the game before drowning at Windansea in 1954, before he could invent anything else.[part title='Tom Morey']
What does your local, favourite boogieboarder owe to the Bahai faith? Well, Tom Morey, bodyboard inventor and Bahai convertee, attributes the short, wide, foam board’s 1971 invention to the following passage in Bahai prayer “Convey upon me, oh, my God, a thought which will turn this planet into a rose garden." A stand-out eccentric in a sport that has more than its fair share, Morey changed his name to “y" in 1999 and has been at varying stages an aircraft engineer, composites expert, inventor, entrepreneur and jazz musician who played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie (hence the Boogie name). other achievements include wake surfing behind an ocean-going yacht (no rope) in ‘55, and developing the world’s first interchangable fin systen in 1964 called TRAF (fart spelled backwards), as well as offering $1,500 1st place prize for the Tom Morey Invitational Nose Riding Championships in Ventura in 1965, regarded as the world’s first pro surfing contest. His latest return to surf craft manufacture includes collaborating with Catch Surf for the y boards range. “When a guy removes smoking, drinking, gambling and chasing women from his life," says y, “there’s a whole lot of time to do other neat stuff." Like bodyboarding, presumably.[part title='Terry Fitzgerald']
The Sultan, Bells. Photo: Joli
The Sultan of Speed got his nickname due to outrageous body torque technique that allowed him to reach improbably velocities at places like J-Bay, Indo and the North Shore, starring in seminal 70’s films like Morning of the Earth, shaping his own boards and becoming one of the iconic figures of the era. Such was his prowess in the then- fledging shortboard era, that Dick Brewer (with whom he collaborated as a shaper to come up with groundbreaking design leaps like the spiral vee/ double concave) called him “The best surfer in the world". A combo of blond afro, radical winged pintails and deeply trippy sprays saw him hone a distinctive image in an era laden with outlandish characters. He founded the Hot Buttered label in the 80’s, one of the earliest global board brands.[part title='Cheyne Horan']
But for unconventional surfboard design - and illicit substances, Cheyne Horan would’ve been a nailed-on World Champ. Photo: Flame/A-Frame
Cheyne was famously dedicated to his board designs, in particular the keel template he developed for his fin in conjunction with the man behind the 1983 America’s Cup winning yacht (the same design as the British WWII Spitfire wing). unfortunately Cheyne got caught behind MR and his twin-fin, losing four successive titles before retreating to a commune on the NSW north coast where he ingested a ton of hallucinogenics and made a film about it all, titled Scream in Blue. Considered as the surfer who missed out on certain World Title(s) due to experimental design, he nevertheless laid down mind-blowing performances.[part title='Jeff Clark']
Jeff Clark, the man who gave Mav’s to the world. Photo:Winer/A-Frame
Alone at Maverick’s for 15 years. Alone. Nobody. Not a soul. Jeff Clark did it. Nevermind the 20-foot waves, 20-foot sharks and 48-degree water, from 1975 to 1990 he surfed by himself at the most harrowing big wave spot in California. He got so proficient at the break that he taught himself to ride switch stance so he could go frontside on both the massive rights and lefts. Eventually he got lonely, and divulged his secret to a small crew of Santa Cruz locals. And like that, the big wave scene changed forever. Before Clark nobody figured there was a wave on the American mainland capable of rivaling the outer reefs of Hawaii. But once word got out about the wave in the early ‘90s it was game on. The Santa Cruz scene rose to prominence thanks to guys like Peter Mel, Ken “Skin Dog" Collins and Daryl “Flea" Virostko. It was Jay Moriarity who made the place famous with his “iron cross" wipeout that appeared on the cover of Surfer magazine, and as far as events go, the Maverick’s Invitational began to rival the Eddie in both power and prestige. Maverick’s is the go-to spot for guys like Greg Long, Twiggy Baker and newly minted world record holder Shawn Dollar. Half Moon Bay has also been the site of several tragedies, including the deaths of Mark Foo and Sion Milosky. Hollywood features have been produced, careers have been made, and some of the world’s scariest waves have been ridden all because of Maverick’s -- all because a 17-year-old Clark decided to give it a go one fateful day in 1975. - JH[part title='George Greenough']
Curious George, the kneeboarder that changed your world Photo: Flame/A-Frame
“I killed the longboard," Greenough once famously claimed. “They were slow and clunky, I liked to go fast." An eccentric genius kneeboarder from Santa Barbara, in the mid 60’s Greenough took thin, flexible ‘Spoon’ kneeboards to Australia’s east coast right points and blew minds with all new lines. Greenough’s deep tubes and full rail cutbacks helped usher in an all new approach to wave riding via the shortboard revolution, while his groundbreaking 1970 16mm PoV tube movie Echoes so impressed Pink Floyd they donated the soundtrack. Floyd![part title='Dick Brewer']
Dick Brewer, Hawaiian gunsmith without rival. Photo: Neste/A-Frame
From early Waimea guns to down-rail Pipe stilettos to the most refined tow boards, Dick Brewer’s had a hand in it all. Widely regarded as the most influential American/ Hawaiian shaper, he originally hails from, of all places, Duluth, Minnesota. After moving to Long Beach, California in the late ‘30s, in 1960 Brewer moved to Hawaii and began shaping. In ‘67 he came out with the Bing Pipeliner. The board helped usher in the tube riding stylings of guys like Gerry Lopez, but Brewer was just getting started. When the Shortboard Revolution exploded he was among the first to master the new craft. Working alongside Bob McTavish and George Greenough, the trio’s designs rewrote the book on performance surfing. They inspired a generation and entirely new brand of surfing. A crippling heroin addiction sidelined him for a few years, but in the early ‘90s when Laird Hamilton came calling looking for some balsa tow boards Brewer rose to the occasion and again his designs were at the forefront of what was happening in the water. For over 50 years now Brewer’s boards, his guns in particular, has set the benchmark for quality, innovative craftsmanship, and by the looks of things, that’s not going to change any time soon. - JH[part title='Carissa Moore']
Carissa crowned 2011 ASP World Champ in Biarritz aged just 18. Photo:Alex Laurel
At 18 years old, Carissa Moore was the youngest surfer to ever win an ASP Women’s World Title. She’s also the only American woman to win the title since Lisa Andersen’s four-title streak ended in 1997, and the first Hawaiian woman to bring the title back to the islands since Margo oberg in 1981. Moore’s path to global domination has been well charted. Success amongst the junior ranks came easier than a 360 in the soup. NSSA titles piled up, 11 in total. Then she quickly outgrew her competition, so she started competing against the boys until that became too easy too. In 2008 she upset seven-time world champ Layne Beachley to win the Reef Hawaiian Pro, thus elevating her as the youngest surfer to ever win a Vans Triple Crown event.
She showed up on the cover of Surfer magazine in ’09, the first female to do so in over a decade. In 2010 things started to get serious as she qualified for the ASP World Tour - albeit still determined to get her high school diploma (from Punahou School in Honolulu, the same institution that produced a certain President Barack obama). She’d win two events in ‘10, finish third in the world, and be named Rookie of the year. Then came her title year in 2011, when she won three out of five events, placing a not-so-disappointing second in the other three. of course, if you asked her about it all she says, “I’m just having fun."
