Past SURFER Poll Winners
PHIL EDWARDS (1963)
By the early ’60s, Californian Phil Edwards was widely regarded as the best surfer in the world. In a surfscape dominated by trim and flow, his early commitment to powerful on-rail surfing, combined with elegant grace, set him apart. In 1962 he became the first surfer to successfully ride the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, and for the following half-decade his skills and exploits continued to affirm that he was one of the sport’s brightest stars. Even after stepping away from the limelight during the shortboard revolution, Edwards’ athletic presence, powerful approach and commitment to performance continued to influence the very best among surfing’s elite.
MIKE DOYLE (1964 – 1965)
An amazing free-surfer, adept competitor, champion paddleboarder and freakishly skilled tandem rider, there was little in the realm of surf that Mike Doyle couldn’t master. His well-rounded portfolio, amiable personality and archetypal image made him one of the early icons in the pages of the magazines, and after a second-place finish at the World Surfing Championships in 1964, he enjoyed a two-year stint at the top of the SURFER Poll ranks.
JOYCE HOFFMAN (1964 – 1967)
When the SURFER Poll added a women’s division in 1964, Capistrano Beach’s Joyce Hoffman was an obvious choice. The stepdaughter of big-wave pioneer Walter Hoffman, Joyce was fiercely competitive. She won the women’s world title in ’65 and ’66, was the only woman at the time to ride Sunset routinely, and became the first woman to tackle Pipe in 1968. After the advent of the shortboard revolution, however, she quietly stepped out of the public’s eye. Even after professional life, she remained around surfing and surfers. She is related to Flippy Hoffman, Herbie Fletcher and his sons Christian and Nathan.
DAVID NUUHIWA (1966)
David Nuuhiwa’s noseriding skills built the foundations of his reputation, but it was his ability to transition from longboards to short that solidified him as a vital force well into the ’70s. Graceful and regal, Nuuhiwa represented the pinnacle of surf style in 1966 when he won the SURFER Poll award, but this paradigm was soon shifted by the aggressive approach of Nat Young, who kicked off the opening stages of the shortboard revolution that same year.
CORKY CARROLL (1967)
There are few names that could be as synonymous with our sport as Corky Carroll. He was the original pro surfer, winning the first cash-prizes in the 60s and picking up endorsements, which turned his hobby into a career that would change surfing forever. Although his competitive accomplishments were many (he was a three time winner of the United States Surfing Championships), it was his ambition to change the sport and larger-than-life personality that cemented his place in surfing’s history.
MARGO GODFREY-OBERG (1968-69, 1978, 1980-81)
A teenage phenomenon and 1968 world champ, Margo Godfrey-Oberg took the competitive surfing world by storm during the late ’60s, until a second-place finish at the 1970 World Championships caused her to drop from the scene. She retired in 1970, before even finishing high school, only to stage a comeback in 1975, which lead to both Hawaiian big-wave prowess and competitive success. She won the women’s world title race in 1977, 1980 and 1981, and then retired permanently from full-time competition at 29 years of age.
NAT YOUNG (1968)
By 1968, the surfing public had caught on to movements at the vanguard of the sport. This made Australian Nat Young an obvious selection for the SURFER Poll. After firing the opening shot of the shortboard revolution during the 1966 World Championships in Ocean Beach, he continued to push the shift from its forefront in both Hawaii and Australia. Afterwards, in the ’70s, Young went underground, only to reemerge a few years later. Today, he continues to serve as a guiding light for surfers worldwide and is considered one of the most influential riders of our time.
JOCK SUTHERLAND (1969)
Ahead of Lopez, Sutherland was the first real tuberiding phenomenon of the shortboard era. At a point in history when flux was present in all walks of American society, including surfing, Sutherland embodied the open-minded and experimental spirit of the times. This trait, along with his exploits behind the curtain, earned him top honors in the SURFER Poll in 1969.
