Stab Magazine | Stab Surfer Of The Year: Taj Burrow, Dion Agius, Kolohe Andino, Shane Beschen, And Michel Bourez

Stab Surfer Of The Year: Taj Burrow, Dion Agius, Kolohe Andino, Shane Beschen, And Michel Bourez

The first votes are in for the most impactful surfer of 2018. 

style // Jan 1, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The surfing we saw in 2018 was nothing short of spectacular.

With big waves feats from Nate Florence, Laurie Towner, Billy Kemper, and Grant Baker, to the cinematic brilliance of Noa Deane, Dane Reynolds, Chippa Wilson, and John Florence, to competitive dominance from Filipe Toledo, Italo Ferreira, Julian Wilson, and Gabriel Medina, this year had everything a surf fan could dream of.

But how do you define the best surf performances of the year? How could we differentiate between the best of the best, all of whom achieved so much in their respective fields over the course of 365 days?

When we asked Jordy Smith, he said, “Comparing a big wave surfer to a world tour surfer to a video guy was apples and oranges, bru.”

So we reframed: it doesn’t matter who was better. The question is who were the surfers that captured your imagination? Who excited you more than any other in 2018?

For two weeks in December on the North Shore of Oahu, we fired voice memos on our iPhones and awkwardly cornered 50 of the most prominent figures in surfing today – from industry leaders to longtime surf critics and especially the surfers themselves – to tell us who had the most impactful surfing in 2018.

Our hope was to see the variance in results and to create a time capsule of surfing brilliance for 2018. Obviously, surfing’s new 2x world champion was always going to shine but how does a Chippa Wilson or Kai Lenny compare?  

And, we’ve got a basic scoring system and leaderboard we’ll update as we go. We asked for the top five male surfers (1st gets 5 points, 2nd gets 4 points, and so on until 5th gets 1 point), top female surfer (1 point) and one noteworthy performance (0 points).  

The names we’ve polled include: Slater, Medina, Florence (x2), Wilson (Julian), Wilson (Chippa), Reynolds, Deane, Kemper, Layer, and so many more. From these expert opinions, our goal is to provide a most accurate account of the best surfers in 2018, both male and female.  

Welcome to Day 1 of the Stab Surfer of the Year.

Below you’ll find selections from our first five surfers (we’re running in alphabetical order), being Dion Agius, Kolohe Andino, Shane Beschen, Michel Bourez, and Taj Burrow. 

SSOTY Dion Article Updated

Dion Agius 

Age: 33

Bio: Started surfing’s first web series, air savvy, surf culture shifter


  1. Noa Deane (5 points): “Raw. Unpredictable. Never holds back. Goes as fast as possible.”

  2. Chippa Wilson (4 points): “Most technical surfer in the world. Underground Charger. Can do airs on a boogie board.”  

  3. Craig Anderson (3 points): “Best style ever.”

  4. Creed McTaggart (2 points): “Always a favourite. Effortless. Stylish. So Naturally talented.”

  5. Shaun Manners (1 point): “Young. Charges. Amazing style on his airs. Awesome dude.”

If you don’t know, now you know. Manners. 


  1. Steph Gilmore (1 point): “It was either Steph or Westerly Windina.”

SSOTY Kolohe Article Updated

Kolohe Andino

Age: 24

Bio: Super-grom turned CT stalwart, loves cereal, #11 in the world

Quote: “I’m at this weird point in my career where I’m kinda eggy on everyone.”


  1. Gabriel Medina (5 points): “Gabriel just wins so much. On the Tour this year, Gabriel got one 13th and one 9th and everything else is a quarterfinal and above. That’s pretty fucked up.”

  2. Julian Wilson (4 points): “Just because of his performance in France. That was fucking mental.” [Ed note: Julian nailed a 10-point ride (along with several other impressive punts) en route to victory at the Quik Pro, which put him back into World Title contention].

  3. Griffin Colapinto (3 points): “I’ve learned from him a lot this year. Surfing-wise, mentally… it’s all about simplicity.”   

  4. Filipe Toledo (2 points): “I don’t feel like he had a crazy performance this year but he’s been really solid. He had that one really good heat at J-Bay and did that huge backside air in Brazil. That was fucked up.” 

  5. Mick Fanning (1 point): “Because of his surfing and his personality and his exit. To leave on the final is as good as it gets. Has it ever been done? Usually they’re trying to steal one last drop of milk from the cow.”

Mick’s final squeeze.


  1. Courtney Conlogue (1 point): “For coming back and winning two events after blowing out her knee. That’s pretty gangster.” [Ed note: Courtney was out half the season with an injury. Upon her return, she won her home break event at the US Open and also the Roxy Pro France, pushing her into eighth position on the season despite a lengthy absence.]

Noteworthy other:

Benji Brand: “He’s the most on it. He was out at Logs first light the other day, just getting blown out of tubes. He’s everywhere on the perfect medium sized barrels.”

SSOTY Beschen Article Updated

Shane Beschen

Age: 46

Bio: Fromer world #2, high-performance barnstormer, Airborne head judge

Quote: “For me, this year was ruled by big waves and big barrels. It’s just a different sport!”


  1. Grant “Twiggy” Baker (5 points): “It was hands down the gnarliest wave in the history of surfing when he made that drop at Peahi and pulled into the barrel. I still can’t believe he made that drop! That was the gnarliest triple black belt big wave surfing I’ve ever seen.”

  2. Billy Kemper (4 points): “Billy won the Jaws contest but the day before he also rode a historic wave right before Twiggy. Taking off deep on a 60-footer and packing an unbelievable barrel… I’m still trying to comprehend it.”

  3. Albee Layer (3 points): “Albee paddled out after they cancelled the first day of Jaws – because the conditions were death-defying – and packed two crazy barrels! One was a 60 foot close out and the other was a completed barrel that he stood straight up in.”