- JH[part title='Derek Ho']
Derek Ho, Pipe. Photo: Noyle/A-Frame
The first ever Hawaiian ASP World Champion (1993), Derek Ho is not your stereotypical Polynesian surf hero. Built more like a jump jockey than a beefcake who rides frightening water, nevertheless his uncanny prowess at Pipeline and eerie calm under pressure tube style drew inevitable comparisons to Lopez. Four Triple Crowns and three Pipemasters pay testament to his North Shore competition credentials, while ultra paper thin boards facilitated by his tiny build, combined with a dramatic showdown at nasty 8ft Pipe allowed Derek to make history in Slater’s injury-troubled sophomore year. The son of one of the original Waikiki beach boys Chico Ho, Derek started surfing aged 3, egged on by older brother Mike whom he’d eventually join on tour. After run-ins with the law as a teen, Derek became a fixture on tour making the top 16 ten seasons in a row, before ultimately winning the title from a rank outsider’s 36th seed. A horrific injury at G-Land in ‘97 eventually contributed to him leaving the tour in 98, while these days Derek is still seen pulling into bombs with the same sleek precision.[part title='Gary Elkerton']
Kong. Photo: Frieden/A-Frame
A brash, spiky haired, beak nosed board icon, Gary Elkerton was one of those 80’s larrikins who in between partying and assorted carry- on, managed to put in the hard yards on tour to become an international surf star. He grew up surfing Barrier Reef bombies off his dad’s fishing trawler becoming comfortable in heavy open ocean surf, helping him become a standout on the North Shore, and getting the outside section at G-Land (Kong’s) named after him. Early video Kong’s Island revealed a thick set youth with improbable power lines and an outlandish, fearless approach. Alas, his brutish, heavy footed turns suddenly seemed outdated along with any other 80’s survivors over 25 when Slater came along with flip tip boards and tail slides. Elko missed out on an ASP World Title as runner up an agonising three times, but went some way towards vindication with three Masters titles. Hardly the same though, is it?[part title='Jordy Smith']
Jordy portrait: Joli
Now where to start with Jordan Michael Smith. Probably by saying something about Dane. once referred to by Dane as “like an extra appendage" due to their constantly being spoken about together, Jordy then Googled appendage. No, that’s mean. Jordy is a truly amazing surfer. Technique-wise, one of the best to date. Hard to rank seeing as he’s still going, and has never really won anything (except J-Bay twice, Brazil this year and the WQS). But watch the boy surf, and it’s impossible to deny just how good he is. The ability to punt alarming rotations and then lay into brutal power combinations (much like Dane... oh shit) is something few have ever been able to do. But he’s not like Dane. Polar opposites, almost. Jordy goes on record saying blokey things like he ‘likes milfs’ and has a thong-gramming model trophy gf. Dane’s one wears frumpy dungarees and likes ornithology. Shit, talking about Dane again. Jordy will probably win a world title, he really, really should. He is good enough, uniquely talented enough, his technique is 100% legit. He is one of the outstanding talents in an era of all time performance levels. He just needs Slater to retire, Mick, Joel, Taj to slow down and Medina and one John to fuck up.[part title='Dane Kealoha']
Dane Kealoha was robbed of a world title by politics. Photo: Merkel/A-Frame
“Excuse me sir, would you like some peanuts?" It’s hard to imagine the great Dane Kealoha as a mere flight attendant, pushing the drink cart up and down the aisle, crying kids and fat tourists giving him grief. But after walking away from surfing in the mid ‘80s he took a job with Hawaiian Airlines and started spreading the aloha. It wasn’t by design that he came into that occupation - surf politics can be a nasty thing. We could be sitting here talking about Dane Kealoha the world champion, but the winter of ‘83 changed all that. The rising ASP and declining IPS tours were at odds and the Hawaiian events went unsanctioned, anybody that surfed in them would lose their ratings points. By happenstance Dane was leading the ratings. Not by happenstance, he won two out of three events on the North Shore, including the Pipe Masters. He was promptly stripped of all of his points. Hawaii would have to wait until Derek Ho in ‘93 to celebrate its first champion. Shattered, Dane walked away from pro surfing. A couple years of partying and laying waste to those that got in his way at Pipe did little to heal the wound. That’s where the flight attendant thing came in. He walked away from the surf scene altogether and got on with life. Eventually Bob McKnight offered him a chance to manage a Boardriders shop on oahu, which then led to Dane running his own Roxy shop on Maui. And if you’re interested, he also offers surf lessons these days. It doesn’t mean he can help you get a wave at Backdoor, but he may help you perfect your mad dog glare. - JH[part title='Layne Beachley']
Layne and hubby Kirk Pengilly of INXS. Photo: Joli
I’ll be honest, I was never much of an LB fan myself. I’m not sure if it was the sourpuss ‘I don’t get the love I deserve’ vibe, the fact that she looked a bit like MR, or just the whole slightly queasy Kenny B thing, whatever.
As a young, mysogynistic skeptic, it was much easier to love lovely Lisa. But as a competitive surfer, nobody’s silly taste nuances can deny her. 7 ASP World Titles in the 90’s and naughties, 6 consecutive, speak for themselves. And while her competitive career was brought to an end through a neck injury, performances in heavy surf like the ours keg in 2009 remind us of just how good an all round surfer Beachley was.
- GD[part title='Tom Blake']
The father of modern surfing, Tom Blake’s various achievements and inventions took surfing from being the ancient Hawaiian passtime into the modern sport we recognize today.
Big call, right? oK then, let’s have a closer look. Blake was the world’s first surfboard designer, in 1925, re-thinking olos and alaias and experimenting with rockers and tail shapes. In 1926, he invented the hollow surfboard, won the first Pacific Coast Surfriding Championships using his own design.
In 1931 he launched the first ever surfboard model, the ‘Tom Blake Approved’. In 1935 he put a fin on a surfboard for the first time. He invented the windsurf board, wrote and published the first ever surfing book ‘Hawaiian Surfboard’. He developed the first water housing for surfing, his photos being published in National Geographic and the LA Times, the birth of legitimate surf photography. He introduced thousands to the sports while lifeguarding up and down America’s East Coast during WW2, and was the first person to surf Malibu. Yep, it’s pretty much all his fault. Any questions?[part title='37. Ozzie Wright']
Ozzie Wright, original wrong’un. Photos: Christie
He’s got his critics but ozzie Wright’s influence on both surfing performance and culture cannot be underestimated. Hot on the heels of Christian Fletcher, ozzie started out as a competitive surfer coming second in the Australian Junior titles followed by an 11th at the ISA World Titles in Brazil (won by Kalani Robb that year). But anyone who watched him surf outside of competition knew they were seeing something ahead of its time. Above all else, ozzie was responsible for bringing cutbacks, floaters and aerials together in one seamless ride, thus giving rise to the ‘combo’ style surfing that has formed the foundation of guys like Jordy Smith, John John Florence and Julian Wilson’s careers. Although never demonstrated in a competitive environment (judges weren’t really scoring airs at this point anyway), his performances in seminal Australian performance surf films such as Seven Days Seven Slaves and his own profile film, 156 Tricks, set a benchmark for stylish, progressive surfing. His approach to surfing, fashion, culture and music, meanwhile, can be found in almost every of the modern generation of high profile surfers, from Dane Reynolds to Kolohe Andino to John John and Dion Agius. “I think he paved the way for younger guys who grew up watching him to be able to justify a career in freesurfing. There are a few guys now who have managed to make careers out of freesurfing and that whole movement is slowly growing and gaining recognition among the rest of the surfing world, which is awesome. I think he pioneered that," says Dion.
- JS[part title='Ross Clarke-Jones']
Ross Clarke-Jones somehow made a competitive career on a pre-Dream tour, wiggling mostly in beachbreak pish when he should have been scaring the shit out of us in the world’s most harmful surf zones. Luckily, big waves like Pipe, Sunset and Waimea gave glimpses of the real RCJ, most notably in the infamous ‘85 Billabong Pro at macking Waimea, and then in 2001 when he became the first non-Hawaiian to win the Eddie. A combo of a devilish 6/6/66 birth date, bushy eyebrows and general possesed appearance all contribute to RCJ’s membership of the old school madman brand of hellman. That is, perhaps not neccessarily a surfer with a death wish, but a surfer with no apparent aversion to the idea, either. More recent film roles like the very excellent Sixth Element biopic narrated by Dennis Hopper, and last year’s Storm Surfers 3D keep RCJ on a big wave big screen near you at an age when he’d be forgiven for retiring.[part title='Joel Tudor']
Like Machado, another San Diegan reformed competitor (in his case WLT) turned liberated post-contest hepcat, Joel Tudor rode longboards in the 90’s and naughties when pretty much nobody did without shame, yet gained mainstream surfing plaudits largely through performances at Pipe and an overall mastery of wave reading and riding. Sure, logging is cooler than shade grown Arctic cucumbers at the mo, but it wasn’t always thus, and before there was a crown prince Knost, there was a Tudor king. “Surfing’s not a jock sport, it’s not football or whatever" he told SE last year at his Biarritz Duct Tape gig, “We’re not fucking ‘athletes’, we’re surfers." Perhaps it’s straight up logic like that that explains why Tudor has been universally revered, from legends past to uber chic hipster groms to the Sport Billy tour pros he prefers to distance himself from.[part title='Stephanie Gilmore']
Switzerland. Photo: Timo
To behold the musical lines of Stephanie Louise Gilmore speeding and styling across a blue wave face is to marvel at one of surfing’s greats in full flow. If brilliant modern surfing is about radical manoeuvres blended with a smooth wave intimacy, Miss Gilmore is the very embodiment of such.
Having so far garnered five ASP World titles (2007-2010, 2012) all the realisation of a chronicle foretold, when, as a 17-year-old wildcard, she became the youngest ever elite level event winner at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast 2005. Since that day, Steph has amassed 20 elite level wins, each achieved wearing an easy, golden smile – scant evidence of Eye of the Tiger style straining in her training. Accolades away from the beach include winning the Laureus Action Sports Person of the year 2010 in Abu Dhabi, where her four vanquished male co-finalists could only but concur at her utter worthiness. Girl Power!