SHAUN TOMSON (1978)
South African Shaun Tomson’s approach to tuberiding in the late ’70s revolutionized the act. In 1977 he became the second-ever champion of the fledgling IPS World Tour, and this achievement, combined with his already well-established image, boosted him to stratospheric heights among SURFER’s readers.
LYNNE BOYER (1979)
Explosive and fast, Hawaiian Lynne Boyer was often described as the female Larry Bertlemann. A world champion in 1978 and 1979, she was the chief rival of Godfrey-Oberg, who, during that era, had also hit her competitive stride. During the early ’80s, Boyer struggled with substance-abuse problems and slipped away from professional life, but she overcame her difficulties in the years that followed and continues to surf recreationally to this day.
MARK RICHARDS (1979 – 1981)
During the late ’70s and early ’80s, Mark Richards’ run of four world titles made him the most prominent figure in the sport. Riding and popularizing the twin-fin, Richards’ vertical and explosive lines represented the pinnacle of the Free Ride Generation’s performance mark. His last world title came in 1982, one year after the advent of the Thruster, and he retired from full-time competition that same year.
CHEYNE HORAN (1983)
Australian Cheyne Horan spent much of his competitive career in the shadow of Mark Richards, finishing second on the world tour three times behind the four-time world champ. He was, however, an electrifying surfer and an interesting character, much loved by the surfing public and the media for the bulk of his career.
DEBBIE BEACHAM (1983)
A win at Bells, the opening women’s event of the season, helped propel Debbie Beacham to the top of the world title podium in 1982. A functional and capable surfer, she won the SURFER Poll the following year and then transitioned into an organizational and promotional role in the women’s surf world.
KIM MEARIG (1984)
Tom Curren and Al Merrick both fostered Kim Mearig during her early years. A classmate of Curren’s, Mearig displayed the polish normally associated with Santa Barbara style and rode her skills to a world title in 1983. In the years that followed, top-five and runner-up finishes were the norm for her on tour, and after a highly successful competitive career, she retired in 1991.
TOM CARROLL (1984)
Tom Carroll’s two-year run as world champion in ’83 and ’84 cemented him as one of the most dynamic surfers of the time. A phenomenal tuderider and savagely powerful surfer, Carroll was the first of his peers to step away from the shadow of the Free Ride Generation by fully reaping the benefits offered in the Thruster’s design.
FRIEDA ZAMBA (1985 – 1989)
Competitive domination is an apt description of Frieda Zamba’s career during the mid-to-late ’80s. Between 1984 and 1988 she won four world titles, and during that time she also chalked up five straight SURFER Polls. The first of the Floridian champions, Zamba set the stage for other Sunshine Staters to come, and was a key link in the chain that connected the East Coast to its emerging competitive respect.
TOM CURREN (1985 – 1992)
Before Kelly Slater, Tom Curren was the surfer by which all others were judged. His fluidity, power and competitive achievements set him on a pedestal that remained the loftiest in surfing, even after he won his last world title in 1990. And while his clashes with Mark Occhilupo during the ’80s are now legend, Curren’s competitive success seemed largely to come from his natural talent, and not a deeply rooted competitive flame. Even after disappearing from the contest realm, Curren’s allure continued to capture the minds of SURFER’s readership well into the early ’90s and beyond.
WENDY BOTHA (1990 – 1991, 1993)
Outspoken and at times brash, South African Wendy Botha picked up where Frieda Zamba left off. She won four world titles during the late ’80s and early ’90s, and set a competitive high-water mark for the most victories in a single season.
LISA ANDERSEN (1992, 1994 – 1999)
The most influential female surfer of all time, Lisa Andersen’s presence throughout the ’90s and into the 21st century has set new standards of power, speed and grace. With a fluid yet explosive style, Andersen won four world titles during the mid-to-late ’90s. Her influence on young women everywhere is directly tied to the boom currently underway in women’s surfing.