  4. Nathan Florence (2 points): “Nate has been on a roll, packing the heaviest barrels on the planet – Teahupo’o, Nias, Puerto, Jaws. His cool and calm demeanor in the craziest situations has been incredible to watch.”

  5. Natxo Gonzales (1 points): “The barrel at the Nazare event was absolutely incredible! To navigate that line up and get a massive barrel completely behind the peak was an amazing feat.” 


  1. Keala Kennelly (1 point): “As for the girls, I will go with all the competitors that caught waves that morning at Jaws. To send the girls out first thing in the morning to 20 second interval Jaws was crazy! I can only imagine the power they felt in the ocean that morning and to see them charging was truly inspirational. Keala Kennelly sent it on so many gnarly waves, it was unbelievable that she didn’t get hurt and in the end she won the Jaws contest. I still cant believe her grit and bravado in those conditions.”

Noteworthy other:

“Lucas Chianca has been on a roll as well, pushing big wave performance surfing to the next level in all conditions.”

SSOTY Michel

Michel Bourez

Age: 32

Bio: Tahitian deity, #8 on the CT, world’s most powerful surfer


  1. Joan Duru (5 points): “Joan was dead last on the rankings in Portugal, and then he made it to the final and moved to 23rd. Then he made it to the quarters at Pipe and requalified. If you see how guys perform when the pressure is on, that’s when you see the real potential of a surfer. Also Joan trains so hard. To me he is the fittest guy on Tour.”

  2. Julian Wilson (4 points): “Julian, to me, when he won France – that was real surfing. Big airs and stuff. We don’t always see him doing that, so it’s good to see him let go and surf at 200%. Just to forget about everything else and surf.” [See below]

  3. Filipe Toledo (3 points): “I was really impressed when Filipe came to Tahiti before the event. I remember showing up on my ski and the first thing I saw was him dropping in on that wave. He didn’t make it, but it was good to see him going for it. People always say that he’s the guy who only surfs small waves, but now he’s showing everyone that he’s the full package.”

  4. Gabriel Medina (2 points): “Medina always goes on a rampage after J-Bay, and now he’s won Lemoore, France, and the Pipe Masters for his second World Title. Medina is Medina – he’s next level.”

  5. Owen Wright (1 points): “To me he’s been improving contest after contest, especially after his head injury in 2015. To see him back in the game so quickly after that trauma was so impressive.”

Here’s what Julian did in France.


  1. Carissa Moore (1 point): “No doubt it’s Carissa. She’s always been my favorite in the world. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t win the World Title this year, she’s still the best. It’s bad to say this, but Carissa surfs like a dude. She’s so powerful, and I love her lines. I seriously don’t want to surf against her at Bells Beach or Honolua, no way. Please don’t make me do that. 

Noteworthy other:

Willian Cardoso: “I remember seeing Willian after Keramas and he was telling me, ‘I’m not going to drink tonight because I need to make a big result.’ Next thing I know, he won Uluwatu and was partying so hard that night. It was really impressive.”

Taj Burrow

Age: 40

Bio: CT veteran, surf video maven, still a frothing grommet 


  1. Dane Reynolds (5 points): “Dane’s still the best freesurfer in the world. It looks like he really appreciates his surf trips now as it’s tough to escape with three kids. What he’s been doing in Mex was skitz, especially in your Electric Acid Surfboard Test.” 
  2. Chippa Wilson (4 points): “He’s the most techno cat-like freak on Earth! He’s starting to get the credit he deserves, and I think he is an unbelievable surfer.” [See below]
  3. Gabriel Medina (3 points): “Gabs is by far the best competitor on the planet. The opportunity he creates and the ground he covers in the water is phenomenal. He’s mentally so strong in clutch situations, and I absolutely love watching him compete.” 
  4. Filipe Toledo (2 points): “Fil is an animal – I’m sure everyone loves to watch him like I do. His surfing and his reflexes are mind-blowing and as he learns to ride bigger waves and bigger tubes he could easily become the most dominant competitor.” 
  5. Noa Deane (1 point): “I love watching Noz surf. He’s got an insane and unique style. He goes hard in big tubes and at huge closeout sections. The ‘oop at North was fucked.”

Chip, the techno cat.


1. Stephanie Gilmore (1 point): “She is just the queen bee, fullstop.” 

Noteworthy other:

Italo Ferreira: “I love his surfing. Like his fellow Brazilians, Italo has that strong but flexible and supple fitness. He’s incredible and I wish he had been in the title race having won three events.” 

Medina DX23488 Pipe18 Sloane3

Could the 2018 World Champ also be the Stab Surfer of the Year? We’ll wait for 45 more surfers to have their say.



Stab Surfer Of The Year Day One

Males (Top 10):

1. Gabriel Medina: (10 points)

=2. Chippa Wilson (8 points)

=2. Julian Wilson (8 points)

4. Filipe Toledo (7 points)

5. Noa Deane (6 points)

=6. Dane Reynolds (5 points)

=6. Grant Twiggy Baker (5 points)

=6. Joan Duru (5 points)

9. Billy Kemper (4 points)

=10. Albee Layer (3 points) 

=10. Griffin Colapinto (3 points)

=10. Craig Anderson (3 points)


Females (Top 5):

1. Stephanie Gilmore (2 points)

=2. Carissa Moore (1 points)

=2. Keala Kennelly (1 points)

=2. Courtney Conlogue (1 point)


Stay tuned… we’ll be posting daily Stab Surfer of the Year installments at 12pm PST for the next nine days. On Day 2 we’ll hear from the likes of:

Griffin Colapinto

Mitch Crews

Jay Davies

Noa Deane

Ethan Ewing


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