Stab Magazine | Stab Surfer Of The Year: Bruce Irons, Albee Layer, Kai Lenny, Billy Kemper, Matt Meola

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Stab Surfer Of The Year: Bruce Irons, Albee Layer, Kai Lenny, Billy Kemper, Matt Meola

Noa Deane are Nate Florence are making a run in the five horse race!

style // Jan 5, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 9 minutes

We’ve officially passed the halfway mark of the 2018 Stab Surfer of the Year, and right now the leaderboard reads like a well-made zipper.

Comp guy. Freesurfer. Comp guy. Freesurfer. Comp guy. Freesurfer. And so forth.

Males (Top 12):

1. Gabriel Medina (34 points)

2. Chippa Wilson (30 points)

=3. Filipe Toledo (29 points)

=3. Noa Deane (29 points)

=5. Nate Florence (24 points)

=5. Julian Wilson (24 points)

7. Griffin Colapinto (21 points)

8. Seth Moniz (19 points)

9. Italo Ferreira (15 points)

=10. Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca (14 points)

=10. Dane Reynolds (14 points)

12. Grant “Twiggy” Baker (13 points)

Females (Top 5): 

1. Steph Gilmore (11 points)

=2. Keala Kennelly (3 points)

=2. Bethany Hamilton (3 points)

=2. Caroline Marks (3 points)

5. Carissa Moore (2 points)

It’s cool to see that, like us, the world’s best surfers draw inspiration from the world’s best surfers – a distinction that can be achieved through competitive streaks as easily as performance art pieces.

Day 6 is all about Hawaii, and almost exclusively the island of Maui, from which four of today’s five pollsters hail. We’ve got Bruce Irons, Albee Layer, Kai Lenny, Billy Kemper, and Matt Meola on the other line.

We should really pick that up.

SSOTY Day6 Article

Bruce Irons

Age: 39

Bio: Brother of Andy, had a small part in the Bruce Movie, vape lord


  1. Noa Deane (5 points): “Noa’s fucking badass. I like everything about him. At that contest that you guys didn’t invite me to [Stab High] – I seen him do some really nice moves. I watched it last night. I’m always watching him. He goes for the sections that are meant to be fucking punted on that no one else will look at. He surfs that most radical spots and puts himself in situations to do the biggest and most fucking radical airs. He really goes for it and pushes it beyond. That’s what I prefer to watch.”

  2. Dane Reynolds (4 points): “Dane’s good every time he paddles out. Whether he likes it or not, he’s good. He’s a freak. He didn’t surf much this year, but I liked him in that movie he made for you [The Electric Acid Surfboard Test]. Dane’s a monster.”

  3. Gabriel Medina (3 points): ”Gabe’s badass. Fucken A. Hail mary it and stick it. He and Italo. All around.”

  4. Griffin Colapinto (2 points): “I’d never really heard much of Griffin but he formed up this year. He’s doing really big shit for a little California kid.”

  5. Italo Ferreira (1 point): “That kid is badass. Hit or miss on everything else but big airs. He’s definitely a showstopper. Lacking in bigger waves – he’s a small guy – but his air game in the wind five or six foot and under is impeccable. [We have to wonder if Bruce has actually seen Italo in “bigger waves”. See below.]


Keala Kennelly (1 point): “Fucking Keala Kennelly, bra! This year at fucking Jaws… What. The. Fuck. They ran the girls and then they cancelled the guys. That’s bad for the sport, if you ask me. It’s the Big Wave Tour, it’s Jaws, everyone knows what you’re fucking getting yourself into! It’s what the audience wants. Carnage. Don’t let the grls surf then cancel and run it when it’s smaller. I still have mad respect, but talk with Albee – he’ll finish what I just started there.”

SSOTY Day6 Article2

Albee Layer

Age: 27

Bio:  First to land the double-alleyoop and double backside air reverse, noted contrarian, surfed Jaws once

Quote: “I’m usually not as opinionated when complimenting people.”


  1. Italo Ferreira (5 points): “Who doesn’t love Italo? He is by far my favorite surfer to watch. From his funny videos to the airs he’s constantly stomping, Italo’s just the most entertaining surfer in the world today. I love his raw Instagram clips that come out almost everyday with A+ clips. But at the same time, I almost wish he’d go a couple months without putting out Insta clips and have someone edit him a nuts part. I’d watch it before every session – in the mirror obviously, so I can pretend he’s regular. Fuck it, send me the footage I’ll edit it when I’m injured next.”

