Surfing heroes

Surf culture

Duke Kahanamoku

A great man who's full name was Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku… or Duke if you're feeling lazy! Duke was the world's first accomplished watermen, its fastest swimmer and foremost surfer. Born in 1890 in Waikiki, Hawaii. He is known as the 'father of surfing'.

Duke along with his teenage surfer friends formed the first ever surf club known as Hui Nalu or 'Club Of The Waves'. They were also known as the 'Beach Boys of Waikiki'. At that time in Hawaii the missionaries had stamped out all native traditions, through fear of the unknown, surfing or wave-sliding as it was known at the time was one of these. Duke and his friends are credited with the rebirth of surfing in Hawaii.

Duke became an Olympic champion swimmer. His surfing style became popular in Hawaii and the US, and attracted the attentions of Hollywood. In 1915 Duke went to Australia, where he introduced surfing down under, a sport that now dominates the country's culture! He taught the Aussie's tricks and how to build boards.

The Duke died aged 78 and to this day remains a symbol of Hawaii, one of the greatest surfers and most important men in surfing history.

Miki Dora

Mickey Chapin Dora, better known as Miki Dora or 'Da Cat'. Miki was introduced to surfing at a young age, and soon became a master of the sport with the advent of foam surfboards in the late 50s. Known for his mastery of wave positioning and board control in Malibu. He also played many roles as a stunt double in early 60s Hollywood movies.

Miki was famous for his ruthless style, weaving in and around other surfers on the busy waves at Malibu, pushing and shoving his way through. He was also known for apposing surf contests and their judges. He famously dropped his board shorts and bared his ass in front of the judges and spectators at a surf contest in 1967. Miki's dislike for the contemporary Californian surf scene drove him into self-imposed exile, changing his career and lifestyle with it. He travelled the world and even did time in a US jail in the 80's for credit card fraud.

In the mid-60s one of the first limited-edition signature model surfboard was made in Miki Dora's honour… the famous 'Greg Noll Da Cat' board.

Sadly Miki recently passed away aged 67. But he will be fondly remembered throughout the surfing world as a legend.

Phil Edwards

Truly one of the great's of the sport, and one a few who started the era of performance surfing back in the 50s and 60s. Born in Long Beach, California, he started surfing at a young age, and was soon shaping his own boards at age 13.

It wasn't until Edwards met the great Miki Dora, that his style really developed and took the world by storm. Dora's class of surfing inspired Edwards not just to ride straight on the wave, but to carve, hang 10 etc… as did Edwards in turn influence Dora. And in 1961, he did the un-thinkable, paddling out at Pipeline in Hawaii (a wave thought un-surfable in the 50s & early 60s), rode it well, and almost as soon as he hit the shore, other surfers took to Pipeline. Edwards continued to be a force to recon with through the early 60s, winning the first Surfer Poll Award in '63.

In 1959, Edwards break came when he was invited to shape boards for a man named Hobie Alter. 1959 was a key year for surfing as the surf movie Gidget was released, and the interest in surfing rocketed! A good time to be a shaper!

Edwards was still at the top of the game at the end of the 50s, and even appeared in surf movies, which along with his conquering of Pipeline, made him into something of a celebrity. This was capitalised on by Alter, and in 1963, the 'Phil Edwards Signature Model' surfboard was created… shaped by Phil, endorsed by Hobie Alter. This saw Edwards becoming known as the first professional surfer, and an icon of the sport.

Nat Young

Nat Young was born in 1947 in Australia. He is recognised as one of the great surfers in the history of the sport. He won the World Championship in 1966, riding a board he designed himself. And later became World Longboard Champion in 1988, '89 and '90 (in his 40s!).

Nat has always stood out for his unique and power-orientated style of surfing. In the late 60s Nat's original and unique style of surfing was well documented, and he became something of an icon for Australian surfers. His class and style forced changes in surfboard design and raised the standard of surfers of his time to compete at his level. Nat Young has given so much back to the sport that he loves. He has written several surf books, including the surf bible 'The History of Surfing' and has even produced films.

Bernard "Midget" Farrelly

One of the best surfers ever, and arguably one of the best surfers of the 60s. Midget was the first man ever to be crowned world champion back in 1964. Being an Aussie, Midget's title shocked the world as he beat off the Hawaiian and Californian competition, and the world was awakened to the great surf and surfers down under.

Midget earned his nickname 'Midget', due to his slight build (if you hadn't guessed!), and although his real name is Bernard, you will usually find him referred to as Midget in most surf related texts.

