Stab Magazine | Stab Surfer Of The Year: Ian Walsh, Stephanie Gilmore, Ross Williams, Jimmy Wilson, Owen Wright

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Stab Surfer Of The Year: Ian Walsh, Stephanie Gilmore, Ross Williams, Jimmy Wilson, Owen Wright

The final votes are in. Who are the 2018 Stab Surfers of the Year?

style // Jan 10, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Today, the Stab Surfers of The Year will be announced.

For those who are just catching up, 50 of the (surf) world’s most influential figures—industry leaders, longtime surf critics, and of course the surfers themselves—have confided in us whose surfing impacted them most in 2018. Each was asked for their their top-five males, in order of their annual performance (1st place = 5 points, 2nd place = 4 points, etc.), and their top singular female. After the votes of all 50 people have been tallied, we’ll announce the Stab Surfer(s) of the Year. 

We’ve been releasing five voters a day for the past week. After a seven-day lead, Gabriel Medina has been dethroned by Filipe Toledo. Here are the current results after Day 9:

Males (Top 12):

1. Filipe Toledo (60 points)

=2. Gabriel Medina (59 points)

=2. Italo Ferreira (59 points)

4. Chippa Wilson (52 points)

5. Noa Deane (50 points)

6. Nate Florence (47 points)

7. Julian Wilson (45 points)

8. Griffin Colapinto (36 points)

=9. Dane Reynolds (22 points)

=9. Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca (22 points)

=9. Seth Moniz (22 points)

=12. Billy Kemper (20 points)

=12. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (20 points)

Females (Top 5):

1. Stephanie Gilmore (17 points)

2. Carissa Moore (7 points)

=3. Keala Kennelly (4 points)

=3. Bethany Hamilton (4 points)

=3. Caroline Marks (4 points)

Now, we’ll let you in on a little secret: the two most inspiring surfers (male and female) of 2018, as decided by 50 of surfing’s most influential figures, can be found toward the bottom of this page.

But before seeking out those long-sought truths, we urge you, Dear Reader, to tame those scrolling digits and savor the selections of our final five voters. They include: an alpha dog of the big wave world; the tied-for-winningest female in the history of surfing; a Momentum Generation-er and Coach of the Best Surfer In The World; a Surfing veteran and dedicated—nay, obsessive—surf photographer; and a guy who got so barreled his brain nearly went blank.


Ian Walsh

Steph Gilmore

Ross Williams

Jimmy Wilson

Owen Wright

Shall we? 

SSOTY Days6 10 Article21

Ian Walsh

Age: 35

Bio: Dominant big-waver responsible for perhaps the most spectacular ride in a contest, ever; born in Rhode Island; can grovel.


  1. Gabriel Medina (5 points): “Medina is just as exciting to watch freesurfing as he in heats. The further the person he is competing against gets ahead, the more fun the heats are to watch. And he’s got incredible consistency. Even though the ocean is so unpredictable, Medina still seems unstoppable once he gets his momentum.” [We talked about Gabriel’s love of the chase here.]
  2. Griffin Colapinto (4 points): “Every wave Griffin paddled into this year was fun to watch. It’s really sick to see is ability and style transfer to a big variety of different waves and sizes.” [See below].
  3. Filipe Toledo (3 points): “I feel like Filipe pushes the surfers and the level of progression on the CT more than anyone.”
  4. Kai Lenny (2 points): “Kai was on a heater in 2018. Towing, paddling, foiling—whatever other shit he pulls out of his garage. He’s very entertaining to see in the water.”
  5. Grant “Twiggy” Baker (1 point): “His performance this year has been possibly his best yet. Nazare and South Africa, he put on incredible performances; his wave at Jaws was one the of the most technical waves ever ridden. Instinct and ability shined through in a very critical situation.”


Stephanie Gilmore (1 point): “Both she and Carissa are so fun to watch. Steph’s style and ability are unmatched. Every wave she rides seems like it was meant to be ridden that way.”

