The world of surfing has had its legendary riders that have turned the sport upside down and paved the way for the modern era. These legends are the top ten best surfers of all time.
Greg ‘Da Bull’ Noll
Noll , a California native, moved to Hawaii in 1954 where he would gain his legendary status. Noll is widely known for his accomplishments in large Hawaiian surf. His flashy and aggressive style earned him the nickname of ‘Da Bull.’
You know that pipe dream so many have of moving to the beach and living in a shack just to surf every day? Well, Noll was one of the first to do it. In 1957, this crazy guy was leading the way in taking on Waimea Bay. However, the big wave riding Noll, is most known for his epic 35-foot wave he rode at Makaha in 1969, that nearly cost him his life. That wave is still considered the ‘biggest wave ever ridden’ without being towed out.
Tomson defined an era and is the inspiration for the modern ‘pro surfer’, where he was ‘Hollywood’ before Hollywood was cool. His style was unique and completely changed the way that barrels were ridden. Tomson’s performances at Backdoor Pipeline are still discussed today as if they were straight out of a comic book.
Tomson surfed for over 20 years, revolutionizing the sport, and managed to win the surfing World Championship in 1977. Oh, and if you want to see the downside of his career. Just watch In God’s Hands…horrible film.
The late Andy Irons won three ASP World Championships along with four Triple Crowns. Irons is only one of four surfers to have that many titles. He’s also, the only surfer of the last decade that could hang with Kelly Slater. Speaking of which, Irons is probably most known for his intense rivalry with Slater.
Irons and Slater were the subject of the famous New York Times article. When surfing news gets into that paper, you know the heat is legit. Irons' proudest moment has to be when he defeated Slater to win the 2003 ASP world title. Tragically though, Irons died in November of 2010 at the age of 32 due to heart issues.
This big wave surfer is a jack of all trades. Hamilton is a former model, co-inventor of tow-in surfing, clothing line designer, actor (he can be seen as the villain in North Shore and having an affair with George Clooney’s wife in The Descendants), and the best big wave rider ever.
Laird’s Millennium Wave at Teahupoo in 2000 blew the minds of anyone that had eyeballs.
The small Australian surf rat was the first ‘goofy foot’ surfer to win the world title. Carroll also made his mark on surfing by becoming the first surfer to receive a million dollar contract from a sponsor. Carroll collected 26 world tour victories during his career and his fearlessness and historical impact in the 1980s shows why he belongs on this list.
Lopez is often referred to as ‘Mr. Pipeline’ and rightfully so. The Hawaiian surf legend dominated Pipeline so much with his victories at Pipeline Masters, that they actually renamed the contest after him. Lopez is considered by most surfers to have been the best tube rider in the world. We agree.
Richards racked up titles like fat kids rack up pounds. Richards is a five time world champion and only second to Kelly Slater in that department. Richards was never hesitant in bucking tradition surfing trends. He took shaping lessons to perfect the design of boards and was the first surf champion to go to a multi-fin design when the entire surfing world was using single fins. Come to think of it, this ranking may be too low.
Curren came from a family of surfers and when the dust settled, he claimed his spot as one of the best surfers to ever hit the ocean. Curren was a three time world champion but his style and his personality is probably what he is most known for. Some called him flighty and a jerk but fans and surfers loved him. Curren had a reputation of winning contests and then leaving the checks uncashed and even once during a contest, stripped off his sponsor’s logos and went out to win the event. Regardless, he’s one of the best.
The father of modern day surfing was a three time Olympic gold medalist. He was one of the first showmen of surfing before surfing became what it is today. He is probably the most revered Hawaiian in history and his popularity cannot be denied. Even today, you see his chain of restaurants all over the place; you see his statue down by Waikiki beach; and when you think of surfing, you will always think of Duke.
Who else could possibly hold this spot? Kelly Slater is the Michael Jordan of surfing. No one has dominated the sport like Kelly has.
Slater is an 11 time world champion. No one has even come close to matching that total. NO ONE! Even today he is still tearing it up and competing for titles. Kelly Slater is responsible for making surfing mainstream and anchoring its popularity. He does it all. He’s won every award possible; he starred in Baywatch; his band opened for Pearl Jam; he’s best friends with musician Jack Johnson; he dated Pamela Anderson and a ton of models and celebrities; and he modeled for Versace. He’s like surfing’s version of James Bond and by far the best to ever pick up a surfboard.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports
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