Welcome to the latest iteration of Teen Age, an issue we first created back in 2012. It was then, five years ago, that we conducted the original under-20 Peer Poll and John John Florence won Best Overall. Rounding out the Top 5 that year? Conner Coffin, Kolohe Andino, Gabriel Medina and Evan Geiselman. Four guys that are now on the CT (one with a world title) and another that will be there soon. Impressive list, we know.
Consider the Peer Poll SURFING's version of the Teen Choice Awards, except it only happens once every two years. This year we cast the widest net yet, with over 150 kids participating. We didn't give them lists or prompts or multiple choice answers. We simply asked them to write down their Top 5 in nine categories, and then we tallied up the results. And while those that topped each division in the polls didn't win a trophy, medal, check or promotion, they definitely won respect. And the best type of respect: The respect of their peers.
And is anything more important?
According to Leo Fioravanti, this year's Best Overall (not to mention Most Powerful and Biggest Ladykiller), the answer is no.
"I'm super stoked that all my friends and competitors and rivals who I compete against and surf with actually voted for me, and it really means a lot. To have your peers vote for you is probably the biggest honor out there. I think it's really cool that it wasn't just the magazine choosing everything."
Being a biennial feature, 2016 is only the third time we've conducted the Peer Poll. But since we first created it so much has changed. And fast. Take Leo, for example. Two years ago when we did this issue he was our little-known and up-and-coming "Threat," and now he's taking top honors amongst his peers while also knocking on the CT's door.
It used to be you watched a young surfer's career slowly take shape. Kolohe, for example. He was known at 9. An NSSA star at 12. A teen wonder a few years later. But these days, kids can go from obscurity to stardom in a matter of months. Like Ethan Ewing. In June, Ethan was a relatively unknown 17-year-old Australian that barely found his way to third place in Most Underrated in our Polls. But one month, one banger web edit and one second-place finish at the US Open of Surfing later and Ethan's name would definitely be in the Best Overall conversation if we were conducting the polls right now.
And that's rad. More kids than ever are surfing better than they ever have before, and that bodes well for our sport. Thanks to the Internet and Instagram, kids like Bronson Meidy — a 12-year-old from Indonesia — are able to study and recreate the moves of the best surfers around the world. Seriously, the kid is doing backflips already. Look him up.
Teen Age is the place to get introduced to and acquainted with the surfers that will be dominating for decades to come. It's also a place to soak up some youthful exuberance while you're at it.
Editor-at-large Taylor Paul sums up that teenage enthusiasm with this excerpt from his feature starting on Pg. 76, a narrative from our yearly trip with the best 14-year-olds on the planet. "The only thing that's happening on this earth is Grom Games. Is this day. This event. This wave. This barrel. This air. This. Very. Moment. Drink it in. This is the joy of youth." —Zander Morton