KELLY SLATER (1993 – 2001, 2004 – 2013)
Since 1993, ten-time world champion Kelly Slater has won a total of 19 SURFER Poll Awards. Unquestionably the most dominant competitive surfer to ever grace the tour, Slater’s prowess rests not in heat-driven achievements alone. For more than a decade and a half, his free-surfing has continually redefined what is possible on a board, and now, surrounded by younger and even more progressive peers, he continues to set standards of performance. The most recognizable and well-liked surfer on the planet, Slater is the only male to reclaim the top position in the SURFER Poll after relinquishing it.
ROCHELLE BALLARD (2000 – 2002)
While Australian Layne Beachley dominated these years on tour, Rochelle Ballard captured the imagination of SURFER readers with her tuberiding. Her bravado behind the curtain, and likable personality handed her three SURFER Poll wins.
ANDY IRONS (2002 – 2003)
Irons’ three world titles and Triple Crown achievements have made him the most celebrated surfer of his generation. Powerful, smooth, fearless and progressive, he possesses the full package of today’s state of the art. A fiercely competitive presence, Irons has proven to be the foil Slater lacked through much of his career, and as a result, their clashes have come to invoke the hysteria of the Occhilupo/Curren era. After winning his first world title in 2002, Irons legitimized the achievement with another title win the following year during an extremely tight points race with Kelly Slater. The deciding factor came when the two met during the finals at Pipe, where Irons won both the heat and the 2003 championship.
LAYNE BEACHLEY (2003 – 2004)
Seven-time world champion Layne Beachley is the most competitively dominant surfer to ever grace the women’s world tour. Her competitive success is backed up by and attributed to her big-wave and Hawaiian accomplishments. A Triple Crown winner and Sunset standout, Beachley set the benchmark in women’s surfing for years.
SOFIA MULANOVICH (2005 – 2008)
Easily the most dominant competitive surfer to ever come out of Latin America, Sofia Mulanovich has been an inspiration to girls around the world. After entering the international arena in 1998, she qualified for the WCT after two seasons on the WQS. Sofia’s breakout year came in 2004, when she won the ASP Women’s world title breaking Layne Beachley’s string of six consecutive wins. The following year, in 2005, Sofia won her first SURFER Poll.
STEPHANIE GILMORE (2009-2010, 2012, 2014)
The Gold Coast of Australia is the home of storied champion surfers—think Occy, Parko, Egan, Fanning—but the winningest surfer of the lot is a perpetually smiling blond regular-footer named Steph. Since she first paddled out as a teenage wildcard at the 2006 Roxy Pro and totally dominated the competition, women’s professional surfing has been a foregone conclusion. Steph won the 2009 SURFER Poll in conjunction with her third ASP World Title, and her stranglehold on women’s surfing seems hard to break.
CARISSA MOORE (2011, 2015-2017)
After one of the most successful amateur surf careers ever, Carissa Moore graduated to the big leagues with a bang. In 2011, she collected three ASP World Tour wins and ultimately earned herself the title of the youngest-ever ASP World Champion at just 18 years old.
ALANA BLANCHARD (2013, 2018)
Hawaiian pro surfer, former World Tour surfer and current vlog star, Blanchard was born in 1990 in Princeville, Kauai, and began surfing with her father in the shorebreak near Hanalei Pier at age four. By nine she was a regular junior competitor (along with best friend and soon-to-be famous shark attack victim Bethany Hamilton), and at 15 she got her first taste of surf industry stardom following her win in the 2005 T&C Surf Women’s Pipeline contest, where she beat some of the top-ranked female pros. Today she spends much of her time juggling her surf career with raising her first child alongside partner and fellow pro surfer Jack Freestone, which is documented in the couple’s vlog.
JOHN FLORENCE (2014-2018)
The Hawaiian wunderkind was the first to dethrone Kelly Slater from his 10-year-long SURFER poll reign, and did so justifiably. Having grown up across from Pipeline, Florence was primed to become the most adept and stylish barrel-rider of the current generation. At 13, he was the youngest to vie for the Triple Crown of Surfing, and since his debut, he’s produced viral webclip after viral webclip full of progressive aerial maneuvers and perfectly executed tube rides. Florence captured his maiden World Title on the WCT in 2016 and backed it up with another in 2017.