Stab Magazine | A Brief History Of Surf Fights

A Brief History Of Surf Fights

From the most recent acai smearing tussle to full blown beatings. 

Words by Stab

Surfing’s a strange hobby. Innumerable number of dudes, a finite number of waves, all restricted to one surfer per wave. 

Rather than adhere to sensible rules and discuss any drama, disagreements usually end in indiscernible yelling and empty threats of ‘taking it to the beach’. Most of these hissy fits fizzle out, but occasionally, to the sadist’s delight, they result in fisticuffs on the sand or shallows.  

In light of the most recent fight between Michael Rodrigues and Tanner Hendrickson, we decided to compile a brief and non-comprehensive list of pro surfer biffs. The internet is littered with brawls between fools on the beach, but due to laziness and bandwidth, we’ve kept it to those who could label themselves ‘pro’. 

Let’s kick it off with the most recent, by the infinitesimally small chance you haven’t seen it yet. 

Tanner Hendrickson V Michael Rodrigues

The fight that broke the surf-related internet Wednesday afternoon. While exact details around the causes of the fight are still fuzzy – read Tanner Hendrickson’s take here or Michael Rodrigues’ statement here – there’s no denying there was ongoing tension. 

As a result of the acai bowl slap and subsequent wrestle, Tanner has received an indefinite ban from all WSL sanctioned events and a $5000 fine.

But this isn’t the place to discuss the ongoing debacle – the remainder of our site seems dedicated to that – this is a place to relive the history of surf fights! 

Jesse Mendes V Mikey Wright

Honestly, this one was barely a fight, but in surfing’s sterile modern age any altercation gains attention. After Mikey Wright allegedly took bomb after bomb at Norths, Jesse proceeded to drop in on Mikey, go over the falls, and then take it up with his fellow Quik rider in the carpark.

What followed was a series of measly pushes, a few heated words, and on onslaught of death threats directed to Mikey from Instagram. The following day the two were filmed hugging it out at the point at Margaret River, and the two were reportedly back in each other’s good books. 

If these two weren’t on the tour this ‘fight’ wouldn’t have even made kook of the day. 

Richie Collins V Bum

A strange and intriguing set of circumstances. According to the scene’s cinematographer, Stevie Asap, who was ‘smoking a bowl’ at the time. An old bloke named ‘Bike Rider’ AKA bum, was punched by a younger surfer after dropping in on him.  

The old dude followed the kid to shore, with a few other surfers standing by to try and defuse the situation. All of these unsuccessful until Richie Collins ran down the beach. With a few half-hearted whacks and headlocks Bike Rider retreated to the brine only for the lifeguards and police to show up shortly after.

Joel Tudor V Danny Fuller

The details around this one are ruminative at best. As the story goes, Danny, Kauai surfer and sometimes model instigated the fight with Joel, logging extraordinaire, on the sand at Pipe. It is claimed that this fight was the catalyst for Joel learning Jiu-Jitsu and progressing to a black belt in both BJJ and Judo. 

“If you expect to travel the world and surf the world’s best waves, well you are going to encounter some shit,” Joel told Vice in response to a question about the origins of his martial arts interest. “Straight up. Every good wave in the world, unless it hasn’t been discovered yet, has locals that don’t want you there at all.”

Jamie O’Brien V Ricardo Dos Santos

“Jamie O’Brien and Ricardo Dos Santos both needed a score with very little time remaining, and a wave presented itself.” Read Stab’s coverage of the incident at five years ago. “Early reports suggested that after a furious paddle battle, Ricardo took off on the inside, Jamie got annoyed, and took a swing. But according to Jamie, that ain’t exactly right.”

“The real story is, he paddled straight into me and hit me with an overhand head check.” Jamie said at the time. “And then he followed up with an elbow to the head. So, when I took off on the wave, I already knew I was burning him, which is no problem. Then I slapped him on the wave.”

Either way, slide back up and watch the snippet caught on tape. Or go and scroll back through the clusterfuck that was our comment section and social media at the time of the incident. 

Sunny Garcia, Jeremy Flores, local surfer, and a cameraman

Back when surf fights on the World Stage involved some proper biff. 

Garcia’s son got in an argument with another surfer at Burleigh, and soon enough, Sunny himself was there to resolve the situation. And by resolve, I mean put the fellow watergoer in a headlock to deliver a few brutal blows to his dome in the shallows. Jeremy Flores was also caught up in the initial bout, but wasn’t nearly as involved as Sunny in what can be watched up above.

