Three of the World’s Greatest Ever Surfers
Every sport has a special individual that lights up their arena with sublime, almost magical skills. Individuals that leave spectators open-mouthed, looking on in awe, wondering how what they have just witnessed was even possible. Surfing is no different. There are thousands of ridiculously talented surfers globally, but there is always a special one in each generation that takes to the sea. The following trio of surfers are just a handful of names that are considered the sport’s very best.
Although this article did not intend to rank the world’s greatest surfers, it would be criminal not to start with the surfing legend that is Kelly Slater. The Cocoa Beach, Florida, native is the greatest surfer the world has ever seen, and it is not even close; the man is nothing short of incredible. Slater first began surfing at the tender age of five and is still active on the World Surf League today despite being aged 51 years old.
Slater dominated the World Surf League throughout the 1990s and 2000s and was always a favorite with the best online sports book for Americans, thanks to his almost unnatural ability to win world titles. Slater became the youngest-ever world champion in 1992 (aged 20) and has since clinched the world title 11 times. He became the most successful male champion after winning his fifth world championship in 1997. Slater would undoubtedly have more world titles to his name had he not taken a break from surfing between 1998 and 2002.
Although Slater last became world champion in 2011, he managed to capture his eighth Billabong Pipeline Masters title in 2022, aged 49 years old! How many surfers can continue operating at such a high level when approaching 50? Slater is a different animal, one worthy of his place in the coveted Surfer’s Hall of Fame.
Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore is the most decorated women’s surfer in history, thanks to securing her eighth World Surf League in 2022. With that title win, Gilmore overtook fellow Australian Layne Beachley in terms of titles won, a surfer that Gilmore idolized growing up.
Gilmore began surfing at nine and competed in high-level competition only eight years later. In 2007, Gilmore qualified for the 2007 Women’s ASP World Tour. Gilmore entered eight events, won four, and became the world champion. She was the first male or female surfer to win a world title as a rookie.
Gilmore more than proved her 2007 success was not a flash in the pan by becoming world champion again in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018, and then for an eighth time in 2022! To date, Gilmore has 34 outright victories on the WSL Championship Tour.
Corky Carroll was active on the professional surfing scene from 1959 to 1972 and is seen as a pioneer of the sport. Carroll, now 75 years of age, was the first real professional surfer and the first surfer to make paid endorsements.
Carroll was only 12 when he started his career and was a precocious talent. He won the United States Surfing Championship each year between 1966-1970, in addition to securing the International Surfing Championship three times. By the time Carroll hung up his board, aged only 24, he had won over 100 surfing competitions. However, one victory stands out from all the rest because, in 1968, Carroll’s peers voted him the number one surfer in the world. What better accolades than having your surfing peers rank you highly in their estimations?
Carroll was also instrumental in designing the first authentic surf trunks with Nancy Katin, which are still produced today.