Stab Surfer of the Year 2023: John John Florence, Griffin Colapinto, Al Cleland Jr., Jacob “Zeke” Szekely, Taro Watanabe - Stab Mag

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Stab Surfer of the Year 2023: John John Florence, Griffin Colapinto, Al Cleland Jr., Jacob “Zeke” Szekely, Taro Watanabe

Day 8/10: Move over, there’s a 2x World Champ coming through.

premium // Jan 6, 2024
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 14 minutes

Welcome to the beginning of the end. 

Day 7 has come and gone and 2x World Champ Filipe Toledo took over the number one spot, sending Ethan Ewing and Nathan Florence into their respective 2nd and 3rd positions. Caity Simmers has essentially won SSOTY ’23 and Russ Bierke’s mouth-opener “Outer Edge of Leisure” has solidified its place as Edit of the Year. We might as well just start carving the trophy now and that BitCoin now. The jury is still out in the rest of the categories, save Best Junior: Male, where Hughie Vaughan appears he cannot be touched. Who doesn’t love a smiling, charging rascal grom? 

Tomorrow will feature the last of the surfer votes and the deciding Day 10 is passed to you, our Stab Premium Members. Will you all shake up any of the aforementioned sure-things? Time will tell. 

The leaderboard after Day 7 is as stands.

Stab Surfer of the Year Leaderboard

Best Male 

1. Filipe Toledo – 57
2. Ethan Ewing – 54
3. Nathan Florence – 50
4. Harry Bryant – 45
=5. Noa Deane – 32
=5. Griffin Colapinto – 32
7. Mason Ho – 27
8. John John Florence – 26
9. Russell Bierke – 22
=10. Mikey Wright – 16
=10. Yago Dora – 16
=10. Shaun Manners – 16
13. Cole Houshmand – 13
14. Al Cleland Jr. – 11
15. Joao Chianca – 10

Best Female 

1. Caity Simmers – 111
2. Carissa Moore – 58
3. Caroline Marks – 51
4. Stephanie Gilmore – 48
5. Moana Jones-Wong – 44
6. Molly Picklum – 35
7. Sierra Kerr – 26
=8. Laura Enever – 25
=8. Coco Ho – 25
=10. Frankie Harrer – 21
=10. Jaleesa Vincent – 21
12. Erin Brooks – 20
13. Justine Dupont – 9
14. Vahine Fierro – 8
=15. Tatiana Weston-Webb – 4
=15. Bethany Hamilton – 4

Best Junior: Male

1. Hughie Vaughan – 12 
=2. Legend Chandler – 3 
=2. Jackson Dorian – 3 

Best Junior: Female 

1. Erin Brooks – 13.5 
2. Sierra Kerr – 12.5 
3. Vaihitimahana Inso – 3

Edit of the Year 

1. “Outer Edge of Leisure” starring Russell Bierke – 12.5 
2. “Into Dust” starring Jacob Wilcox – 5
3. “Cult of Freedom: The Shaun Part” starring Shaun Manners – 3.5

Film of the Year 

1. “Repeater” by Wade Carroll and Quiksilver – 9 
2. “Motel Hell” by Dav Fox and Harry Bryant – 7 
=3. “NOAH” by Andy Woodward and Noah Beschen – 4 
=3. “Smooch” by Jacob Vanderwork and Kolohe Andino – 4
=3. “Through the Doggy Door” by Alani Media – 4

Best YouTube

1. Ho and Pringle Productions – 11
2. Nathan Florence – 8 
3. Chapter 11  TV – 4
=4. Jacob Szekely “Zeke” – 2 
=4. The Raglan Surf Report – 2

SSOTY Day 8/10 features the likes of John John Florence, Griffin Colapinto, Al Cleland Jr., Jacob “Zeke” Szekely, and Taro Wantanabe. 

Head south.

John John Florence

Best Male 

1. Nathan Florence (5 points) 

It’s fun to watch someone so driven to get good waves. I watched him fly from Africa to Indo to Hawaii to get surgery on his elbow straight off the plane, then pack up two days later and fly back to Africa. And all just to score good waves! I love it.