Steph the woman for all seasons looks both east and west. Artist and scholar, pragmatist and dreamer, skilled on the fret of her guitar, with a taste for culture, style, people, photography, places and faces. Steph the people person involves herself in youth groups in Australia and sponsors kids in Ethiopia and Kenya. Steph, friend of the planet saves both the whales (as an advisor to Sea Shepherd) and (with Coeur de Foret in Senegal) the forests!
They say the true greats, the champions of champions transcend their discipline with an air of greatness, an aura of singular, golden status. Steph does just this, but with Aussie down-to-earth sensibilities, easy going and approachable by land and by sea. Surfing’s queen of her generation, a regal blend of talent, positive vibrations and good fortune. She is also the first really successful female surfer with long legs/arms. usually they tend to have rather short appendages.
- GD[part title='Bruce Irons']
Bruce, hosed beast at Teahupoo. Photo:Alex Laurel
The younger brother of the late great AI, Bruce Irons rose to international prominence through a combination of proposterously late entries into big heaving tubes and a signature lofty fs punt, signature even down to the hand placement of the leading arm. Growing up duelling with Andy in and out of the water, and having access to stellar, guarded Kauaian surf gave Bruce the tools to hold his own as both a technician and a freak at some of the heaviest, most photogenic surf spots on the planet, namely Pipe and Teahupoo. Crotch grabbing through beastly End of the Road caverns, slaying Slater in the 2001 Pipemaster final with nary a thought to hat tipping deference, Bruce never apologized for being rad, nor seemed to particularly care about managing his image, much less being a role model. Along with Pipemasters performances, competitive highlights came via winning the Eddie in 2004 and the Rip Curl Search Bali 2008, although ASP tour ratings never quite matched the heights his various Volcom video parts boasted. Whether down to him being a radical non-conformist as his defenders claimed, or rather being fairly unexceptional on the open face as his critics whispered, the surf world seemed in a much more natural order with Bruce not losing in Rd 2 to Greg Emslie somewhere during a mid tide lull, but rather free falling out of the sky wherever was code red-ding. Whatever your personal tastes, nobody is questioning that Bruce Irons is one of the most naturally skilled tuberiders the world has ever seen.
- GD[part title='Dave Rastovich']
Rasta, OTW. It’s not easy to make a humpback whale mating call with your twin fins, but you’ll be all the better for trying. Photo: Joli
The best all round waterman Australia has ever produced. From the alaia (the ancient Hawaiian finless wooden surfboard), to the single fin (he regularly wins single fin contests), twin fin (his performance a few years back on a Dick Van Straalen shape at big, stormy off The Wall was seminal), surf mat, paddle board (he won the pairs division of the gruelling Molokai Challenge), hand-plane, and of course the thruster, you’ll struggle to find a surfer as naturally in sync with the water anywhere in the world or anytime through history as Dave Rastovich. Likewise, the wide variety of conditions he excels in. From two foot beach breaks to eight-foot Bank Vaults on a single fin, to Hawaii, and the pristine point breaks of his native Australian east coast, Rasta’s surfing can take the shape of each of them with unrivalled aplomb. A former World Junior Champ and promising Australian Junior Series surfer in his youth, Rasta competed with success against the future competitive heavyweights of Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning and Dean Morrison. As is the case with so many of surfing’s most supreme talents, however, the thrill of surfing to a sometimes stiffling criteria was not his calling. Instead he turned to the pure art of mastering style and later became a passionate member of certain leftwing environmental movements. Among them was the film The Cove - one of the most shocking exposés of animal cruelty in history. Rasta is as real as they come, his impeccable surf style matched only by his substance on land.
- JS[part title='Greg Noll']
Greg and son Jed, NYC. Photo: Brooks/A-Frame
Greg Noll is not Da Cat because he is Da Bull. He is Da Bull of da North Shore. It is widely held that in 1957 Da Bull became the first man to ride Waimea Bay. 1957! Right when most Americans were watching Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan and Russians were watching Sputnik fly high in the sky and Brits weren’t watching anything because their TVs were blacked out from 6pm to 7pm for Toddlers’ Truce, there Greg Noll was surfing mountains. Da Bull!
He is not Hawaiian, no. He was born Greg Lawhead in Manhattan Beach, California but changed his name to Noll because his mom married one after Lawhead got dumped.
He first went to Hawaii when he was seventeen years old and lived on the beach at Makaha for seven months and finished high school at Waipahu. He loved Makaha but he loved bigger waves more so he started hanging around that dastardly North Shore. He surfed Sunset, Laniakea, and then on November 7, 1957 he convinced six of his friends to follow him out to the Bay. There they surfed mountains.
The year before he had brought surfing to Australia. Real surfing. The Australians rode all weird but Da Bull, along with the American lifeguard team, visited with their “Malibu chip" surfboards and slayed all the convicts. “We hit ‘em like a comet," Noll said. Silly Australians. Da Bull!
He road the largest wave ever, at the time, at Makaha in 1969 and then that was it. He quit and moved to Alaska to fish commercially. But he’s back now making limited edition Miki Dora surfboards that sell for $10,000 apiece.
$10,000! Da Cat! - Chas Smith[part title='Phil Edwards']
Surfing folklore has hardly any Phils for some reason... but anyhows, in Edwards we have one for all. Photo: Driver/A-Frame
Many surfing ‘firsts’ are open to debate, particularly when they occurred in an era when relatively few people cared about, much less documented them. Thus anecdotal evidence manifests somewhere between myth, rumour and ‘oral history’. Down the years, Phil Edwards himself has been the first to deny or downplay his prime status as the first to turn a surfboard: “I saw Miki Dora doing it at San o, he was inspired by Kivlin and Quigg, who were raving about Rabbit Kekai, so maybe the credit should go to Rabbit. But I did like turning". Edwards graced a 1966 Sports Illustrated cover and made sizable strides into the mainstream, becoming the first ever ‘pro’ surfer in 1963 after signing a board deal with Hobie, although scarcely in the mega bucks realms of today’s pros, “A lot of people made money from surfing back then, but I wasn’t one of them." Edwards did admit to being the first to surf Pipeline in 1961, although just to see if it was indeed possible to ride the perfect looking wave, rather than for any glory hunting purposes. Furthermore, in an era when surfing was beginning to flourish as a fashionable, poseur lifestyle choice, he would often respond when asked about the ‘beach scene’ “The beach is something I walk across to get to the surf." An understated pioneer then.[part title='Eddie Aikau']
Larry, Reno and Eddie, Sunset. Photo: Merkel/A-Frame
When Eddie Aikau was 16 years old he quit school to work in a pineapple cannery. The young Hawaiian had designs on making a living at the beach, but in 1962 lifeguarding wasn’t really a career opportunity and surfing for a profession had yet to be invented. It was a means to an end. over time he picked up work guarding at Waimea Bay, establishing a standard for lifesaving excellence at the world’s most famous big-wave venue. Money also started trickling in from his surfing, and contest winnings started to help supplement the income. In ’66 he began his run of six straight final appearances at the Duke Kahanamoku Classic. He rattled off a number of other notable results before the culmination of his all too brief career, winning the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship and beating Mark Richards, Rabbit Bartholomew and Dane Kealoha in the process. Four months later he would be dead. on the night of March 16, 1978, while trying to help rescue the crew of his capsized double-hulled canoe he was lost at sea. In an attempt to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti the boat was caught in high seas a mere five hours off of oahu. Aikau set out to try and muster help on Lanai, paddling into the night on a ten-foot board. After the largest rescue effort in Hawaii state history, he was gone. Aikau became an instant legend. April 1 is now officially Eddie Aikau day in Hawaii, and in 1984 the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau first took place at Waimea. - JH[part title='Rob Machado']
Machado, fabulous Barnet. Photo: Joli.The classic buttery slice, France. Photo: Laurel
If a piece of ‘Seppo bullshit’ could define an era, Machado and Slater’s 95 Pipemasters high-5 heralded all that was the New School. But, as pointed out by AI later, it was also shockingly poor tactics. Why stay up and riding just to high-5 your opponent rather than flick off, get out the back for priority and nab the next wave for the score and the win... and the world title, for fuck’s sake? Rob spent much of his competitive years telling us he wasn’t bothered, was almost convincing (despite. most notably, a spellbinding Pipemasters win) yet remained one of the highest profile Americans, fame largely won via trademark smooth style, and to a lesser extent, big hair. Buttery carving arcs, instinctive tube prowess and a combination of slight frame and delicate skills make Machado appear as one of those instinctive surfers that has oodles of time, never forcing his line or straining to manoeuvre. Whether or not you dig his guitar or buy into the hippy thang, there’s no doubt Rob is one of the iconic, defining surfers of the past two decades.[part title='Lisa Andersen']
Lisa.The first female champ whose technique the rank and file surf dude sexists were envious of. Photo: Hornbaker/Roxy
Like a would-be starlet getting off the bus in Hollywood, Lisa Andersen showed up in California from ormond Beach, Florida, hoping to make it big in surfing. The only catch, nobody had really made it big in women’s surfing up to that point. There most certainly had been stars, and Gidget was cute, but no woman had ever been a primetime, needle-moving star. Growing up in a Florida town where she was the only female surfer, her parents were none too keen on her career aspirations. So she ran away to Huntington. Then she won four world titles and became the face of Roxy. Talk about proving a point. The compliment used to go, “Lisa surfs like a man." But that does her talent an injustice. While she wasn’t short on full-rail power, it was her grace and feminine lines that made her so visually pleasing. And then there was the issue of her competitive dominance. Focused and unflinching, when she was at the height of her power around 1997, she was virtually unbeatable. Lisa paved the way for Blue Crush, Steph Gilmore, Carissa Moore, and all of the Alana Blanchards and Laura Enevers of the world. And ask anyone of those girls and they’ll tell you, “Lisa surfs better than a man." - JH[part title='Simon Anderson']
After that game-changing ‘81 Bells win. Photo: Joli
April 19, 1981, and the car park at Bells Beach was fizzing as surfers scratched, begged and borrowed for a surfboard capable of dealing with the waves confronting them. It was 12 foot, 15, maybe even bigger, and in the days before forecasting surfers had turned up to the annual Easter classic comically undergunned, although few of them at that point were laughing. There were pocket twin-fins, the occasional Jurassic single-fin dug out from under a nearby house... and one lone, curious, 6’6" tri-fin that it’s owner had dubbed, the “Thruster". When Simon Anderson paddled out for his heat against Hawaiian Bobby owens, not even he was quite sure how the board would go. Thirty minutes later and board design had just taken its great leap forward.