  2. Noa Deane (4 points): “I used to think for a long time I didn’t like Noa, but now I’m pretty certain that was just me being a jealous dick because he surfs how I want to. Noa seems to constantly be getting better and trying new stuff which is rare. That Headnoise edit probably has some of the most exciting surfing happening in the world. He also kinda rushes hard. Actually Noa should come surf Jaws… I swear he’s one of the few air guys who could do it. I’d be completely out of a job if he did though, so nevermind he should never ever do that.”

  3. Gabriel Medina (3 points): “I feel like Gab’s the only surfer who gets constantly underscored by the judges and still almost wins the title every year. My favorite part of Gabriel is that he doesn’t dumb his surfing down for contests. He’s so focused that he does things he didn’t even know he could do in the last seconds of a heat sometimes. Makes me so fucken’ excited when his heats start.”

  4. Chippa Wilson (2 points): “That edit he put out had more good surfing in it than most guys can do in a year… or two years… or a lifetime, and I’m pretty sure Chippa filmed it in like three months. Plus he got a couple big ass barrels in that edit, which is just the best when people can do it all.”

  5. Kai Lenny (1 point): “I feel like Kai surfs probably five times as much as anyone else, and between his tow session at Jaws and then pretty much winning the comp the next day [Billy Kemper won the event but Albee thought the victory should have actually been awarded to Kai, to the point that he posted the following on his Instagram: “I don’t know who you’re blowing in the judging booth but I want his number @billykemper”], that right there was enough good waves to last an entire year.”


Carissa Moore (1 point): “It’s a tie between Steph and Carissa always. That Tahiti edit Carissa put out at the beginning of the year was one of my favorites of the year, period. Steph in the contests this year was fricken crazy as well. They both crushed it in Maui. I’m a heavy gurfer fan and always will be. If I have to choose I’ll go with Carissa.” 

Noteworthy other:

Paige Alms: Paige also rushes harder and with more skills than most people at Jaws. 

Sign-off quote: “Okay, I’m gonna go rob a Goodwill then club a baby seal now because that was too much being nice for one morning.”

SSOTY Day6 Article4

Billy Kemper

Age: 28

Bio: 3x Jaws champion, known to roar like a lion, cowboy hats

Quote: “Wow. This year was fucking gnarly.”


  1. Nathan Florence (5 points): “This last year Nate stepped out of his brother’s shadow and into his own. He changed is whole attitude, his whole mindset, and he went next level. Nate’s been training like an animal and he’s literally looking for the heaviest wave that comes in on every swell. And he doesn’t want to just catch the wave – he wants to take off deeper than everyone, draw the craziest lines and get deeper than anybody in the barrel. That’s what I want to see in surfing.”

  2. Filipe Toledo (4 points): “When Filipe showed up, I thought this kid was crazy at airs, but seeing his power over the last year has been insane. Nowadays Filipe’s laying down turns as big as anyone in the CT. If you said that a few years ago, it would be a write-off in a lot of people’s eyes. And then to see him go over to Teahupo’o with Matahi Drollet to improve, that’s what I rate. I like to see him saying, “This isn’t my speciality, but if I put in the time, it will be.” I think Filipe learned a lot from that, and he’s a huge idol of mine.”

  3. Laurie Towner (3 points): “Laurie’s always been someone radical and so naturally talented. You put him out in any condition and he can hang with the best guys. This year he proved that by showing up to the biggest swells and truly wanting to get a black one [a wave filled with so much water and energy that light can no longer pass through it, giving the wave an extremely dark, almost “black”, tone when it approaches the lineup]. And the lines that Laurie draws on heavy waves – no one is doing that.”

  4. Barron Mamiya (2 points): “Barron’s positioning at Pipeline is so tapped. Just riding tiny boards and sitting way under it [See below]. Barron was all shy and now he’s this six-foot tall, really solid kid. And he can do it all from one-foot, onshore beachbreak to 12-foot Sunset or Pipe.”

  5. Lucas Chumbo (1 point): “Lucas is one badass Brazilian. He kinda fits right in with Nathan and Lauri, in the sense that when I see Lucas in the lineup, and a real one shows up, he’s the kinda guy that wants to swing and go. Those guys want to ride waves that haven’t been ridden. For a long time a lot of these big wave guys tried to catch the tallest wave, but now it’s about who’s gonna get the biggest barrel. That is the difference over the past few years, and Lucas is a huge part of the push.”


Bethany Hamilton (1 point): “Bethany’s doing the same shit the best girls in the world are doing – what Steph’s doing, what Carissa’s doing – but with one fucking arm. What Bethany’s been dealt in life has pushed her to that level. Most badass chick on the planet.”