In the 60s Midget was involved in an-going feud with fellow Aussie surfer Nat Young. The two were constantly fighting it out in competitions, to be both the best Aussie surfer, and best in the world. Although Midget was, and is a more reserved character than Nat, both in his style of surfing, and out of the water. Nat was one of the new breed of surfer of the psychedelic 60s, where Midget was more in touch with the roots of the sport and its culture, with a respect for the old.

This eventually led to Midget fading away from a sport that he quietly believed to have become corrupt, through drugs and general attitudes amongst surfers. But continued his interest in other extreme sports, and also the older style Tom Blake boards.

Midget learnt to shape, and started a surf blank manufacturing company called 'Surfblanks'. He also wrote two books entitled 'A Surfing Life' and 'How To Surf'.

Jeff Hakman

Born in 1948 in California, Jeff has always been a keen surfer. In the 60s, when Jeff was still in his teens, his family moved to Hawaii. It was here that Jeff made his name. Jeff soon won a televised surf contest, at only 17 years old, he beat some of the world's best surfers that day and found International fame, and in 1966 was proclaimed the world's top big-wave rider. In the late 60s to early 70s the shortboard revolution was in full swing and Jeff was at its forefront, still known as the best in the world.

Around this time Jeff had sampled a pair of Quiksilver board shorts, liked them and with Quiksilver's blessing launched the brand in the US. The companies success in the States was rapid and huge. Unfortunately Jeff developed a drug problem, which got the better of him. He sold his interest in Quiksilver to pursue drugs and was eventually kicked out all together.

He moved to Australia and struggled by for a time, until 1984 when Quiksilver gave him a second chance. Jeff got involved with launching Quiksilver Europe. Unfortunately Jeff's heroin addiction was so bad by this time that he ended up in rehab in the late 80s. Thankfully Jeff's life is now in order and free of drugs. He still has a marketing role with Quiksilver, and now lives the family life in Hawaii.

Butch Van Artsdalen

Butch was one of two of Hawaii's North Shore lifeguards in 1968, along with Eddie Aikau. Chosen for his talent surfing big waves and his abilities as a swimmer. His duty was to patrol the 7-mile stretch of coastland, with the world's most dangerous waves, including Sunset and Waimea Bay. He saved thousands of lives.

Butch was well known for his fighting, drinking and subsequent crazy antics, earning him the nickname 'Black Butch'.

He was a legendary surfer, and the first to really dominate Pipeline, subsequently becoming the first to earn the nickname 'Mr. Pipeline'. A term now more connected with the great Gerry Lopez. Butch would ride deep in the pocket of the wave, getting barrelled, dazzling spectators and surfers on shore, who would watch him disappear in the tube, and pop out the end in one piece. Butch had the ability to switch his stance, so he would always be facing the wave, a manoeuvre almost unheard of that time. His talents saw him become a part of the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team.

Unfortunately Butch had a self-destructive nature, and his binge drinking slowly led to his demise over the years, and eventually his death in 1979. He will be remembered as one of history's boldest, most colourful and talented surfers.

Gerry Lopez

It was Lopez's effortless, casual style, combined with his perfect timing and positioning that saw him become the true master at Pipeline. He made the 'tube' one of the most sought after rides in surfing. He was one of the figureheads of the shortboard revolution. And set the standards of tube riding at Pipe, then considered the worlds heaviest, most dangerous wave. Taking over the thrown as 'Mr Pipeline'.

Gerry was not one for competitive surfing, although he did compete in the Pipeline Masters, twice winning it, and making the finals on four other occasions. The event became known as the 'Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters' up until 1997.

He soon became an excellent shaper, and co-established Lightning Surfboards in 1971. One of the surfing world's most popular brands at the time, ridden by most of the 70s pro surfers. He later became interested in snowboarding, and also contributed to the design and build of the first strap-foot shortboards used by Laird Hamilton for tow-in surfing. Something Gerry himself joined in with at Maui's Peahi (Jaws).

Aside from surfing, Gerry also found fame unusually enough in Hollywood. You may remember him as Subotai, Arnold Schwarzenegger's sidekick in Conan the Barbarian…?!

Rabbit Kekai

A very friendly character who embodies the spirit of aloha and stoke. At a young age Rabbit was taken under the wing of Duke Kahanamoku. The Duke taught him to surf better and nurtured his development throughout his teens. Rabbit went on to be a pioneer of the North Shore surfing scene in the 30's alongside the likes of Wally Froiseth and George Downing. Pioneering 'hotdogging', his surfing/style was an inspiration to future generations of surfers, including Phil Edwards, Matt Kivlin, Joe Quigg, Miki Dora and Jeff Hakman. He has for many years (since 1971) commanded the role of "Beach Marshall" at the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.