Simon had his Eureka moment the previous year while surfing a prototype at his home break at Narrabeen. At 6’3", he had been looking for a board that married the drive of a single-fin with the twitchiness of a twin. “It allowed me to surf the way I wanted to surf, and it improved my surfing. I recognised the Thruster was a design that would allow surfing to go to another level." you know the rest, and 30 years later you’ll more than likely go surfing today on a board Simon inspired.
Famously laconic, Simon has remained completely unaffected by the gravity of his design, and the importance of that day at Bells in validating it to the world. “If I’d have lost at Bells that day? yeah, I dunno, the Thruster wouldn’t have been such a great story then, would it? How would things be different if it hadn’t taken off then? I’d be poorer. I’d probably be happier – that’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?" Simon harrumphs in his trademark deadpan. “I’d be just in the same place I reckon. It was one good idea. I was lucky. It was right place, right time. If I hadn’t come up with it at that time six months later someone else would have come up with it and that would have been fine.
I’d still be where I am now, here on this beach; only you’d be around the corner with the other bloke interviewing him."
- Sean Doherty[part title='Christian Fletcher']
Christian,Trestles punt. Photo: Flame/A-Frame
Legendary Californian hotdogger and early Hawaii pioneer, Herbie Fletcher, Christian was ordained for greatness. Born on oahu, he grew up in surf shacks surrounded by his dad’s friends who were also some of the most influential surfing and pop culture icons of the day, including Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. But carrying the Fletcher name also brought with it a lot of pressure. “I’ve never been able to do anything that’s totally mine," he says now. “Being ‘the son of’ is cool in some ways, but it’s terrible in others."
Initially, the surfing world did not take kindly to the tatoo’d anti-hero throwing down aerials and getting paid well for it. When he racked up covers in both Surfing and Surfer magazine in 1988, the ASP top 16 wrote and signed a petition demanding such an openly undesirable character as Fletcher not be given the amount of publicity he was getting. The reception was no less glowering in the competitive arena. Long before Dane Reynolds, Jadson Andre and Josh Kerr were getting ripped by the judges for progressive aerial surfing, it was Christian Fletcher who was smashing his head against the brick wall. He didn’t go quietly though. After getting ripped off for a punt in a Bud Surf Tour event in 1990, Christian blew up, giving the judges the bird and nailing one in the head with a blueberry muffin. He walked away from conventional competing and instead helped set up a breakaway aerial tour comprising of team of punt freaks with cartoon names - Christian, Archy, Shawn ‘Barney’ Barron, Jason ‘Ratboy’ Collins, Randy ‘Goose’ Welch and later Ozzie Wright.
“At the first one I entered in California I was in a heat with Christian Fletcher," recalls ozzie, “and he dropped in on me and did an air. And then on the next wave, I was paddling out and he did an air straight over the top of me. They were such punks."
Christian too faded into heavy drug use and barely escaped with his life. These days his offspring, Greyson Fletcher, is rated among the world’s most promising skaters. And while Christian might have legitimised aerial surfing, that don’t mean he’s lost his edge when it comes to critiquing the modern style. “Learn how to surf before you start trying to launch airs," he says to today’s aerial prone surfers. - JS[part title='Jamie O'Brien']
The pioneer of heavy-wave switch foot tube riding, of mid-wave board swaps at ten-foot Pipe, of soft boards at ten-foot Pipe, one of the youngest to win the Pipe Masters and basically the best guy in waves of tubular consequence in history. From the wave in his front yard, Pipeline, to giant Chopes, giant Puerto Escondido, mindless Desert Point, giant Nias and pretty much any other heavy barrelling wave you care to name, Jamie o’Brien has gotten deeper than anyone and done it with a superhuman calm that is nothing short of confounding. “As I’m paddling out, I’m envisioning what I’m going to do – positive thinking, visualizing it. It’s weird, because it works. you can think about things, and then they’ll happen... not all the time. But sometimes it happens," he said recently of his secret weapon.
The son of an Australian surfer who moved to the North Shore to become a lifeguard, JoB’s youth was spent at Pipe. But it wasn’t necessarily a smooth progression. Jamie’s coming of age in Hawaii happened to coincide with an era in surfing that was still ruled by the fearsome Polynesian pros Marvin Foster, Johnny Boy Gomes and Dane Kealoha among others. Pipeline might have been in his front yard but as a kid he was suckered into waves that might have killed him.
“They accepted me after a while, but there were times where the guys didn’t want me to get a good one because they knew I could make it if it came to me, and there were also times when they would yell “Go, go, go!", and it was just a big closeout and I would get so pounded," he recalls.
It explains a lot. If there is one thing JoB will be remembered for it is his sheer audacity in the face of life threatening waves. That’s not to say he hasn’t taken his share of vicious beatings. The toll of charging this hard has been exacting and there has been injuries, but over the years he’s not only grown accustomed to getting smashed, but actually enjoys it. “I actually don’t mind getting pounded. In fact, when I’m gone, I miss it. It’s kind of weird, because if you grow up at a place, especially like Pipeline—you know how many barrels you’re going to get. It’s kind of weird to say, but I get so many barrels that I get bored. I just want to keep trying new things and keep people interested. No one else is doing it—guys like Kelly and those guys are pretty good too, but they don’t go out there on a normal session and switch stance or anything," he said.
He’s been labelled arrogant and disrespectful for statements like this but surely there has to be a trade off between having this kind of confidence in the face of death and a fierce alpha male bravado. There is something of the bullfighter in JoB and that surely brings with it a certain mental state. He’s got all the progressive stylings too but it is his unrivalled mastery of surfing’s greatest thrill that gets him in the list. - JS[part title='John Florence']
Cartoon tubes at Cloudbreak. Photo: Joli
Pretty early to be slotting him in this list but we’re pretty confident that we’re looking at a multiple world title winner here. From two foot beach breaks to 20 foot plus Cloudbreak, John Florence is pretty much untouchable. His worst enemy right now is the strain his high-risk brand of surfing places on his body. “That’s the one thing about the air guys nowadays: there’s gonna be a lot of injuries that are going to determine a World Champion. For the next ten years you’re gonna expect John John and Medina to be in World Title talk every time but whose gonna hurt themselves more doing airs?" said Kelly following John John’s debilitating ankle injury at the Quik Pro.