2. Filipe Toledo (4 points)

The guy is so quick! So much fun to watch him surf heats. I feel like the last few years he’s really relaxed into being himself, and being himself on a wave. I think that’s really hard to do especially while competing (and being so consistent with it). So stoked for him, he really deserves those titles! 

3. Yago Dora (3 points)

I’ve known Yago for a long time, he’s a really impressive surfer. He’s a real ‘surfers surfer.’ Any conditions, great style, kind and humble. It was awesome to see him breakthrough and get a win on the WT this year. 

4. Ivan Florence (2 points) 

The guy is just so much fun to watch surf, he reads a wave unlike anyone else. I really enjoy watching him draw different lines than everyone around him. And he does it with style.

5. Griffin Colapinto (1 point)

I’ve had fun spending more and more time with Griffin, on tour and around Team USA. He’s got a hilarious personality, and is such a great surfer. You can tell he’s determined to continue to grow, and take those next steps. It’ll be fun to see where he takes his surfing next. 

Best Female 

1. Carissa Moore (5 points) 

Riss is just such an incredible surfer and she has such a great read on the ocean. She’s had a couple close ones the last couple years but her surfing in all conditions has been incredible. 

2. Caroline Marks (4 points) 

Watching her on tour is always so fun. Her approach is unique, and I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. But I always see her pushing forward, building resilience, and putting on amazing performances. Look at what she did in the finals! So impressive, such sharp surfing. Not afraid to put everything into her turns. I enjoy watching Caroline, and hanging with her. Excited to be on Team USA with her!

3. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (3 points)

It’s been fun getting to surf with Bettylou more often. She is a great surfer and is so driven. It’s really cool to see the next generation want to win so bad, and work so hard to do it. Her timing on her frontside is next level. She’s going to be a force in the next few years!

4. Moana Jones-Wong (2 point)

The way she surfs Pipeline should inspire for generations to come. We’re watching her break barriers, and ride waves with relative ease. It’s a pleasure to share the lineup with her. Not to mention, she’s a great person. That’s the main reason you see our whole community rally behind her. 

5. Caity Simmers (1 point) 

She had a seriously impressive year on tour. Hard to come on tour as a rookie and have that sort of impact against seasoned WT competitors. I’m excited to see how she chooses to balance her surfing and WT career. 

Best Junior: Male 

Jackson Bunch* (1 point)

I like the way Jackson surfs. I think he’s poised and makes really good decisions. Excited to watch his career take shape. 

Best Junior: Female 

Sierra Kerr (1 point) 

I’m having a lot of fun watching Sierra push the boundaries. Her airs are seriously impressive. She is also riding really good waves. I think her surfing and her approach will inspire her generation and the next to keep pushing the limits.

Edit of the Year

 N/A

Film of the Year

“NOAH” by Andy Woodward and Noah Beschen (.5 points) & “Calypte” Ishka Folkwell and Torren Martyn (.5 points)

Best YouTube

Nathan Florence (1 point) 

(See above)

*unfortunately Jackson is over 18 and his points will not be counted towards Best Junior: Male

Griffin Colaptino

Best Male 

1. Filipe Toledo (5 points) 

He’s super well-rounded. I think he does a good job combining that flow aspect with high performance. I feel like there was a period where he was doing crazy moves and a bunch of hopping in between, but he’s been able to clean that up and make it look so smooth. 

2. Crosby Colapinto (4 points )

He’s frickin’ tapped. He’s really well-rounded too. No one’s really seen it yet, but once he’s on tour, they’ll see how good he is at barrel riding. 

3. Ethan Ewing (3 points)

His style is insane. It’s the best style of our generation. 

4. Jack Robinson (2 points)

He’s also super well-rounded. Good barrel riding, and he can do huge airs and good turns and he’s super good under pressure. 

5. Cole Houshmand (1 point)

He’s the biggest pro surfer we’ve ever seen. He has good style and sometimes those huge guys look weird, but he’s huge and does airs and I think he’s going to be really fun to watch on tour. 

Best Female

1. Caity Simmers (5 points)

She’s got super sick style and does airs and is fricking super cool. She won two events on her first year on tour, she charges and has good posture in the barrel. 

2. Sierra Kerr (4 points)

I feel like her, Caity and Molly are stepping it up. She has a really good air game. 

