Who is the best surfer ever? It’s a question that’s sure to cause a lot of debate as there are many variables to consider and everyone has their own opinion.
Our list of the best male surfers of all time include: Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Ítalo Ferreira, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Mick Fanning, & Laird Hamilton. Our list of female surfers include: Carissa Moore, Bethany Hamilton, Layne Beachley, & Maya Gabeira.
There are so many great surfers over the years that could be mentioned for so many reasons, but these are the few that we are personally drawn to for one reason or another. Without further ado, here’s our short list of the best surfers of all time.
Table of Contents
The Best Male Surfers Of All Time
There are clearly a lot of male surfers who deserve to be included on this shortlist.
There are also many great surfers that we just can’t include for the sake of brevity.
The following list is in no particular order:
Let’s be honest, you knew that Kelly Slater was going to be on this list.
Even if you think that he doesn’t deserve to be ranked as the GOAT, you’d probably rip us a new one if he wasn’t on our shortlist.
Slater won an unprecedented 11 world surfing championships and held the number 1 ranking for the majority of his career.
In fact, Slater was just 20 years old when he first reached the number one spot, and it was all plain sailing from there.
Between 1994 and 1998, he was unstoppable and notched an impressive 5 consecutive titles.
Kelly Slater proved that age is no barrier when he became the oldest WSL men’s champion, which means he was both the youngest and oldest to win the title.
Over the course of his career, he earned an astonishing $4 million from surfing competitions.
How Much is Kelly Slater Worth?
Kelly Slater’s net worth is estimated at between $20 million and $25 million.
It sounds like an obscene sum for a surfer who won “just” $4 million in his career, but his earnings also include sponsorships, endorsements, and businesses.
After all, in addition to his work with film producers, record labels, surfing brands, and more, he founded the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch, which became known for its world-class wave pools.
Andy Irons was an immensely talented surfer who won his first world title in 2002 and then followed it with additional titles in 2003 and 2004.
He also won several Quiksilver Pro France titles and two Rip Curl ones.
Irons was one of the few surfers able to mount a challenge against Kelly Slater’s reign and if not for his untimely death and the problems that preceded it, he could have surpassed Slater’s achievements.
What Happened to Andy Irons?
Andy Irons was found dead in his hotel room on November 2, 2010.
His death was ruled as cardiac arrest and the autopsy reported noted that he had a number of drugs in his system, all of which may have contributed to his death.
Prior to his demise, Irons had struggled with addiction and mental illness.
He was just 32 years old when he died. His passing shocked the surfing world.
Ferreira won two gold medals at the 2019 World Games and followed it with a 2020 Olympic gold medal.
The 1x world champion ranked number 1 on the WSL World Tour in 2019 and is considered to be one of the most promising male surfers active right now.
How Much Does Italo Ferreira Weigh?
Italo Ferreira weighs just under 150 pounds or around 68 kilos.
What Size Board Does Italo Ferreira Ride?
In the past, Ferreira has ridden a 5’10” shortboard.
Tom Curren was a three-times world champion who won an impressive 33 championship events during his professional surfing career.
He still surfs on occasion, but he dropped off when he was at his peak and seems to have become tired of the tour.
Where is Tom Curren from?
Curren was born in Santa Barbara, California.
What Is The Age Of Tom Curren?
Curren was born on July 3rd, 1964, making him 57 years old as of late 2021.
Occhilupo was the world surfing champion in 1999 and went on to earn over $650,000 during his career.
The NSW native set the benchmark for backside surfing but like Irons and many surfers before him, he struggled with depression and substance abuse.
At one point, he quit the World Tour, only to make several returns over the next few years.
Against all odds, he got back to his winning ways and eventually won the world title, earning him legendary status within the surfing community at the same time.
How Old Was OCCY When He Won The World Title?
Mark Occhilupo was 33 when he won the world title.
Mick Fanning was a 3-time world champion and a surfing legend, but when you search for his name, most of the results relate to an epic shark encounter that was filmed during a competition at J-Bay in South Africa.