The son of Alex Florence, who raised John and his two brothers as a single mother on the North Shore, John has spent his life a stone’s throw from Pipeline. As a result he was mentored by many of the world’s best surfers, including Florence Kelly Slater and Jamie O’Brien, among others. At seven, Herbie Fletcher was towing him into outer reefs while his prowess at Pipeline is already largely unrivalled. Three Volcom Pipe Pro wins are testament to that. you’d expect a kid whose grown up in the long period waves of Hawaii to possibly struggle in the short period slop the rest of the world operates on. But not John. In his debut year on tour he won a World Tour event in Brazil and finished fourth in the title race. “He’s got all the elements of one of the most amazing surfers I’ve ever seen," said Joel Parkinson afterwards. His meteoric rise has come at a cost, however. A broken back, broken wrist, broken leg, arm and now an ankle ligament tear has put the biggest question mark over his longevity and ability to become one of the true greats. “They’re gonna have to be careful of that for the next 20 years," says Kelly. - JS[part title='Sunny Garcia']
Nothing in life is certain, except ink and biceps. Photo:Timo
Vincent Sennen Garcia was born in Ma’ili on the west side of Oahu on January 14, 1970. Thirty years later he would be a world champion. Nothing ever came easy for Sunny Garcia. His parents divorced when he was young, and it was Rell Sunn that took him under her wing and helped foster his talent. And talent he had. By 17 years old he was already on tour and taking names. In a career that’s run from 1986 to present, he’s amassed a record six Triple Crown titles, won nine world tour events and 22 qualifying events. But there’s another side to Sunny, a darker side.
Notorious for possessing a hair trigger, he’s been known to erupt in violence. He also served time in a federal prison after being found guilty on tax related charges. “Being on tour at a young age, making a lot of money you get jaded," reflects Sunny. “And being at the top of the sport for so long, you don’t notice all the little things that are going on around you that are so great. you don’t realize how good you have it until they take it all away from you." - JH[part title='Nat Young']
One of the most eclectic, polarising and talented characters in surfing history. Nat Young won four longboard world titles though ironically it was his early tinkerings with longboard board design that set the short board revolution in motion. Raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Nat was a regular at the high performance breeding grounds of Narrabeen and Manly.
The man leading the surf scene back then was Midget Farrelly, a Manly local, who would heavily influence Nat before the two entered a fierce rivalry that ultimately ended with the two as enemies. After winning the Australian titles in 1963, Nat was handed a round the world ticket as his prize. Then 17 years old, Nat went straight to Hawaii where he broke new ground with his stylish speed trims and pocket surfing (he was arrested shortly after on his way back through California for being an unaccompanied minor).
Desperate to claim the longboard world title in 1966, he began tinkering with board design with the help of shaper Bob McTavish and George Greenough. The result was “Sam" - a shortened, thinner version of the malibu that allowed Nat to turn hard and generate tons of speed. His performance at Honolua Bay in the seminal performance film of the day, Hot Generation, broke new ground in terms of speed, style and manoeuvrability and lead directly to the short board revolution. He would also star in Morning of The Earth and was among the first surfers to explore Indonesia. Nat remained a respected style master well into his forties and would also produce several books and films on surf culture. He would also suffer some significant misfortune, most notably in the form of a vicious beating at his home break of Angourie by a fellow surfer that left him close to death. - JS[part title='Wayne Lynch']
Whether surfing’s second favourite Wayne was in fact the first guy to surf vertically is debatable to a certain degree, he definitely wasn’t the first to draft-dodge the Vietnam war. But straddling the era from longboards to short, as performer, shaper, anti-hero and soulman as both performer and exponent of a lifestyle are known attributes of one of Australia’s all-time greats. There is something consolatory, wholesome for the everyday city surfer to picture a 1970’s Wayne Lynch hiding out under a dew drenched Victorian gum tree playing the didgeridoo, avoiding the authorities and their Vietnam war, waiting for the swell. There’s something reassuring in popular lore of alternative lifestyles and extrapolated fringe values that reminds us that we too are surfers. And why.
Witzig’s 1969 film ‘Evolution’ revealed Lynch and Nat young as new, innovative performers for a brand new era, and his many profound, occasionally sanctimonious utterings on film and in print since, right up to the recent biopic uncharted Waters reveal much about one of the sport’s fascinating characters. Technique-wise a forerunner to Occy and Carroll’s radical goofy lines, persona-wise the forerunner to Curren’s non pop-idol mystique, Lynch’s story will always remind us that it’s those who stray from the conventional path that ultimately shape its true course.[part title='Taj Burrow']
Fiji, June 2013. Photo: Joli
One of the best surfers never to win a world title. At his peak there was no surfer with more flair, style, or as complete an arsenal as Taj. It was a progressive style that many considered unsustainable but even today, at 35 years old, he remains one of the world’s most consistent proponents of new-school surfing. The results of which you can see in his killer part in the high profile surf film, Dear Suburbia. There is really no weakness in his surfing other than he’s consistently come up against some of history’s other greatest surfers in competition, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and Mick Fanning among them. The son of two surf crazed American ex-pats, (he and his parents still often undertake family vacations to North West Australia’s famous desert reef breaks), Taj grew up in the diverse and incredibly wave-rich Margaret’s region. With waves like North Point, Gas Chambers, Injidup and Rabbit Hill nearby, Taj is equally as strong in throating barrels as he is with turns and punts. one of the first surfers to consistently land the full rotation air reverse, he has always been as much about putting together killer video parts as winning heats. His first two profile films, Sabotaj and Montaj are among the best depictions of all- round progressive hi-fi surfing an Australian has ever produced. Famously, he graduated to the World Tour as a 17-year-old only to knock back his position, citing that he wanted to be a contender on tour not just make up the numbers. And a contender he was, coming second in the title race the following year to Occy. Unfortunately, he has remained nothing more than a contender since and is running out of years to put it together.
- JS[part title='Shane Dorian']
WE LIVE IN A STRANGE EPOCH.
Its main trait, so it seems, is a fascination with being childlike. our hipsters ride bicycles, like children, and ironically collect lunch pails and wear footy pajamas and watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and buy ice cream from ironically painted ice cream trucks. More and more twenty-somethings live at home, with their parents, and also more and more thirty-somethings. This sort of devolved perpetual childhood should be stress “hey-mom-can-I-borrow-ten-bucks-for- a-video-game" free but our hipsters, our twenty-somethings, our thirty-somethings are going to counselling in record numbers. They all suffer from “anxiety." Everyone has “anxiety."
Everyone except Shane Dorian.
Shane Dorian does not live at home with his parents. He lives with his wife in the town of Kona on the Big Island. He does not ride a bike, he drives a giant pickup truck. He does not wear footy pajamas, he sleeps totally naked. He does not eat ice cream, he hunts pig and eats pig. Shane Dorian is antithetical to our strange American epoch. He is not simply a throwback to a manlier time because I don’t know that anyone was ever as manly as Shane Dorian. I mean, have you seen the waves he has caught this year? Did you see the barrel he snagged at Jaws? Did you see him almost drown at Mavericks and then paddle out again on the next super sized swell and bag one of the biggest waves of the day? Have you seen him paddle Cortez? Shane Dorian should have “anxiety." After his wild feats of oceanic strength he should end each day on a therapist’s couch crying. But he does not. He goes to his Big Island and hunts pig. With a bow. And eats pig.
Shane Dorian is not a one trick big wave danger pig hunting pony either. He is well-rounded like the Renaissance Men of old. He is a movie star (starring in the movie In God’s Hands). He is dresses well (though he used to dress a bit better when he was in his Gucci period). He is the best surf event commentator around (he slays all in the booth with both his knowledge and his willingness to call bullshit when he sees bullshit). He is well groomed (shaving his head and using Vertra on his olive skin). He is safe (perfecting a floatation device wetsuit that has saved him and others from drowning). And at the end of it all he rides big waves and he hunts pig. And eats pig.
Shane Dorian is a man, not a child, and he is an inspiration. He does not seek praise for his life, nor does he seek recognition, but we should all praise and recognize and seek to be a little bit more like him. This does not necessarily mean we should all paddle Jaws but it does mean we should stop with this “anxiety" business and really take life by the horns, or pig tusks as it were. We should toughen up. Like a lot up. And we should usher in the next epoch. I’d just as soon call it The Shane Dorian Era but I don’t think he would like that so, for now, let us just say we all need some more Kona Blood.
- Chas Smith
Nazaré, Portugal. Photo:Pujol / Portrait: Joli[part title='Joel Parkinson']
In terms of board and body control, a natural, unified flow of man and vehicle, few in the history of surfing match Parko‘s mojo. Photo: PS/A-Frame
Few will forget his performance at J-Bay as an 18-year-old wildcard. In an event in which Parko initially tried to give up his place to Kelly Slater (who was not on tour at that point - he declined the offer), the Coolangatta grom won the event in spectacular circumstances, schooling tour veterans with a clinic of point break surfing. It would be one of many for Parko at the famous break, marking him as a master of speed and pure lines. Equal parts Curren and MR, though with a fluency and certain poetry to his surfing that is all his own, Parko mixes style and progression like few others in the sport have done. He is another product of the famed Coolangatta points, coming of age at a time when fellow locals and soon-to- be two time world champ Mick Fanning and former World Tour surfer Dean Morrison were making their rise. Parko’s natural talent and sublime timing remains the foundation for what is undeniably one of the most complete surfing attacks in history, but for a while it looked as though it would fail to yield him a world title. A four-time runner up (equalling Cheyne Horan’s unenviable record), he had a seemingly unassailable lead in 2009 only to suffer a debilitating ankle injury halfway through the season while trying to fashion himself an aerial repertoire away from competition. He ended up losing the title in dramatic circumstances at Pipeline that year against good friend Mick Fanning. He’s barely tried an air since, instead further refining what is already the best rail game in surfing. He eventually won that coveted world title last year, beating the greatest of all time Kelly Slater in a dramatic final day crescendo at Pipeline that saw the ratings lead change hands four times.