3. Molly Picklum (3 points)

Her backside barrel riding at the Pipe Masters was so good. 

4. Caroline Marks (2 points)

I think that her surfing is pretty core. 

5. Carissa Moore (1 point)

She’s just super gnarly and resilient. She keeps coming back and being dominant. She pretty much won the title. 

Best Junior: Male

Cannon Carr (1 point)

He’s been getting better. He used to hop too much, but now he’s not [laughs]. 

Best Junior: Female 

Erin Brooks (1 point)

She’s just tapped. 

Edit of the Year 

“Greenhorn” starring Judd Henkes (1 point)

I like the snowboarding surfing combination. It’s insane. 

Film of the Year 

“Smooch” by Jacob Vanderwork and Kolohe Andino (1 point)

I think it’s sick that the boys are able to all get clips and have parts and put it all down in a one movie. 

Best YouTube

2% (1 point)

Al Cleland Jr.

Best Male

1. Rolo Montes (5 points)

I picked him number one because he reminds me a lot of Dane Reynolds surfing and style. Everything he does, you don’t know what he’s going to do until he does it. And he’s just the biggest legend in the world. 

2.  Kael Walsh (4 points)

He’s one of the most unorthodox surfers I’ve ever met. He can do one of the biggest airs you’ve ever seen in your life or turn around and go under the lip on a 12 footer on a 6’0 shortboard. He so gnarly from two-foot to every big slab in Australia and around the world. 

3. Mikey Wright (3 points)

He is one of the gnarliest surfers around, for sure. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to for a while and he just gets it done. Every time I’m surfing with him and I see a gnarly wave that I’m like ‘that’s kind of sketch’, he’ll be further inside of me and turning around and going. He has no regard of giving a fuck about what could happen. He will send it on any wave or any kind of day. 

4. Rolando Stanley (2 points) 

He’s somebody that’s impressed me a lot. We grew up together and this year, he’s been on a tear. We’ve been surfing 10-12-foot days at home and he’s been getting it done.

5. Noa Deane (1 point) 

He’s another guy that I’ve looked up to for a while. He’s gnarly. We’ve all seen the videos and everything he does, and he’s super chill and respectful in and out of the water. If a bomb comes, he’s not scared to turn and go. He’ll hit an eight-foot section like it’s a two-foot section. 

Best Female 

1. Caity Simmers (5 points) 

Caity’s been on a tear on the CT and she’s really impressed me. She has rail game, air game and barrels. I’ve seen her get pretty shacked. 

2. Stephanie Gilmore (4 points) 

Caity and Steph remind me how style and everything should be part of surfing. Steph’s probably the best girl surfer in the world and she’s shown it time and time again. Watching her surf makes you want to go and form out like she does.

3. Erin Brooks (3 points) 

She’s literally one of the smallest girls in the surf industry and then she goes out and looks like a guy ripping. She does full rotations, gets shacked and she’s throwing out the tail pretty much every time she gets a section.

4. Molly Picklum (2 points)

She’s insane out at Pipe. Her backside barreling riding is insane to watch. She puts herself out there and sends it under the lip and airdrops into barrels. 

5. Noah Klapp (1 point) 

She’s this girl from Germany but now lives in California. She has insane rail game and her style is insane. I tried to put some bigger names on here, but I wanted to put some underground names that not a lot of people have heard about. Because when I see that when I’m surfing, I think that’s fucking sick. 

Best Junior: Male 

Hughie Vaughan (1 point) 

I got to know Hughie and his family and have got to travel with them and share some good times with them. Hughie looks like a straight grom but then he’ll paddle out when it’s 10-foot and get a bomb. He’s someone that I feel like sooner or later will be on the CT. 

Best Junior: Female 

Sierra Kerr (1 point) 

She’s so gnarly in the air, she’s so gnarly in the barrel and just at everything. She has every trick in her bag and she’s not scared to turn and go on a fucking proper one at Chopes. 

Edit of the Year 

“Outer Edge of Leisure” starring Russell Bierke (1 point) 

That was one that really impressed me. There’s not a lot of guys who can go out and surf like that from 6-to-30-foot. That edit was one of the sickest things I’ve ever seen. 