Mark Richards

Before Tom Curren and Kelly Slater… there was Mark Richards. Four times World Champion from '79 to '82. He was famous for branding his surfboards with the superman logo with his own inititals! And at his peak was considered the greatest surfer of all time!

Richards was born in Australia in 1957. He took to surfing at a young age and soon came good. By the mid 70s Mark was winning high profile surf contests. Mark took to shaping his own boards, and developed his own custom shortboard, with a winged swallow tail and twin-fin. In a time where most of his competitors were still riding single fin's. Mark excelled to the top, and earned the nickname 'The Wounded Gull', due to his 'swooping' turns.

By 1979, Mark had mastered his twin-fin board and won the World Title… for four consecutive years! Unfortunately Richards developed injury problems with his back and went into semi-retirement, still to return every now and again and clean the field. He more recently returned to win the 2001 over 40s World Masters Championship. Mark Richards is truly a great champion surfer.

Shaun Tomson

Coming soon…

Tom Carroll

Two times world title holder in '83 and '84, both breaking Mark Richards' reign and delaying Tom Curren's future reign. Tom is an Australian who became the first ever goofy-footer surfer to win the world title. He was also the first to score a 'million-dollar' contract as a surfer with Quiksilver, back in 1989.

Tom is a small, but very powerful surfer, who has earned much respect in Hawaii for his surfing, winning many contests there. Tom has endured many serious injuries throughout his career (including having to have his knee reconstructed in 1981), which have perhaps held him back from his full potential. But thanks to his strong fitness regime he has always bounced back defeating the odds, earning him much respect.

In his 14 years on tour, he racked up an amazing 26 victories.

Tom Curren

Son of one of the most respected big wave pioneers; Pat Curren. From Santa Barbara, California. Tom is one of the most popular, respected, photographed and influential surfers in the sport's history. Back in the early 80s, he was setting new standards on the youth surf scene, twice winning the World Amateur Surfing Championships.

Tom is considered to be one of only a few surfers in history to redefine high performance surfing. And it was his unique style that won him his first world title in 1985, at only 19 years old… also making him the first American to claim the title! During that same season, Tom surfed what many consider to be the greatest heat ever, defeating nemesis Mark Occhilupo (one of the sport's great rivalries) at Bells Beach.

Tom went on to win two more world titles. His last being perhaps his most impressive… Towards the end of the 80s Tom lost interest in the pro' surf scene, and slipped down the rank's, only to return in 1990, surfing his way through the trials to again claim the world title against all odds.

Even in his late 30s, Tom still surf's for Rip Curl's 'The Search', and can still be found competing and on the pages of magazines. An amazing pro' surfer career that saw him take more world tour events than any other surfer, with 33 wins. Tom is also a successful musician.

Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater is the undisputed king of modern surfing. Born in 1972, Slater first learned to surf in Central Florida on the east coast of America. Even as a child Slater proved his surfing skills and entered the spotlight. In the mid-80s as an Amateur he claimed 6 Eastern Surfing Association and 4 national titles in the US, and starred in boardshort adverts for Sundek, a small taste of huge stardom to come.

By 1990 Slater had signed to Quiksilver and starred in a black & white Quiksilver promo video, which showed off his explosive and creative style of surfing to the world. He has since been in countless similar promos on video and DVD.

As a Pro aged 21, on his first full year on tour, Slater claimed the world title, the youngest ever to do so. The world watched as Slater re-defined the boundaries of surfing, setting new standards in excellence. Slater commanded the waves he surfed, where before the waves dictated your ride.

Slater along with his freak surf skills also came armed with Hollywood good looks and ripped physique. This saw him have a stint in the very popular 'Baywatch', accompanied by an on-off relationship with co-star Pamela Anderson! All of this kept Slater's name in the mainstream media, not to mention girls bedroom walls around the globe!

Slater continued to take six consecutive world titles, and took an early semi-retirement aged 26, feeling he had nothing left to prove (how many people can say that?!). After 2 years away from the tour Slater returned even better than before! Slater took his 7th world title in 2005, 8th in 2006, 9th in 2008, 10th in 2010 and 11th in 2011!!! Kelly Slater is truly the king of competitive surfing!

Bookmark and Share COTW

Our e-newsletter…

To receive our free e-newsletter, please enter your email address below and we'll keep you updated on new features, artists and photographers…