Noteworthy other:

John John Florence: “John spent most of the year hurt, but if even only 3 of his waves from Space were filmed in 2018, then he belongs on every list. A generational talent in everything from 2-foot to 25-foot surf.” 

SSOTY StephGilmore Article

Steph Gilmore

Age: 30

Bio: Coolie kid; physical embodiment of grace on a surfboard; 7x World Champ


Gabriel Medina (5 points): “Stronger, faster, and more savage than anyone else in the game. I say that as a good thing.”

Noa Deane (4 points): “He’s the Tyshawn Jones of surfing.” [Tyshawn Jones is Thrasher‘s 2018 Skater of the Year]. 

Seth Moniz (3 points): “Full of surprises all year in 2018.” [Backflip, U.S. Open air, Pipe air, qualifying, etc.]

Chippa Wilson (2 points): “So creative. Dropped the clip of the year in 2018.” [Video No.4 was damn good indeed.]

Italo Ferreira (1 points): “His surfing seems limitless, in and out of competition, as we saw on tour this year.”

Tough as fuck.


Bethany Hamilton: “No Brainer. She’s unbelievable and inspirational”

Noteworthy Other:

Michael Ho: “The coolest guy. Still getting the best waves at Pipe and Backdoor. LB.” [Lordish Behavior.]

SSOTY Days6 10 Article23

Ross Williams

Age: 45

Bio: Momentum Generationer; former WCT competitor (106 career heat wins) and commentator; coach to John John Florence.


  1. Italo Ferreira (5 points): “Clutch in heats and never avoids big sections. Does some of the gnarliest airs consistently.”
  2. Filipe Toledo (4 points): “Pushes harder in heats than everyone, especially in rippable stuff.”
  3. Gabriel Medina (3 points): “Best competitive guy who backs it up freesurf wise.”
  4. Kai Lenny (2 points): “Does stuff that literally no one is doing right now in big waves.”
  5. John John Florence (1 point): “Four months of John is as good as most for 12.” [John was injured in May.]


Carissa Moore (1 point): “Surfs twice as strong as her competitors…. and I’m a huge fan of Steph. But Carissa is on another level when she’s on.”

SSOTY Days6 10 Article24

Jimmy “Jimmicane” Wilson

Age: 33

Bio: Veteran photographer; former Surfing Magazine (RIP) Photo Editor; outspoken critic and astute observer.


  1. Italo Ferreira (5 points): “He’s the fastest, most raw and talented surfer in the world. He probably was in 2017, too—before that injury derailed his year. I realized it for the first time in March, during the Quik Pro free surfs. He was a level above everyone, including Gabriel and Filipe, but fell victim to a shitty seed and some inconsistencies in events. Watch any session though, it’s clear he’s the best surfer in the world.”
  2. Filipe Toledo (4 points): “He’s went into Pipeline super under-hyped, but don’t let that take away from how incredible this guy is. He somewhat overshadowed himself with the 2017 performance at J-Bay, but his surfing there this year was equally as amazing, just in worse waves. If he continues to step his game up in heavy surf, it’s only a matter of time before he nabs a World Title.”
  3. Griffin Colapinto (3 points): “It’s weird to me that last year was the first time most of the world realized how good this kid is. I mean, he grew up in San Clemente, not North Carolina. I think about Kolohe being the most hyped up 16 year old ever—to no fault of his own—and I can remember seeing Griffin at 16 thinking, “he’s better than Kolohe was at this same age.” For whatever reason, the hype train arrived late, and that’s probably a good thing, because the pressure was lessened. It allowed him to grow as a surfer without being picked apart. Griff’s results trailed off a bit later in his rookie season, but he brings a new and radical energy to surfing that’s very needed, and with a pleasing style as well.”
  4. Mason Ho (2 points): “He’s still my personal favorite to watch on video. It was a slow year for putting shit out by his standards, but I just watched that Through the Doggy Door documentary he made and there’s a section from the West Side where he’s surfing over dry rock that blows my mind. His performance in Stab High was crazy with that gigantic rodeo and the Christ Air attempts. He just thinks outside the box and does his own thing. I can’t get enough.”
  5. Nathan Florence (1 point): “No one went harder than Nathan Florence in 2018. The guy chased every single big swell. He did not miss one! The only thing lacking would be successfully riding a “historical wave,” but he had dozens of psycho rides. He came close on that paddle wave at Teahupo’o, that would’ve one-upped the standard he already set a couple years back. There was also one he packed in Fiji that was next level sending and left other surfers baffled. I love that he doesn’t ever tow. Already this winter, he has the most technical ride of the year at Pipeline. If John John and Nathan paddled out for a heavy session, you legitimately don’t know who’s going to surf better, and that’s pretty wild to say.” [Nate also dropped one of the best surfing-not-surfing IG posts of 2018, below.]