Film of the Year 

Repeater by Wade Carroll and Quiksilver (1 points) 

For me, it brought it back to the 90s and it showed everyone that this is how it should be. I feel like Repeater was kind of something that’s gone away in surfing. 

Best YouTube

Nathan Florence (1 point) 

That’s one of the sickest YouTubes. He travels the world to surf slabs and the way he shows you around and tells you what the deal is is cool. A lot of his videos have taught me about big wave surfing.

Jacob “Zeke” Szekely

Best Male 

1. Skip McCullough (5 points)

In a world full of lies, Skip is the Truth! He works his ass off for months at a time running his own construction company, then takes time off and chases huge swells to get super barreled! He’s hilarious, and the best guy to have on a surf trip! He’ll surf all day with no food or water. He surfs so damn good in all conditions, but on this last major swell in California, He showed the world why he is in a league of his own when it comes to big barrels and solid surf. He rewrote the book out at the La Jolla reefs this year, and he’s got some insane clips to show for it! Wait till his movie drops!

2. Kolohe Andino (4 points)

He fell off tour this year, and didn’t let that stop him from doin’ the most! He went and won some QS’s, then went and led the 2% crew to make a sick ass movie, and then Kolohe took all the kids on the sickest movie tour ever. All the groms got so laid at the movie premieres, and it’s all thanks to Kolohe for putting it all together! He’s single-handedly revitalizing the surf industry, and I saw him ripping so hard the other day at Oside!

3. Noa Deane (3 points)

His movie (Mash) was insane, and he’s just always been one of my favorite free surfers, He goes hard in the paint, and has good taste in music.

4. Griffin Colapinto (2 points)

He killed it on tour this year, and had a psycho section in the new Quiksilver movie! I watched him go off this year in some Lowers freesurf sessions too…

5. Ben Gravy (1 point)

He chases more swells than anyone, he rides the tube good, he surfs waves that no one else surfs, and he puts out more clips than anyone! He’s doing something unique and different, and he’s having fun doing it. He’s an inspiration!

Best Female 

1.  Caroline Marks (5 points) 

She came back from time off tour and smoked everyone at Lowers. I see her freesurfing around Cali and she just rips so damn hard.

2. Molly Picklum (4 points) 

She ripped this year, and I watched her get some crazy ones at Chopes on a freesurf trip. Plus, I love the airs she does.

3. Caity Simmers (3 points)

She’s kinda got a style of her own, and she killed it on tour this year as well as with a nuts edit! Can’t wait to see what she does in the next couple years.

4. Coco Ho (2 points) 

She’s an icon, she put out some sick clips this year, and I fuckin love watching her surf.

5. Zoë McDougall (1 point) 

She led our team to a Stab Highway Euro Championship, and she put out a sick ass edit this year, she fuckin rips and rides the tube better than most!

Best Junior: Male 

Cannon Carr (1 point) 

The grom had an insane part in the new 2% Movie (Smooch) and I watched him win the sickest tow-at contest this year, he shreds so hard and charges tubes as well. He’s the truth.

Best Junior: Female 

Sierra Kerr (1 point)

Her movie is insane and she rips so damn hard! I watched her paddle into a straight tow wave at Chopes and she sent it harder than any human I know. She’s next level. 

Edit of the Year

“Greenhorn” starring Judd Henkes (1 point) 

He’s A pro snowboarder who only gets to surf for like three months out of the year, and he comes home from crazy snow trips and just outsurfs all of us! And, he does nuts airs!

Film of the Year 

“Mash” by James Kates and Noa Deane (1 point)

He had the craziest tubes, biggest airs and the sickest music ever. It got me fired up!

Best YouTube

Jacob Szekely “Zeke” (1 point)

Definitely mine. Everyone else is too cookie cutter PG-13, soft and pussy shit! We’re OffTheChain! We’re SurfSkateMotoChicks, and we just have fun doin’ what we love.

Taro Watanabe

Best Male

1. John John Florence (5 points)

This might be recency bias, but seeing him in Hawaii and how much control he has is crazy. 

2. Filipe Toledo (4 points) 

He’s the world champ and was surfing amazing all year long. 