Noteworthy other:

Matt Meola: “I don’t think guys like Matt get enough credit. It’s so fucking gnarly how he’s launching out 10 feet into the flats to me that’s charging as hard as riding a 20-foot wave anywhere in the world. He stands out so much to me.”

SSOTY Days6 10 Article3

Kai Lenny


Bio: Jack of all trades, also a master of all trades, winner of this year’s Stab30 influential surfers under 30 list


  1. Julian Wilson (5 points): “Julian has been one of the best surfers in the world for years now. He’s gone a notch above with his skill level and has translated his freesurfing antics to competition. It was so fun to watch him surf on Tour this year!”

  2. Italo Ferriera (4 points): “Italo’s energy when he surfs gets me so fired up. The purpose he has for every wave is laser-focused. He goes huge!”

  3. Seth Moniz (3 points):Seth made the Tour, was on fire with his freesurfs – a highlight being his giant backflip at Waco, Texas – and he embodies the ‘Aloha Spirit’.”

  4. Albee Layer (2 points): “Albee is one of the only guys that’s innovating new airs every single year. At the same time, he’s also progressing big wave surfing with a super knifey approach and the small boards he rides.”

  5. Nate Florence* (1 point): Nate’s on a mission. He’s been traveling to surf the biggest waves all year, and has been training like a monster. That’s inspiring! Not only that, he is funny as hell in the line up, talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic before we get caught inside.


Lakey Peterson (1 point): Lakey had banner year, came close to winning the World Title, and has elevated her game both in turns and in the air.” [After a year of battling it out with Steph Gilmore, Lakey fell just short of her maiden World Title, finishing a career-best 2nd on the Women’s CT.]

Noteworthy Other:

Dusty Payne: “From brushing off death to regaining his composure after a life-altering accident is so impressive [Dusty almost died after falling at Backdoor, hitting his head on the reef, knocking himself unconscious, and being held under for up to six waves. He was saved by a few fast-acting surfers and photographers in the water. See the wave below]. Dusty’s surfing the past month has been as good if not better than ever before. With all his hard work he’s one of the most inspiring of 2018 for sure.” 

SSOTY Day6 Article5

Matt Meola

Age: 29


Quote: “Contest results have nothing to do with it.”


Italo Ferreira (5 points): “Italo is all-around mind blowing. He puts out insane freesurf clips and has had a few big comp performances. He makes me excited to go jump off something huge.”

Chippa Wilson (4 points): “Chip had the best freesurf edit of the year [Video No.4] and in my opinion he’s the most technical and talented around.”

Gabriel Medina (3 points): “What Gabriel did to get from where he was to the top of the leaderboard was amazing. What he did to win Pipe was something else entirely.” [Gabriel’s last five contest results: 1, 1, 3, 3, 1. You can imagine the surfing that got him there.]

Filipe Toledo (2 points): “Toledo did a couple huge airs in heats this year. You’ve gotta respect that.” [Most famously, Filipe nailed a 10-point ride for what some have claimed is the biggest air ever in WSL competition. See below.]

Nate Florence (1 point): “Nate scored all over the world this year. And on every good swell he got a few of the highlight waves.”


Laura Enever (1 point): “I’ve been seeing crazy photos of Laura Enever and Imogen Caldwell charging slabs and standing in huge pits. They rule.” [Laura is currently working on a feature film about her pursuit of Australian tube-seeking. She’s already visited Shipsterns Bluff among other heavy-water spots.]

Noteworthy other:

Albee Layer: For huge barrels and huge airs. Albee would be first on the list if he wasn’t hurt.


ScaleWidthWyIxMjAwIl0 DSC 9284

And Noa Deane bounds up the leaderboard!


Corey Wilson

Stab Surfer of the Year running total:

Males (Top 12):

1. Gabriel Medina (43 points)

2. Noa Deane (38 points)

3. Chippa Wilson (36 points)

4. Filipe Toledo (35 points)

5. Nate Florence (31 points)

6. Italo Ferreira (30 points)

7. Julian Wilson (29 points)

8. Griffin Colapinto (23 points)

9. Seth Moniz (22 points)

10. Dane Reynolds (18 points)

11. Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca (15 points)

12. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (13 points)

Females (Top 6):

1. Stephanie Gilmore (11 points)

=3. Bethany Hamilton (4 points)

=3. Keala Kennelly (4 points)

=5. Carissa Moore (3 points)

=5. Caroline Marks (3 points)

6. Lakey Peterson (2 points)

As the alphabet dictates, tomorrow we’ll hear from the points leader himself along with four other surf industry notables:

Gabriel Medina

Ryan Miller

Jamie O’Brien

Pat O’Connell

Eithan Osbourne


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