Laird Hamilton is a big-wave surfer best known for his exploits at Teahupoo, where he tackled what was described as the “heaviest wave ever ridden”.
He has been called the father of tow-in surfing and big wave surfing and deserves a place on this list for those reasons.
Where is Laird Hamilton today?
Laird is married to Gabrielle Reece, a pro volleyball player and model.
They co-founded Laird Superfood together in 2015 and the company went public 5 years later.
The Hamiltons spend their time between Hawaii and California, where they live the dream surfing lifestyle.
Are Bethany Hamilton and Laird Hamilton related?
No, there is no relation between these two great surfers.
The Best Female Surfers Of All Time
As with male surfers, there are a lot of female riders who deserve to be included on the “greatest-ever” list.
We had a hard time narrowing them down, but this is the shortlist that we came up with:
Carissa Moore is a Hawaii-born surfer who earned over $2 million in prize money before 2020, a year in which she won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s an impressive resume, and as she was 28 at the time of her victory, it’s one that will only get bigger and more impressive.
Carissa Moore first qualified for the World Surf League Championship back in 2010 and the very next season she won several events, including her first world title.
In doing so, she became the youngest person to win a surfing world title (male and female).
Carissa Moore has been a phenomenon on the world championship tour and is only just reaching her peak.
Where is Carissa Moore from?
Carissa Moore was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
What Age Did Carissa Moore Start Surfing?
Moore claims that her dad taught her how to surf when she was just four or five years old.
She began her winning ways at aged 11. Aged 16, she became the youngest winner of a Triple Crown of Surfing event.
Bethany Hamilton has been a huge advocate for the sport of surfing, as well as a great inspiration for anyone who has ever experienced adversity and considered giving up.
Hamilton lost her arm to a tiger shark attack when she was just 13, but she didn’t let that stop her.
She continued to surf and won several major titles.
She has also written books about her life and worked with many charities.
How Much Is Bethany Hamilton Worth?
Hamilton’s net worth is said to be over $2 million.
Where Does Bethany Hamilton Live Now?
Hamilton lives in Kauai, Hawaii, with her family.
Layne Beachley is a 7-time world champion who won her first world title in 1998 and her last in 2006.
She was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in 2006 and retired just two years later.
How Much Is Layne Beachley Worth?
Beachley’s net worth is thought to be around $2 million.
Maya Gabeira currently holds the record for the largest wave ever surfed by a female surfer.
At 73.5 feet, the wave surfed Nazaré is also one of the biggest ever recorded in professional surfing, and was the biggest wave surfed in 2020.
Two years before her 2020 achievement, Gabeira surfed a wave of 68 feet, proving that it definitely wasn’t a one-off.
Verdict: Who is the Greatest Surfer of All Time?
We have compiled the shortlist, considered the options, and that leaves only one question: Who is the best surfer of all time?
As noted already, it’s a pretty tough question, but it’s one that doesn’t allow for sentimentality.
We haven’t considered too many old-school surfers or legends because while they certainly had a big impact on the sport, we feel that they lack the athleticism and skill of many modern surfers.
By the same token, we have neglected single achievements and have tried to focus on performances over the course of their careers.
Ultimately, the question is not, “Who has had the biggest impact?” or even “who is the most popular?”
It’s about what would happen if we took all of these surfers during their prime, placed them in a series of surfing competitions (covering all wave types and ruling out one-ride-wonders) and then scored them?
For us, the number one male rider is: Kelly Slater.
Sure, Andy Irons had a lot of talent, but it’s hard to argue with what Slater achieved.
Slater won the world title and earned a number 1 world ranking at a very young age, and he followed that with many years of dominance.
As for women’s surfing, Layne Beachley gets our vote, but only just.
She was easily the best of her era and will remain one of the best surfers for generations, but we feel like Carissa Moore will edge ahead within the next few years.
It’s hard to imagine the same thing happening in men’s surfing and Slater will retain his GOAT status for a long time, but Moore is improving at a rapid rate and will probably surpass Beachley before long.