For the 2016 Big Issue, we sent photographer Cole Barash across America, capturing portraits of local icons in their element. Here, we find East Coast surf legend Sid Abruzzi at home in Newport Rhode Island, where he's got deep roots. “I was born in Newport and have been surfing here for over 50 years," says Abruzzi. "A lot of people have asked me why I stay here. I just think we’ve got everything. From Ruggles to Rincon to Little Compton’s mysto points, we’ve got great waves. We’ve got a good skate scene, too. When I built Skater Island, it was like the North Shore of skateboarding.” Photo: Barash


Title Photo: John Florence, North Shore, Photo By De Heeckeren

Shane Dorian, navigating what would be an unmakeable wave for most, but just another late drop for one of big-wave surfing's foremost chargers. Dorian had a spectacular El Niño season, putting on performances that will set the bar for many winters to come, and allowing for some stunning imagery in the process. Photo: Bielmann

Situated between Nias and the Mentawai island chain in the northeast corner of Indonesia, a remote tropical island hosts a bevy of endless air sections and yawning, turquoise-blue tubes. Young rippers Seth Moniz, Kai Hing, Shane Sykes, Griffin Colapinto, and Imaikalani DeVault ventured there in 2016 and made the isle their own high-performance playground, as evidenced here by Hing. But along the way, the group realized that this wasn’t going to be a typical Indonesian wave fest. “The name of the island we visited roughly translates to ‘The Cursed Land’ in English,” says DeVault. “According to local legend, cannibals were exiled to this island from Nias, and now there are lots of ghost stories about the place. We heard one story about a guest who stayed at our camp, got possessed, and needed an exorcism. There were definitely some spooky vibes during our stay.” Photo: Carey

“I didn’t score the best waves of my life on this trip,” says Leonardo Fioravanti of his surreal journey to Papua New Guinea, which produced this arresting December issue cover. “But I didn’t go there to find the best waves or live luxuriously; I went there for a different experience. A few minutes into this session, the local kids climbed up on this fallen tree and were cheering us on. It felt almost like being in a contest, because every time we took off on a wave the people on the shore were screaming with joy.” Photo: Chachi

Nat Young grew up on Santa Cruz' historically rough-and-tumble west side, but he's a standout at any break in the Northern California surf mecca. Here, he stalls for a tube at the midtown Harbor Mouth, under the gaze of the iconic lighthouse, and in the viewfinder of talented Santa Cruz photographer Ryan "Chachi" Craig. Photo: Chachi

For this year's Big Issue, Alex Gray ventured into truly unfamiliar territory, booking a flight to Minnesota in pursuit of some freshwater perfection in Lake Superior. The waves that he found did not disappoint, as evidenced by this photo of a rubber-clad roundhouse on a very Trestles-esque right. Photo: Ellis

This image of San Diego wunderkind Ryan Burch at Cloudbreak was on the cover of our September issue, called "Hidden in Plain Sight." Despite its current popularity among wave-obsessed travelers, Cloudbreak wasn’t always the crown jewel of Fiji. In the early ’80s, Dave Clark and his cousin Norman spent two months enjoying the empty, hollow waves of Restaurants and Tavarua Rights without ever venturing out to the bigger and better left-hander sitting a mile offshore. The booming reef pass is now recognized as one of the best in the world, but it remained hidden in plain sight until the Clarks returned to the island with a boat and discovered what they’d been missing. Photo: Glaser

This image graced the cover of our March issue shortly after Kelly Slater revealed his man-made dream tube. Developed by Slater and a team of highly skilled engineers, the diamond of inland California is the greatest artificial wave in the world. It's unveiling this year can easily be called on small step for man, one giant leap for surferkind. Photo: Glaser

Bruce Irons at Backdoor, as seen on the cover of our interview issue, where Irons' opened up about the years since his brother's passing, and what motivates him to continue pushing his surfing. Irons' surfing has always been a balance of seemingly opposite traits, simultaneously loud and raw, yet smooth and beautiful. After losing his Andy in 2010, much has changed in Irons' life, but if this image from backdoor is any indication, Irons' surfing today is as bold and stylish as ever.
Photo: Noyle

Few things go together as well as Conner Coffin and a good righthand point break. The rookie had an impressive year on Tour, showcasing his knack for smooth lines and classical power surfing, proving that the most beautiful lines will always be drawn on the face. Photo: Morales

Albee Layer has become synonymous with the devilish inside bowl at Jaws—a huge, hollow section that could snap boards and bones alike. Yet somehow, he's able to not only draw critical lines and thread massive barrels, but look undaunted while he's doing it. The El Niño winter saw Layer push himself to new heights at the wave, nabbing himself Best Barrel at the 2016 SURFER Awards. Photo: Pompermeyer

Damien Hobgood has been a regular in California’s heaviest lineups for the last few years, and he never fails to impress with his calm in the crucible. “This year the winds were an issue in Northern California,” says Hobgood. “But I was still able to surf some spots that I’ve never seen break before, and I saw familiar waves break in ways that I didn’t think was possible.” When Mavericks did clean up, the conditions were as good as it gets, and Hobgood was there to nab this glassy beauty.
Photo: Pompermeyer

Dion Agius is a man of many talents, whether it's high-flying aerial surfing, or surrealist surf filmmaking. Hell, he even gave slab surfing a go this year, stroking into some ugly-looking waves at Shipsterns, on his home coast of Tasmania. You can call Agius many things, but predictable is not one of them. Photo: Bannehr

“That was my first real session at Mavericks,” says Maui-based waterman Kai Lenny. “But a lot of the Mavericks locals had been surfing Jaws all winter, so when they saw us Maui guys roll up on a boat, they were super encouraging. When we first saw the waves this day, it was so heavy and hollow we couldn’t get our boards ready fast enough.” Photo: Pompermeyer

Few people know the anatomy and behavior of heavy barrels better than the North Shore's own Nathan Florence, pictured here somewhere amid a firehose blast of spray. "The inhales in the barrels that day were out of control, especially at Off The Wall," says Florence. "My face was stinging the rest of the session." Photo: Russo

At significant size, there are few waves in the world more impactful than Cloudbreak. During a monster swell in May of 2016, Dane Gudauskas made the journey to Fiji and found himself on one of the best waves of his life. “It was glowing blue; everything was blue,” Dane said about the wave in a recent SURFER profile. “I came out a blue person.” Photo: Glaser

Speed blurs are most striking when one element is in clear focus and everything around it seems to be moving in fast forward. This image of Matahi Drollet uses a slow shutter speed to communicate what most images of the break cannot, which is just how fast and ferocious a wave at Teahupoo actually feels. Photo: Thouard

In the fall of 2015, California surfers collectively crossed their fingers, hoping the surf produced by the 2015-'16 El Niño would reach the high bar set during the winter of 1997–’98. Fast-forward to the spring and Californians were fixing broken boards, catching up on unread emails, and apologizing to loved ones, completely surfed out after the relentless barrage of swell. From San Diego to Ventura (pictured here, and on the cover of our El Niño issue) and beyond, endless corduroy lines created the kind of surftopia that rivals the best-ever California winters. Photo: Woodworth