Duke Kahanamoku once said ‘the best surfer is the one having the most fun’.
However, when considering the best ever surfer can you really ignore Slater’s 11 world titles, Bradshaw’s legendary Log Cabin’s wave or Lopez’s Pipeline prowess?
To help you decide who’s best, I’ve shortlisted below ten legendary surfers who regularly get labeled ‘the greatest’.
Don’t forget to cast your vote >>>
He took surfing from Hawaii and shared it with the world, Duke Kahanamoku is the father of modern surfing.
What makes The Duke so special?
• Amazing name: Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku
• Olympic champion: 5 medals for swimming (3 golds, 2 silver)
• Google ‘the father of modern surfing’ and you get Duke Kahanamoku
• Following his swimming success he travelled the world giving surfing exhibitions
• In 1914 he took Isobel Latham for a tandem ride at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach
• Isobel Latham became the first Australian surfer
• Huge influence in the birth of surfing in America, whilst in California 1912
• Made surfing an international sport
• First person to be inducted to the Swimming Hall of Fame AND Surfing Hall of Fame
Ken Bradshaw has been riding giants for 25 years and set the standard for big wave surfing.
Here’s the best of Bradshaw:
• In 1969, 16-year-old Bradshaw ran away from home to go surfing
• Rode the biggest wave ever ridden (over 85ft) at Outside Log Cabins, Hawaii in 1998
• Rode 20 more waves over 40 feet on the same day, probably the largest day ever ridden
• Winner of the 1982 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship
• Shaped surfboards for lightning bolt then Bradshaw Hawaii
• Director of the World Tow Surfing Association
• Helped train ex-girlfriend Layne Beachley to her first world title
Rarely do surfers become synonymous with waves, but Gerry Lopez is ‘Mr Pipe’. When it comes to getting pitted at Pipeline – nobody does it better.
But Gerry is more than a one wave warrior:
• Started Lightning Bolt Surfboards in 1970
• Lightning Bolt was the first to sponsor surfers with free boards
• Made Pipeline the world’s most important wave
• Made the tube the ultimate surfing prize
• Worked on the film ‘Big Wednesday’ in 1977
• Leader of the shortboard revolution
• Guru to the surf hippie generation
• The pipeline masters was named after him from 1993-’97
• Pioneered Uluwatu and G-Land
• Multi talented shaper and rider of surfboards, windsurf boards, SUPs and snowboards
There’s not many surfers who could paddle out in a silver wetsuit with a superman logo on his board and get respect, Mark Richards is one of them.
• 5 times world champion (1979–1982)
• Awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his service to Surf Riding in 2000
• Left school mid-way through fifth form to go pro
• Became a shaper at 13 and took tutelage from Dick Brewer
• Pioneered the twin-fin
• Still shapes boards and runs a surf shop in his hometown of Newcastle, Australia
• Shared a barrel with Shaun Tomson at Off The Wall
Shaun Tomson was the frontman of the “Free Ride” generation. That made him an impressive figure – standing on the shoulders of giants such as Rabbit Bartholomew, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns and Peter Townend.
Here’s what keeps Tomson at the top:
• Won the IPS World Championship in 1977.
• Appeared in many surf films including Free Ride, Fantasea and In God’s Hands
• Co-produced ‘Bustin’ Down The Door’ in 2008
• Author of ‘Surfer’s Code – 12 Simple lessons for riding through life’
• Board member and ambassador for Surfrider Foundation
• Received the Surf Industry’s ‘Environmentalist of the Year Award’ in 2002
• Founded, managed and sold two multi-million clothing brands – Instinct and Solitude
• Lifted tube riding to new heights at Backdoor and Off the Wall
• In the Top 16 from the tour’s inception in 1976 until 1989
Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo
Occy is to Bells Beach what Lopez is to Pipeline. He’s the comeback King, the Rocky Balboa of surfing and one of professional surfing’s most enduring characters.
Here’s a sample of Occy’s surfing life:
• In 1987 starred as himself in the Hollywood cult classic ‘North Shore’
• Burned out and quit the world tour in 1990
• Having fought off his demons, came back and won the 1999 World surfing title
• Comeback movie the ‘Occumentary’, is one of the greatest surf movies ever
• Appeared in, I think, all of McCoy’s Billabong videos
• Spanning 25 years, his career was the longest in pro surfing
• Regarded by both Parko and Slater as the best at Bells and J Bay
Tom Curren is the zeitgeist of 80s surfing. Ask any surfer for their top 3 surfers ever – and Tom Curren will be in it every time.
Here’s an insight to Curren’s character:
• Son of Pat Curren (big-wave legend and shaper)
• Led the surfing revolution in the early ’80s
• World champion three times – 1985, 1986, 1990
• Won 33 championship events
• Retired from competitive surfing in the mid-1990s
• Relishes competition and victory, but is publicity shy and unassuming
• He once reputedly answered ‘Yeah’ to every question put to him by a journalist
• Made silent protests against ridiculous comp locations
• Boycotted South African comps in protest over apartheid
• Unwittingly caused a riot at the Op Pro 1987 at Huntington Beach
• Inspired a retro revolution after competing on a ‘fish’ in 93’
• Styled the modern fish and egg designs with George Greenough
• Accomplished musician, solo or with band ‘Skipping Urchins’
• Father to pro surfer Lee Ann Curren
Statistically Kelly Slater is the best ever surfer, but surfing is about more than winning competitions and money.
Here’s what we know about Kelly:
• 11 time ASP World Title winner
• Youngest surfer to win a world title, at age 20
• Oldest surfer to win a world title, at age 39
• Won 5 consecutive titles from 1994–98
• 6 time winner of the Pipeline Masters
• Winner of Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational
• More event wins than any other surfer
• The highest two-wave total (20 points)
• Formed a band called The Surfers, with Rob Machado and Peter King
• Has his own video game named Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer
• On the Board of Advisors of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
• Had a cameo role in the animated movie ‘Surfs Up’
Here’s some of the things you might not know about Kelly Slater.
There’s probably no other man who has ridden so many wave craft to their limits, but does that make Laird Hamilton the best surfer ever?
Why Laird is the ultimate waterman:
• Was born in an experimental salt-water sphere at UCSF Medical Center
• Pioneer of tow-in surfing
• Popularised kitesurfing
• Pushed the limits of wind surfing
• Paddled SUPs in to extraordinary places
• Windsurfed between Oahu and Kauaʻi, 50 miles in less than six hours.
• Rode ‘heaviest wave ever’ at Teahupoo 17 August 2000 – you know the one.
• Invented a hydrofoil board to ride big waves better
In the last 20 years, Andy Irons is the only surfer to deprive Kelly Slater of more than 2 world titles. His premature death was a tragedy felt by the surfing world.
Here’s the intelligence on A.I.:
• Won three world titles (2002, 2003, 2004)
• Hosted the Annual Irons Brothers Pinetrees Classic contest for youngsters
• The only surfer to have won a title at every venue on the ASP calendar
• Kelly Slater said “Andy was an absolutely gifted individual”
• The Governor of Hawaii declared February 13 forever “Andy Irons Day”
• There would have been many more achievements had he lived a little longer
Now vote for your favourite in the Surfer Dad Poll >>>
P.S. If I included every great surfer man and woman, this post would be endless. So please forgive me for surfers I have overlooked and for excluding female surfers (don’t worry they’ll get their chance in another post).