This isn’t where the fight ended though. After the local surfer wallowed in regret, Garcia took his leftover anger out on a cameraman near the showers. Irritated with the cameraman’s incessant filming, Sunny kicked him in the back, sending him across the pavement which resulted in multiple scrapes and a broken hand. 

Both Sunny and Jeremy were booted from the comp at Burleigh. 

Kala Alexander V Some Poor Bloke

This video is too cooked to embed in the site.

We don’t know what this poor bloke did to deserve this, but it’s a vicious fight and frankly one I’d rather not promote. 

If you’re a sadist, slide over here to watch.

Mick Campbell V Andy Irons

Andy was a fierce competitor and individual in his surfing prime. In 2000, after losing a heat to Mick Campbell, AI went up and gave him a bit of a verbal spray. Mick retaliated with a hook to the jaw, Andy swung back with his board, but the potential fight was stuffed before it got serious.

Mick copped a hefty fine for the time. Unfortunately we’re yet to dig up the footage. 

Dustin Barca V Adriano de Souza

The 2009 Billabong Tahiti Pro led to a fight between the MMA fighter, surfer, environmentalist, Dustin Barca, and the workhorse 1x World Champion, Adriano de Souza. 

Details around why Dustin was pissed are scarce, but he won the fist fight against Adriano. When the two matched up in a heat a few days later though, Adriano was the overall winner.

Joel Parkinson V Booger

This one’s barely a fight. It’s more of a love tap.

The local lid was angered by Parko apparently taking more than his fair share of wave and the boog responded with a good old fashioned slap. Nothing more eventuated than what you can relive up above.

Johnny Boy Gomes V Jodie Cooper

Johnny Boy Gomes has been in a couple* fights over the years – we’re not going to run through them all. The most immediately offensive of these however is when JBG punched Jodie Cooper, female pro and big wave surfer, in the face. 

Here’s Jodie’s recount from Surfing World a few years back. 

“It was a typically packed day, north swell at Beach Park, everyone getting barrelled, and everyone was out. Bud Llamas was on a wave and Johnny Boy dropped in and then Bud rode around Johnny Boy, was in front of him and Johnny Boy flicked his board at Bud’s head, nearly killed him. They both came up next to me, their boards were tangled and Johnny started punching.

“Everyone just put their head down and paddled away, as they do, like chicken shit. I just thought he should stop and I said, “Oi, Johnny Boy, leave him alone! Stop it, leave him alone, chill out.” That sort of thing, cause I thought I knew him. He was about to smack Bud in the head and he just looked at me, let go of Bud, paddled over and whacked me in the head. Everyone just took off, no one stood up for me – you name it, they were out there – everyone saw it but they didn’t want to get smacked in the head as well. He hit me and tried to humiliate me, and said get out of the water you stupid F-this C-that. I thought, “Fuck you,” so I stayed out there for another half an hour and caught a few waves just to satisfy my own ego and pride. Then he harassed me for two years after that. It was so heavy. Once at the 7-Eleven in Haleiwa he came up and threatened to kill me.” 

Sunny Garcia V Neco Padaratz

Sunny’s second entrance into this incomplete list. 

It was the 2007 Pipe Masters, Neco and Sunny collided on a wave. Neco beckoned apologies, but Sunny wasn’t having it. He knocked out Padaratz’ fins in the water, threw a few punches, and pursued him on the beach after the heat. 

Neco needed a police escort back home and the Wolfpak reportedly told Neco to leave the beach and never come back. 

Lynette Mackenzie

The only woman to ever receive a suspension for fighting.

No details on the fight, but a worthy addition nonetheless. 

Kainoa McGee V Surfer

Rumour has it this surfer getting wailed upon paddled into the (boog) comp at Pipe and refused to leave. The bodyboarder, Kainoa McGee, reigning down upon him is a Hawaiian heavyweight. Not only in his frame, but in his North Shore surfing dominance. 

While his roots lie on the sponge, he’s a true waterman. Dropknee, surfing, prone, bodysurfing, whatever the conditions or Kainoa’s interest calls for. 

He’s been a lifeguard on the North Shore for over a decade, and he won’t take any shit. The above is a prime example. 

Mick Fanning V Shark

A battle in which we can safely take sides. Mick – 1. Shark – Nil. 


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