The reigning ASP World Champ basks in his win at the Oakley Pro Bali 2013. Photo: Joli[part title='Laird Hamilton']
Lance Burkart never did this, Laird is larger than fiction. Photo: Servais
THE GODFATHER OF TOW
On March 2, 1964, newborn baby Laird John Zerfas came charging into this world via an experimental salt- water sphere at the UCSF Medical Center. The sphere was designed to ease his mother’s birthing pains. A few years later he would have her best interest in mind again when he introduced her to Billy Hamilton. The two would wed and from their union would emerge Laird Hamilton. Like surfing’s chiseled superhero, Laird remains one of the most visible surfers in the world today. An enterprise unto himself, he was discovered by a Vogue photographer when he was 16, and thus a modeling career was born. But his biggest impact wouldn’t be on the catwalk, it would be in taming the formerly “unridden realm." The inventor of tow-surfing, he pioneered riding the outer reefs of Oahu with friends Buzzy Kerbox and Darrick Doerner. Then they took their act to Maui and Peahi. Avid windsurfers, the “Strapt" crew as they’d come to be called, were aware of the potential that Peahi held, but until they started whipping each other the wave was considered too big and too fast to paddle into. “We started towing it for a reason," noted Laird when criticized for not participating in the recent groundbreaking paddle sessions. “The waves we were after were simply too big to paddle into, there’s no way you could generate the power to get into them." Laird also sites the boards they were experimenting with for breaking down the performance barrier in the biggest of surf. With tow boards measuring under seven feet long, Laird made it possible to pull into the meanest pits and carve giant arcs, whereas paddle-in surfing is primarily orientated around simply surviving the drop. A father and husband, Laird now lives on Kauai and takes pride in chasing big waves when nobody’s watching.
- JH[part title='Michael Peterson']
Photos: Merkel / A-Frame
AUSTRALIA’S ORIGINAL ANTI-HERO
Surfing’s original king of DIy and the man responsible for two of the biggest quantum leaps in surfing performance and board design. Back before MP was the heavily medicated schizophrenic balloon that he became in middle age, his ‘troubled’ mind had revolutionised surfing with hitherto unthinkable creativity. The boards he learned to surf on were in fact discarded banged up longboards which he and his brother shaved down into shorties. This was before shorties were even a thing, but MP could see a different way to ride waves and knew the type of board that would get him there. The images of him laying down serious gaffs and splitting Kirra grinders in the seminal 1972 surf film, Morning of The Earth remains some of the most accomplished single fin riding in history. His new style of fast, top to bottom surfing was the genesis of where performance has gone today.
He had competitive success too, winning Australian titles in 1972 and 1974, along with his famous victory at Bells in 1973 in which he blew competition away with a radical new board and a jitterbugging face-carve exhibition that made light of a new judging criteria. But he was also a heavy drug user and eventually his sanity gave way. The low point came after he led police on an infamous car chase and ended up doing a year in Queensland’s toughest prison, Boggo Road. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and taken to a mental institute where he was given electroshock therapy. Later he was placed on heavy medication, which played havoc with his metabolism and caused him to put on a stack of weight. But he remained an avid follower of surfing right up until his death of a heart attack, and even released a series of updated dingle fin designs prior to passing.
Backside air way way back when. Photo: Flame/A-Frame.
The most radical man in the history of surfing. Not only did Pottz do it all, he did it with a style purely his own, and a style one that would influence the sport for generations to come. 1989 ASP World Champ, the first surfer to stick an aerial, a feared competitive firebrand and one of the few haoles to win respect on the North Shore in his era, Pottz represented everything that was hard and fast about surfing in the 1980’s. After fleeing the violent political turmoil of mid-seventies Rhodesia, Pottz was raised in Durban, South Africa. As a 15 year old he won his first professional contest, at home, beating the then king of South African surfing himself, Shaun Tomson. His introduction to the top flight was a baptism of fire. Post-Busting Down the Door, competitors would often survive off solely their contest winnings. With a gruelling 20 plus event schedule, most of which were held in small beach breaks with no priority rule, this was no atmosphere for the meek. In one of Pottz’ first heats the usually passive Mark Richards ran straight over him with his signature twin fin. By the time he’d come of age, Pottz was a competitive animal that new no bounds. When it came to big waves, however, his reputation was destroyed during the North Shore season of ‘81 after he fled the islands when a 20 foot swell was forecast to hit a contest he was supposed to compete in. The following season, with much to prove, he rode what is still rated as one of the ballsiest waves at Pipeline ever - a heaving 10 to 12 foot throater in a heat with Derek Ho. Pottz was 17. There was no doubt he was the most radical freesurfer the sport had ever seen, but it remained to be seen whether he could put it together in a world title year. Not helping his cause was the fact he was one of the wildest party boys going. In 1989, with the help of his manager, he trained the house down and destroyed his competition to claim the world title by the largest margin in history, the only record Kelly has yet to break.
Portrait: Timo[part title='Miki Dora']
Illustration: Holly Monger
MICKEY MIKI MIKLOS SANDOR DORA DA CAT WAS BAD BEFORE BAD WAS GOOD.
He was out there, at Malibu, in the swingin’ 1950s and 1960s dancing around on his board like he was on speeeeed.
He hated living at the beach, once saying, “Living at the beach isn’t the answer. Guys who live at the beach get waterlogged. I’m there for the waves and nothing else." And maybe that is because he was born behind the iron curtain in Budapest, Hungary. But he was the best at surfing and no one surfed like him.
His family moved to America (I like to be in Am-er-i-ca. o.K. by me in Am-er-i-ca. Everything free in Am-er-i-ca. For a small fee in AM- ER-I-CA!) when he was a young boy and his father taught him to surf. His stepfather taught him too and his stepfather was named Gard.
Mickey became an icon. He was a dark prankster. A moviestar alongside Annette Funicello. A ne’erdowell. And the people loved him for it but he did not love the people, saying of Malibu, “It’s all kooks of all colors, fags, finks, ego heroes, Amen groupies and football-punchy Valley swingers."
Shortboards came on the scene in the late 1960s and Mickey was no longer the ego hero that he once was and so he started doing check and credit card fraud and got in trouble and left America (Immigrant goes to Am-er-i- ca. Many hellos in Am-er-i-ca. Nobody knows in Am-er-i-ca. Puerto Rico’s in AM-ER-I-CA!) He spent the next thirty years cruising around France, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Namibia, Angola and Australia.
He eventually came back to America (AM-ER-I-CA!) and was put in jail but Surfer magazine paid him $10,000 to write an article. $10,000! I want!
Mickey died in 2002 in Montecito, California of pancreatic cancer and the The Times of London said, “He was the West Coast archetype and antihero...the siren voice of a nonconformist surfing lifestyle."
Amen, groupies. - Chas Smith
Bustin’Down at Pipe. Photo: Merkel/A-Frame
Surfing’s answer to Mick Jagger and Muhammad Ali. Brash, flamboyant and with no end of natural talent to back it up, Rabbit Bartholomew was one of surfing’s earliest trailblazers. He famously broke new ground in Hawaii, won a World Title and by the end of his career had paved the way for a professional surfing tour. He wasn’t loved by all but he was a beacon of personality and innovation that benefited surfing no end. Raised on the points of Coolangatta, Rabbit was a hustler in his youth, ripping off tourists for cash and stealing wallets to get by. A protege of sorts to the great Michael Peterson, Rabbit was right there with him in those early days of design tinkering and performance redefining. A tenacious, precocious talent from the outset, it didn’t take long for Rabbit to find himself, he soon found himself in a feud with none other than Michael Peterson - one that would last years. Rabbit, despite being in awe of the lauded Peterson, was not one to back down. So when he and a team of Australian and international surfers arrived on the North Shore in 1975, he took the same confrontational attitude with him. It didn’t wash well. Although he put down one of the most memorable North Shore performances in history that season, Rabbit also pissed a lot of people off. Hassling locals, sending people in and the obvious swagger of a young man at the peak of his powers sat at direct odds with Hawaii’s age old traditions of humility and respect. The next winter he was threatened with death and had several teeth knocked out in a savage beating. But surfing has much to thank him for. It was Rabbit’s idea to form the loose collective of top flight surfers that would form the genesis of today’s world tour. He won the title himself in 1978 as well as blowing minds in the seminal performance film of the same year, ‘Free Ride.’