3. Creed McTaggart (3 points)

That Vacuum video that just came out was sick and he had some really good rail surfing in that which I liked. 

4. Levi Slawson (2 points)

He’s been killing it on the QS and he has a crazy edit coming out soon. He got some Indo clips at the start of the year that are next level. 

5. Nathan Florence (1 point)

The big waves he’s been getting this year, that’s crazy surfing. 

Best Female 

1. Caity Simmers (5 points)

She surfs unique and in her own way. She makes it look really fun and radical. 

2. Stephanie Gilmore (4 points)

I saw her at J-Bay this year and it was really impressive to see how she surfs out there. 

3. Caroline Marks (3 points)

At Lowers for the final five she was doing some of the best backside surfing I’ve ever seen from a woman. It was really sick. 

4. Carissa Moore (2 points) 

I see her surf a lot in Hawaii and she’s always surfing really well. 

5. Sierra Kerr (1 point)

She’s been on the North Shore, surfing Pipe and everything. She’s just doing really impressive surfing and charging. 

Best Junior: Male

Dane Matson (1 point)

He surfs pretty raw and it’s sick. Once he gets some power and matures more he’s going to be really, really good. 

Best Junior: Female 

Erin Brooks (1 point)

I’ve seen her surf a lot and she’s just really good. Also, seeing her send it at Pipe was pretty rad. 

Edit of the Year

“Bell Jar” starring Caity Simmers (1 point)

I love watching Caity surf. She gets me psyched and has fucked up style. 

Film of the Year 

Vacuum by Kai Neville and Epokhe (1 point)

I really like a lot of the surfers that were in that video and I like Kai’s films. It was something new from him and it gets me psyched on surfing. 

Best YouTube 

Nonfictioncreative (1 point)

It’s a little video outlet that my friends Quinn, Noah and I are doing. It’s LA-based and we’re making videos about surfing and skating and art. 

Stab Surfer of the Year Leaderboard

Best Male 

1. Filipe Toledo – 67 
2. Ethan Ewing – 57 
3. Nathan Florence -56 
4. Harry Bryant – 45
=5. Griffin Colapinto – 36
=5. Noa Deane – 36 
7. John John Florence – 31
8. Mason Ho -27
9. Russell Bierke – 22
10. Mikey Wright – 19
11. Yago Dora – 19
12. Shaun Manners – 16
13. Cole Houshmand – 14
14. Al Cleland Jr. – 11
15. Joao Chianca – 10

Best Female 

1. Caity Simmers – 130
2. Caroline Marks – 69
3. Carissa Moore – 66
4. Stephanie Gilmore – 52
5. Moana Jones-Wong – 46
6. Molly Picklum – 44
7. Sierra Kerr – 31
8. Coco Ho – 27
9. Laura Enever -25
10. Erin Brooks – 23
=11. Frankie Harrer – 21
=11. Jaleesa Vincent – 21
13. Justine Dupont – 9 
14. Vahine Fierro – 8
=15. Tatiana Weston-Webb – 4
=15. Bethany Hamilton – 4

Best Junior: Male 

1. Hughie Vaughan – 13
=2. Legend Chandler – 3
=2. Jackson Dorian – 3
=2. Cannon Carr – 3 

Best Junior: Female 

=1. Erin Brooks – 15.5 
=1. Sierra Kerr – 15.5
2. Vaihitimahana Inso – 3 

Edit of the Year 

1. “Outer Edge of Leisure” starring Russell Bierke – 13.5 
2. “Into Dust” starring Jacob Wilcox – 5
3. “Cult of Freedom: The Shaun Part” starring Shaun Manners – 3.5 

Film of the Year 

1. “Repeater” by Wade Carroll and Quiksilver – 10 
2. “Motel Hell” by Dav Fox and Harry Bryant – 7 
=3. “Smooch” by Jacob Vanderwork and Kolohe Andino – 5
=3. “NOAH” by Andy Woodward and Noah Beschen – 5
5. “Through the Doggy Door” by Alani Media – 4

Best YouTube 

1. Ho and Pringle Productions – 11
2. Nathan Florence – 10
3. Chapter 11  TV – 4 
4. Jacob Szekely “Zeke” – 3
5. The Raglan Surf Report – 2

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