Biggest News Stories of 2016

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Sure, this technically came out in 2015, but who’s counting? Photo: KS Wave Co.

Surf media is now, more than ever, news-oriented.

Our highest grossing pieces are always hot-off-the-press style articles focusing on a recent happening in the surf world. Narratives and essays are fun, but nothing grabs the reader like a THIS JUST HAPPENED headline. And 2016 had a lot of sizzling hearsay.

For this reason, we thought it a good idea to look back and decode the biggest news stories of the past year. Because there were too many major happenings to list them all here, we opted to elect six breaking stories that created lasting impact on the global surfing community — here's what we ended up with. – Michael Ciaramella

Surfing in the Olympics

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Oh how sweet victory will taste on his 60-year-old lips. Slater achieves his final feat in 2020. Photo: Photoshop

This was a long time coming but on August 3rd, 2016, it became official: surfing will be an official Olympic sport, with its inaugural event taking place at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The decision to include surfing in the longstanding Olympic tradition created a deep division in the surfing world. Pros, amateurs, and pundits alike weighed in on the topic, most of them holding a strong opinion one way or the other. The pro-Olympics side focused on the ability to bring surfing to the global public and create legitimacy within our sport. The anti-Olympics side talked about surfing "selling out" and creating even more crowded lineups around the world. Both sides have valid points, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't excited to throw on the red, white, and blue to watch John John and Kolohe decimate the global field.

Wavepool madness

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We’re still waiting for our invite, Mr. Slater… Photo: KS Wave Co.

Technically Kelly released his infamous wavepool video in December of 2015 (the day after Adriano's title, remember?), but it'd be rash to leave this off our list due to a mere technicality. Kelly's Lemoore dream brought a resounding sense of awe to the global surfing community. The 4-foot freak of science offered a glimpse into the future of our sport. Much like with the Olympics, there were still the negative comments about the wave not being "real" or "core" and that it could never compare to catching an organic ocean swell. This may be true, but I defy anyone to tell me they wouldn't want to surf this beaut for a day. Remember folks, don't cut off your nose to spite your Tomo.

Aaron Gold's wave

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We’d call it like… 77.63 feet? Photo: Brent Bielmann

Surfers are known to be a bit hyperbolic. A few years ago there was talk of Garrett McNamara riding a 100 foot wave at Nazaré, and while we appreciated his efforts, that simply wasn't true. Measuring waves is an imperfect science, as we lack the tools to accurately conceive a wave's true height. In fact, it could be said that relativity is our main point of understanding. That's why it was a very big deal when the majority of the world's big wave surfers considered Aaron Gold's wave at Jaws to be the biggest ever paddled. With El Niño behind us and the Pacific winter looking bleak, it's unlikely that anyone will surpass this benchmark in the next year. Then again, Nazaré has been pretty pumping of late…

Women in Jaws, Mavericks events

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Meet your 2016 Women’s Big Wave World Champ, Paige Alms. Photo: WSL

Sexism is deeply rooted in the "Sport of Kings", but every year we inch closer and closer to a state of equity. Creating a women's division in the Jaws and Maverick's events (however begrudgingly it may have happened) was 2016's biggest contribution to the struggle for equality. Women have been surfing big waves throughout for decades, and finally they were given the platform to compete and earn some slender cash for their efforts. We can't say that the girls amazed us at Jaws, but they will only get better with time and further opportunities.

Albee's 540/720 and the great debate

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How many spins does it take to get all the way around and once more? The world may never know. Photo: Dan Norkunas

Yeah, it's been done before. Slater, Meola, …Albee again. But the double spin or one-and-a-half spin or 540 or 720 has always enchanted us because of its novelty, impressiveness, AND its debatable nature. The sides are as follows: skaters and snowboarders consider it a 720 when you hit a ramp, spin all the way around, and land backwards. As a result, they'd call a "straight air" a 180, a "standard air rev" a 360, a "full rotation" a 540 and a "double spin" a 720. Surfers decided that these numbers didn't work for them, due to angular specifics upon taking off and landing, so we basically just cut 180 degrees off the spins that skaters/snowboarders have been doing for decades. It's confusing, but we can see both sides. That said, we think it's time for an official ruling on the spin situation, so SURFING will be seeking that answer in 2017.

JJF title

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It sure took him long enough! Photo: Luis Niza

Finally, the chosen one has arrived! This kid has been destined for greatness from an early age, and he's been everyone's favorite surfer for the past three years. His 2016 world title brings validation not only to John, but to the surfing community as a whole. He's got more talent than maybe anyone ever (Slater weeps), and he finally figured out how to mold his abilities to fit the CT's scoring system. Now begins the (hopefully) decade-long battle between two of surfing's greats. Gab vs. John: who will win more titles?