Muhammad Bugs. Photo: Flame/A-Frame
Flow striding Coxos. Photo:Alex Laurel
WHITE LIGHTNING BLUE COLLAR
Mick Fanning was touted for greatness appearing as a small, tow-headed Coolangatta grom in the late 90’s Rip Curl vids, but the difference between him and so many others being that he actually delivered. Two ASP World Titles (2007 & 2009), the first earned off the back of one of surfing’s favourite physical comebacks (Mick ripped his hamstring off the bone in deepest Indo) made him the first Australian to win multiple world titles since Damien Hardman backed up in the pre-WCT/WQS era. Heralded for down the line speed, a whipping forehand arc and fierce competitive drive, Mick’s comeback gave the Swiss ball pro surfing mass appeal, completely reinventing the ‘on the job’ contest ethic with mind coaches, precision limbering, a strict diet to combine for a thoroughly professional holistic approach. What made Mick’s fans love him all the more for it was not only the fact that it worked, but that he conspicuously broke from the professional veneer at his times of triumph, publicly celebrating his own success and thus putting a thoroughly human dimension on his professional persona. Roger Federer, he is not. The public may have a relatively hard time relating to a super-freakish sporting oddities or a raw unashamed talents, but every 9-5 surfer out there can see a bit of working-class-lad-come-good-Mick in himself. Hard working, human, vulnerable, triumphant. Joel tips him for raw natural talent and mastery of style, perhaps, but in terms of stature as a sportsman, Mick’s tale resonates louder for the masses.
With deep historical bonds to people and places around the world, Occ has plenty of ‘second homes‘. Mundaka is one of them. Photo:Timo
THE RAGING COMEBACK
The re-invention of the fallen star remains one of the most intoxicating and inspiring tales in sport. And there is no better than the resurgence of Mark occhilupo. After setting the world alight as a teenage prodigy he fell into a drug and dietary state of disrepair. Fat, coked up and washed up, occy in the nineties was a portrait of squandered talent. At his peak, an explosive backhand bottom-turn-hook combo turned him into a cult hero. His performances at ruler-edge J-Bay showed, some say for the first time ever, how a creative back-to-the-wall approach could be turned into a strength. His frontside back foot power-gaffs, stylish roundhouse cutbacks and unknockable tube riding stance, meanwhile, turned him into a competitive and free surfing force. As a 17-year- old he contested a world title before going on to put out some of the most scintillating video sections going - many of which remain a tutorial in the art of power surfing (rifle through Jack Mccoy’s back catalogue and check the Billabong Super Challenge vids if you’re interested). But it all came crashing down. The helter-skelter travel commitments and party lifestyle of the tour in the early 90s was too much for the kid. He blew out on a diet of cheeseburgers, cocaine and cigarettes; his explosive under the lip hooks replaced by a stoic backside couch-surfing attack. The comeback began in 1995 when filmmaker and mentor Jack McCoy took Occy to the West Australian desert and put him through a sturdy regime of surfing and eating well. He performed well in the Pipe Masters that year and ranked 20th on the WQS the following year. He was runner up in 1997 to Kelly Slater in the title race before going one better in 1999, claiming the title in one of the most improbable comebacks in history. His days at the top continued, albeit without winning another title, until his retirement in 2007. With a career spanning 25 years he is the longest serving ‘pro’ in history. Even post-retirement he proved he’s still got it, using that classic backhand attack to make the semi-finals of the Margaret River Prime event last year, aged 45, and 27 years after he’d won the first ever event there.
The Divine Underbite. Photo: Frieden/A-Frame
THE DANDY OF DEEP
Shaun Tomson spells his last name Tomson not Thompson and it has confused the internet for decades. Shaun Thompson is an African American fitness guru. Shaun Tomson is one of history’s best surfers, 9th best according to this magazine, and maybe “the ultimate pro."
He was raised in Durban, South Africa by a land baron father and won every surf contest in his native land. He went to Hawaii in 1975 and started bustin’ down the door. He won the Hang Ten Pro Championships and made over $10,000. $10,000! His tube steez was exceptional. He could ride the foamball like a cowboy. He could get very pitted. He could bob and weave through barrels previously seen as “unmakeable" because he would ride with a very wide stance and pump. His tube steez made him very envied by especially Rabbit Bartholemew who also was bustin’ down the door at this same time.
Unlike Shaun, Rabbit went home and told everyone that he was better than all the Hawaiians. Uh oh! Eddie Rothman hates the phrase “Bustin’ down the door." He says, “They didn’t bust down shit." He also says that Shaun Tomson is....well is... well is something that is probably not true.
But Shaun Tomson did have a reputation for being a dandy. He did not camp out on surf trips and he did not fix his own dings. He carried himself with a patrician air and was handsome and modeled for Calvin Klein. Surf journalist Phil Jarratt wrote that, “Tomson strode in like the Great Gatsby." yeah!
He competed for fourteen years and had twelve world tour wins before retiring. He then went on to found Instinct clothing and later worked for Patagonia and O’Neill. He recently released Krazy Kreatures – under my Surfboard!, a collection of illustrated rhymes for children.
- Chas Smith
YOU TARZAN, ME JANE
The 21st Century Man has done his best surfing since bucking the system and doing things his own way. Dane Reynolds, purveyor of Summer Teeth tee shirts, editor of MarineLayerProductions.com, and free surfing freak, has talent for days, but he’ll be the first to tell you, talent only gets you so far. It’s what Dane’s done with his god- given gifts that’s most interesting. He admits to “feeling bad about beating my friends," in contests, and in large part because of this he doesn’t surf in too many these days. The last couple of years he’s been preoccupied with turning the camera around on his friend Craig Anderson. In the final stages of production for his first feature film, the two have been traveling, filming, and surfing all over the world. And when not on the road, Dane remains ensconced in Ventura County, where the beach breaks are plentiful and powerful, and the right points are about as perfect as they come. An admitted homebody, he prefers the company of his lifelong crew of friends and longtime girlfriend Courtney. He pops into the Channel Islands factory from time to time, where he’ll whittle out a couple of crude boards then take them for a test run at Rincon. Every once in awhile he’ll drop a new clip on Marine Layer and everybody will say, “Did you see the latest from Dane?" His spontaneity and ardent dedication to going for broke at all costs keep people coming back for more, and he’s smart enough to know it doesn’t matter if he’s wearing a jersey or not.
Style, power and aggression were the tenants on which Tom Carroll’s career were built. It took him to two world titles, a number of groundbreaking performances in heavy barrelling lefts (G-Land and Pipe most notably) and one of the most remarkable turns in surfing history (a late-drop-to- under-the-lip-hook at 10 foot Pipeline). Raised on Sydney’s northern beaches, TC was one of the early pioneers of professional surfing, joining the IPS World Tour in 1979. In a career that spanned single fins, twin fins and thrusters, TC’s squat stance, low centre of gravity and sublimely controlled speed through turns represented the pinnacle of style and performance. Although renowned for his vicious frontside attack, dominant performances at the 1982 Sunset World Cup, held in eight to ten foot conditions, set a benchmark for backhand surfing. He won world titles in 1982 and 1984, defeating the likes of Shaun Tomson and Tom Curren. He was also the infamous winner of the 1983 Wave Wizard event held at the world’s first wave pool in Pennsylvania. His performances in waves of consequence - particularly Pipeline where TC’s signature single-stripe board spray and Gath helmet rocketing out of the tube - defined an era. Despite not winning the 1995 or 1997 Quiksilver Pro G-Land events, his frontside tube riding in both was mesmeric. He would also suffer several serious injuries, including a fin up his rectum, a ruptured stomach and a knee reconstruction. He would also battle substance abuse issues, though come the conclusion of his career still hold onto one of the most impressive competitive records in history, including nine top five finishes. Not to mention having spent more time inside a barrelling left than perhaps anyone. - JS
THE WOUNDED SEAGULL
The perfect synergy of a genius brain and athleticism. From 1979 to 1983, Mark Richards was untouchable, racking up four consecutive world titles and writing himself into the record books as one of the most stylish, well-rounded surfers in history. Born and raised in the rough and tumble steel working city of Newcastle two hours north of Sydney, MR’s dad was a used car salesman who also used to sell used surfboards to whatever salty hessians were passing through on their way north. With a career as a pro surfer still a distant fantasy, MR initially set his sights on becoming a shaper. “I wanted to be a shaper because there was no such thing as pro surfing. The most you could aspire to was an Australian Title or World Amateur Title and get a great big trophy at the end of it. There was no such thing as cheques," he says. MR was one of the early Australians to test the water in Hawaii, and part of the now infamous Bustin Down the Door crew, along with Rabbit Bartholomew, Ian Cairns and Peter Townend. In maxing conditions at Waimea, a 17-year-old MR took out the Smirnoff Pro in one of the greatest breakthrough big wave performances in history. He then went on to win the World Cup of surfing shortly after. Throughout this period, MR was also deeply immersed in the shaping trade, spending time in the bay alongside the legendary craftsman Dick Brewer, and being heavily influenced by the likes of Reno Abellira and Lightning Bolt shaper Tom Parrish. By 1979 he had created himself what would become one of the most influential board designs in history: the twin fin. It was a sight to behold. From burgery beach breaks to the long period juice of Hawaii, MR was unstoppable. Loose, fast but with precision control and a signature avian style, MR’s four years on the twin-fin broke new ground in style, performance and innovative thinking. His good friend Simon Anderson would happen upon the thruster design shortly after but MR would cling to his design and far from embarrass himself as the rest of the world moved to the thruster. Recently voted the most influential Australian surfer of all time, MR is also the recipient of an order of Australia medal (kinda like a knighthood) and is one of the most humble, astute thinkers you’re likely to come across. He still shapes boards out of Newcastle for anyone who wants one and once made conversation with me, a shirtless stranger holding a bag of trash, in a Gold Coast elevator.
