The Top 9 Headlines Of 2008

Nine!? Why Nine? Aren't these annual wrap-ups always even numbers--5, 10, possibly 20? Either that or "12 and 5/8 Reasons to Celebrate '08" - some weird, digit ripped off a stringer and custom-built to catch your eye.

Sorry. We're surfers first. Mag-dudes second. And there's no bigger news for surfers this year than Kelly's ninth title (just see below.) Besides, these lists are inherently contests anyway: a subjective competition among individual players (the articles) ultimately ranked by a bunch of judges (the editors), with who wins generally coming down to a matter of taste and opinion. The difference between us and this year's title race? You can't be so sure of who'll make the final until it's over. So keep reading.

Kelly Slater celebrates his 9th world title


"Yesterday [Kelly] flatly stated that he's not going to Bells, but as Andy said yesterday, that doesn't mean anything." That quote comes straight from Kelly's first win at 2009 Quiksilver Pro. And it was the only time you'd want to bet on Andy over Kelly this year. Hard to believe, but despite his repeated wolf cries of "I'm done" over the past decade -- here's one from 1999, just for kicks -- we still sort of believed him. And maybe that's why Slater went on to win five more events and a record ninth world title. Meanwhile, a slew of other pros screamed "stop the world tour, I want to get off." First it was brother Bruce crying Uncle - taking his maiden CT victory with him. And then there was Ben Bourgeois' decision to hang up his jerseyafter a virtual lifetime of competition. Seven-time women's champ Layne Beachley officially said 'aloha' in Hawaii. Now even Andy's saying he'll possibly take a break. So who'll be the guy to keep Kelly motivated to keep kicking ass? Don't worry: there's a fresh 44 aiming to stop Slater at nine in '09.

Mavericks escapes the pwc ban…for now


Fuel up fast. Come February, the days of snagging 60-foot XXL contenders at {{{Ghost}}} Tree or whipping into the tube of your life at Moss Landing are over. In November, the {{{Monterey}}} Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) closed a loophole in the laws governing the use of personalized watercraft in the Sanctuary. Translation: Jet Ski dudes are now barred everywhere from Monterey to Half Moon Bay. The good news? They also added a seasonal fifth "MPWC" operating zone at Maverick's jut in time for Pillar point to produce one of the best paddle-in sessions on record. Meanwhile, half away around the world, Grant 'Twiggy' Baker won the 10th Annual Red Bull Big Wave Africa under his own power in August, at some of the biggest Dungeon's ever seen. Meaning, even with gas prices below two bucks, the big wave paddle battle will burn even harder this winter.

Stepping up to stop the toll road


Activists rejoiced this year as Trestles surfers finally declared victory over the Toll Road. But it wasn't easy, relying on a 3000-strong rally in February. Another smaller one in September. And there was even talk of one more display of strength next year until the big news came down in late December. But the forces that threaten our beaches are relentless. And they're not always big polluters, as back in North Carolina issues surrounding beach driving in Cape Hatteras pitted environmentalists against surfers and fishermen all summer long. One thing that became clear in 2008: even with a freshly elected Bodysurfer In Chief we all need to do more to protect every break. (Which is why we launched, as a research tool for surfers everywhere. ) And we'll keep celebrating International Surfing Day so every God-given wave remains clean and accessible. (Lord know we won't be making them ourselves any time soon. )

Google Earth scores in Africa


"For the last two years, the only break in the world I’ve thought about has been a remote, sandy point jutting into the ocean on the edge of the desolate wilds of the African desert." So says Brian Gable, winner of our second annual Google Earth Challenge. This summer, those two years paid off with 20-second tubes for Hank Gaskell, Peter Mendia and Cory Lopez after a highly successful trip to Skeleton Bay. Unfortunately, not all our adventures could prove so fruitful, as Associate Editor Andrew Lewis discovered in Alaska. (That was about all he discovered.) And Managing Editor Travis Ferre drained more bottles than barrels while training through Europe. Meanwhile, a a trip to Uruguay saw daily sessions in a normally not-so-firing zone. Proof it pays to keep guessing.

Carissa Moore cashes in with her million-dollar smile


1 + 1 + 1= $750k. Or so the math went this November when Carissa Moore signed a new contract with Nike, Red Bull and a still undisclosed department store adding up to "one of the most lucrative contacts in female pro surfing history." Why is this bigger news than Stephanie Gilmore's second title? Maybe because everyone saw that one coming - even if she didn't. Either way, we may finally have a clear reason for Peter Drouyn's decision to change sexes. Money. Look for him . . .er, we mean ...her to come out charging stronger than ever on next season's tour.

Damien Hobgood


Not financially. (Although the past three years of injures have certainly hurt his contest winnings.) But the big crunch here was Damien Hobgood's shoulder injury in April, after getting sucked over the falls at Teahupo'o, forcing him to pull out of the Billabong Pro. (Although he did briefly consider giving it a go.) Fortunately, he performed well enough to finish the season in Hawaii fully requalified for 2009 - and in one piece. Not so lucky was Aamion Goodwin, who wrecked his knee on a particularly nasty Pipe day, while Dave Rastovich hit his tailbone. Meanwhile, Jordy Smith couldn't surf the Masters after tearing his MCL at Sunset, while Dane Reynolds' — who broke his ankle in France — limped his way into Round 2 before going down. Both of surfing's hottest young stars will be back in '09, but it was Dane who took Rookie of the Year by - as usual — looking like he couldn't care less where he landed.

Kolohe Andino at the NSSA Nationals


Talk about the old "in-and-out." Surfing America's tumultuous year started in March with the NSSA breaking ranks and going solo, adding another chapter to their stormy romance. By November, the two organizations were back in love , "joining forces to help achieve greater international results for American athletes." They were about a month late though, as the US team already took silver in the ISA World Games - their best result since 1996 - with {{{CJ}}} Hobgood stealing the Men's gold to cap a winning season that saw the formerly slumping twin win just about everything else this fall and winter. Besides the Billabong Pro Mundaka CJ took the six-star O'Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach — the first goofyfoot champ in more than 10 years. Just goes to show, if you really want to spice things up, you bring in some twins.

Hurricane Hannah


"On Bertha! On Gustav! On Hanna! On Ike!" If it sounds like a holiday cheer, that's because this tropical season was a holiday to cheer for. Hell, watching Kyle light up the Outer Banks was enough to make Kelly to stop talking world titles and start talking Hatteras trips, a spot that kept spinning even when the tropics weren't. The only folks who weren't happy were the parking police near S-Turns and - of course - the folks in Galveston which got smashed by Ike. Nonetheless, you can expect Atlantic surfers to wake up early next year to see what unwraps.

On the scene in Solana Beach


A flooded boat. A 5km swim. A night on a snake-infested island. That's just the bullet-points from Dean Morrison and the Harrington Brothers' psychodrama version of a three-hour tour. But, while it may be the strangest Weekly World News of 2008, it was hardly the nastiest. After all, this is the year where a fishing trawler wrecked on the reef of Padang Padang just before its first ever WCT event and a tri-athlete can suffer a fatal shark attack while training off Solana Beach. Then there's weirdest story of all: the one about the Cocoa Beach pipsqueak who grew up to be the biggest pro in surfing history. (But who'd ever believe that one?)