Now, ain’t this a contentious topic: Who, on this earth, rides the barrel better than any other? Comfort, style and braves rolled into one to form a near-infallible skill set. Undoubtedly, this’ll pique the ire of those who think such things can’t be measured. Big barrels and small barrels and thick barrels are all different! How can you compare? To minimise the subjectivity of just one man’s choice, we asked 18 of our favourite pros.
There were clear favourites, some darkhorses and the occasional wildcard. But, for the most part, number one spot came down to two men. And boy, was it a close divide. “I can’t go past John John because he finds exits to closeouts,” said Joel Parkinson. “The rest of us have to find doggy doors and exits out the front. He just has this strong stance that bulldogs the chandeliers and whatever’s thrown at him.” Joel’s good pal, Mick Fanning, summed-up the other school of thought: “Number one, Kelly. He has such good contact with his board and the waves, and he makes the subtle adjustments at the perfect time.” But, if it’s any indicator, Mick’s number two was John (“He’s so relaxed in the heavy situations and lets the wave dictate his speed – very talented.”) Kala Alexander’s justification of this choice was noteworthy: “I see John at every wave in the world that Kelly surfs. And he’s just as good as Kelly. Because Kelly didn’t paddle out at 20 foot Cloudbreak and surf, I never got to see how Kelly was out there. That’s why I say John John is better. John surfed for six hours that day.”
Jamie O’Brien was always gonna be a favourite and he scooped third, quite convincingly. “I still think Jamie’s the best out Pipe,” said Mick. “The way he gets so stuck to the face on the massive ones is uncanny. His selection out there is amazing, too.” Interestingly, on his own list, Jamie injected the biggest wildcard by including Tahitian Heiarii Williams.
Andy Irons was a big hitter, of course, and deservedly so. Our aim was to make a current list, compiling the best in the barrel right now, so AI gets the most honourable of mentions. Brother Bruce, however, was there to fly the flag, and scooped number four. “Bruce’s tube style is my favourite of em all,” said Conner Coffin. Joel shared a similar sentiment: “Bruce at Teahupoo in 2011 was phenomenal. Not just in the huge stuff. When it was four feet and smaller, he was just ridiculous.”
Biggest darkhorse? Josh Kerr, at number five. Again, Mick explains why: “He always backs himself in every situation and has great skill when riding the foam balls and taking off under the lips.” Chippa Wilson dug Josh, too: “After his performances in Hawaii this season, I’d say Kerrzy in third.” Makes sense! And, true! But, enough of that, don’tchya wanna see the surfer picks?
The Top Five Best Tuberiders In The World Right Now (As chosen by their peers)
1. John John Florence
2. Kelly Slater
3. Jamie O’Brien
4. Bruce Irons
5. Josh Kerr