Teahupoo, with Dorian dangling in the wall. Photo: Servais/A-Frame
Imperfect and beloved for it, Andy Irons’ fire burned white hot. Three years since his death, he’s transcended humanity and become the stuff of mythology. “He was the peoples’ champion," says Kamalei Alexander, who grew up with Andy on Kauai. “He showed everybody that you can come from nothing and be a world champion." With nerves forged in Hawaiian waters, nobody wanted it more than Andy. When he was at the height of his power in the early 2000s he was virtually unbeatable. He won at events at every location on tour, a feat that’s only been replicated by his arch nemesis Kelly Slater. Their rivalry has come to define all that is great about competitive surfing. “It’s like the white knight versus the black knight," Andy would say. Seeing himself as the opposition to the surf establishment, when Kelly came back from retirement he only held six world titles, and Andy wasn’t about to give him another. “He has enough, it’s my turn," said Andy. He’s still the only person to have really pushed Kelly to his limits year after year. “He brought out the best in me," said Kelly after Andy’s untimely death in 2010. “We didn’t always get along, there were times we hated each other, but we always loved each other at the same time, I think." So many of the intricacies of surfing swing around the issue of respect: respect at Pipeline, respect as a competitor, respect as a waterman. Andy’s life may have been cut short, but respect is timeless and he’ll always be plush with it.
In Portugal 2010, the last time AI was seen in public. Photo: Joli[part title='Gerry Lopez']
40 years after he illuminated the world on how to properly park it in the pit at Pipe, Gerry Lopez continues to embody the soul and grace of the surfing life. Wise and sagely in his older years, he’s well versed in the Buddhist teachings and a devote practitioner of yoga. off the island and into the mountains, today he resides in Bend, oregon, which affords him quick access to the snow. But a consummate traveller, he still keeps his feet in the sand as much as possible, mostly riding his stand-up board, but proving you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, he’s still a sucker for a good barrel. A sought after shaper, he continues to build surfboards and moonlights as an ambassador for Patagonia, where he’s made a career out of blending lifestyle, passion and talent. Beside his antics at Pipe, which he received the ‘72 Pipe Masters title for, in the ‘70s Gerry was one of the key figures that unlocked the secrets of Indonesia and was a pioneering force at G-Land. In 1980 he stared in “Conan The Barbarian" as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s right-hand man, which he oddly points to as a highlight of his career. “It’s been an interesting ride," he muses.
Pipeline: Servais/A-Frame[part title='Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku']
Illustration: Holly Monger
Duke Kahanamoku is the man who gave surfing to the world. Relatively few surfers alive today could claim to have encountered his surfing first hand, although all owe their own surfing existence in some part, to him. His timeline illustrates why The Duke will always be one of the most important wave riders in history. And yes, Duke is his real first name.
1890: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
1911: Breaks 100 yard freestyle swimming world record by 4.6 seconds in his first ever race, as well as 2 other world records. (AAu refuses to acknowledge the records initially).
1912: Wins gold and breaks 100m freestyle world record in Stockholm Olympics, as well as silver in relay.
1912: Introduces surfing to California and America’s East Coast.
1914: Introduces surfing to Australia at Freshwater beach, Sydney pushing Isabel Latham into a wave after building his own board from local pine.
1920: Takes then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) surfing at Waikiki.
1920: Starts calling for introduction of surfing into olympics.
1920: Wins double gold in Antwerp olympics (100m freestyle, 4 x 200m freestyle).
1922: Relocates to California to work as an actor/lifeguard.
1924: Wins silver 100m freestyle at Paris olympics (Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame wins
1924: Meets a young Tom Blake, who lifeguarded the same beach in Santa Monica.
1925: Rescues 8 fishermen from drowning in Newport Harbor with his surfboard.
1929: Reputedly rides the longest wave ever, over a mile, in Waikiki.
1932: Wins bronze in water polo at Los Angeles olympics, aged 42.
1940: Marries Nadine Alexander on the Big Island.
1960: Appointed Ambassador of Aloha for State of Hawaii.
1965: Inducted to both swimming and surfing Halls of Fame.
1965: First ever Duke Invitational Surf Meet held at Makaha, won by Fred Hemmings.
1967: Dies of heart attack in Waikiki, aged 77.
1990: Bronze statue erected in Waikiki on the 100th anniversary of his birth.[part title='Tom Curren']
Backdoor 1991. Photo: Servais
THE STYLE MASTER
As 1991 came to a close Tom Curren showed up at the Haleiwa Beach Park with a yellow-railed 7’3" shaped by Maurice Cole. A clean outline with nary a sticker to be seen on it, Curren’s lack of logos immediately caught the media’s attention. It was quickly concocted that he was sticking it to the man yet again. After all, just the year prior he had reemerged from obscurity and surfed his way from the trials to a third world title. This was surely just another case of him making a statement. unless it wasn’t. unless he just forgot his stickers back at his Sunset house (he even forgot his board and had to send Cole back to get it). Either way, it’s part of the legend and lore that is Tom Curren. His stylized movements and lack of conformity have captured surfing’s collective attention for the better part of 30 years now, and whether it’s the three world titles, the logo- less pintail or searching in Indo on a 5’7" Tommy Peterson- shaped Fireball Fish he continue to inspire. A dedicated musician, he first learned to play the drums as a kid in Santa Barbara, “tapping along to The Who and the Rolling Stones." Soon he was competent on keys and guitar, too. Three studio albums later, when he’s not traveling for surf he’s traveling for music. Living in Santa Barbara today, he’s enjoying the blessings of fatherhood. “It’s amazing to see the world through the eyes of your children," he says. “It gives you a whole new perspective on everything that’s come before." - JH[part title='Kelly Slater']
It‘s not right that a 41-year-old should still be this nimble, this athletically relevant, this cutting edge in a ‘youth’ sport. Photo: Timo
THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME
Thirty-five minutes before clinching his world title, Kelly Slater quietly ducked out of sight. In the shadow of the Mundaka church he opened a bottle of water and rinsed out the silver ASP World Title cup. He swirled the water around the oversized goblet, scrubbing the insides with the palm of his hand. Jokingly, he noted to a nearby security guard, “Mick [Fanning] had it last year, you don’t know where it’s been." After washing the cup, he paddled out to the Basque left-hander, beat Tom Whitaker handily, came back to shore and drank champagne on the shoulders of his friends. Now the proud owner of 11 clean world title trophies, the moment was indicative of just how familiar he’s gotten with the process of winning. “Greatest ever" is so cliché, but really, what else is there to say about Kelly? 20 years of domination have beat generation upon generation into submission. When he came onto the scene at the start of the 1990s Tom Curren, Martin Potter and Tom Carroll were just finishing up their glorious runs, and perhaps he’s guilty of speeding up their decisions to retire. Then came his peers, the Momentum Generation, which he stopped dead in their tracks. Bored with the tour, he walked away for a couple years. Then as the new century dawned, he spawned the greatest rivalry in surf. His title races with Andy Irons are now the stuff of pure legend. Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds were supposed to be the next big thing, but Kelly wouldn’t allow it. And today? Today he’s schooling youngsters like Gabriel Medina and John John Florence who weren’t even born when he first went on tour.
The greatest ever? Yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate.
It‘s not right, but it's correct. Bali, June 2013. Photo: Timo