As we look back over the 40-year history of The SURFER Poll trophy, it becomes clear that this memento is a veritable timeline of our sport’s modern era. The names inscribed on its façade—Phil Edwards, Nat Young, Mark Richards, Tom Curren, Andy Irons, and, of course, Kelly Slater among others—are emblematic of the larger themes present during each of their respective reigns. Like powerful ground swells, each name on that trophy signifies the culmination of a new movement, and a turning point in the sport. To win the SURFER Poll, one must first capture the hearts and minds of the entire surfing world—not just ratings points. Many a world champion has never been close to winning that trophy. The title of SURFER Poll Champion is the most prestigious in all of surfing, specifically because it is the hardest to win.
Beginning in 1963, SURFER Magazine asked its readers to take part in this process, the ordeal of selecting names of the world’s best. For decades, those readers have continually answered that call, and the SURFER Poll continues to be a yearly celebration driven by your voice. Back then, the winners were announced at a semiformal banquet at a small restaurant in Capistrano Beach.
This year we’ve relocated the show to a small stretch of coastline on Oahu’s North Shore during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. And while the party may be much bigger than those past years in Capo Beach, and a bit more lavish, but the awards retain the essence of the Poll, and the party is to connect the readers to the surfers.
In 1996, the SURFER Poll party took on added significance, as SURFER augmented the evening’s festivities with the SURFER Video Awards. By celebrating the achievements of directors, cinematographers, and the world’s best surfers, the SURFER Poll and Video Awards night represents the pinnacle of surf culture. Today, with added awards like Digital Short of the Year, the SURFER Poll Awards show is unquestionably the surf world’s biggest night out.
This year, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the SURFER Poll Awards, please keep in mind that while much has changed over the years, the spirit of the event remains the same. You, the reader, are the driving force behind it all, and as we prepare for another round, we’d again like to ask for your guiding hand.