Caroline Marks (1 point): “She’s the gnarliest girl to come up since Carissa, and she has another gear that Carissa and Steph never had, when it comes to airs and bigger wave barrel riding. So far, the general public has yet to see what she can do. I would already pick her as a favorite to win Fiji if they add that comp back next year. She’s one of the reasons the girls deserve to get paid the same as the men. I brought Caroline to Bali for Surfing Magazine’s Grom Games trip and she surfed better than the best guys her age, no bullshit.”

Noteworthy other:

Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca: “The guy is a freak of nature. A lot of guys charge big waves, but his ability is above everyone. He won the Heavy Water award at Surfer Poll and I agree with that. The Best Big Wave Surfer In The World.”

SSOTY Days6 10 Article25

Owen Wright

Age: 28

Bio: Won the biggest single event prize purse in surfing history, nearly died from duckdiving, doesn’t mind a tube


  1. Mikey Wright (5 points): “I think just qualifying as a wildcard is such an incredible feat. It’s never really been done before. Mikey lit it up every time he showed up to an event.” [Across the eight CT events Mikey was granted entry to in 2018, he was able to finish 12th on the season and never lost in the second round].
  2. Italo Ferreira (4 points): “Italo’s had some crazy wins this year. His surfing is out of this world, especially on a performance level.”
  3. Julian Wilson (3 points): “I’m impressed mainly by the way that Julian has made shit happen for himself. He came out at that first event with the shoulder injury, and then he just wins the thing at pumping Kirra. And he just kept surfing good all year. That’s nuts.”
  4. Matt Wilkinson (2 points): “I’ve been really inspired by Wilko’s performance and dedication this year. Even though he’s down on the ratings I think that comes down more to luck than anything else.” [Wilko fell off the CT after nearly a decade of competing at the highest level, including three event wins.]
  5. Wade Carmichael (1 point): “I’ve been loving his surfing. He’s a rookie and Aussie and is sitting in the Top-10 on the CT.”


Steph Gilmore (1 point): “That’s easy – Steph was all class this year and has a bit of a fire to her. There’s a bit more grunt in her turns and watching her surf is very pleasing to the eyes.”

Noteworthy other:

Griffin Colapinto: “He’s had huge performances and I love his surfing. He’s had some normal rookie mistakes but he’s been lighting it up.” 

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The winners of the 2018 Stab Surfer of the Year are…


Introducing your 2018 Stab Surfers of the Year!

Stab Surfer of the Year 2018 official results:


***1. Italo Ferreira (WINNER: 74 points)***

2. Gabriel Medina (72 points)

3. Filipe Toledo (71 points)

=4. Chippa Wilson (54 points)

=4. Noa Deane (54 points)

=6. Nate Florence (48 points)

=6. Julian Wilson (48 points)

8. Griffin Colapinto (43 points)

9. Seth Moniz (25 points)

10. Kai Lenny (23 points)

=11. Dane Reynolds (22 points)

=11. Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca (22 points)

13. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (21 points)

13. Billy Kemper (20 points)

15. John John Florence (18 points) 

16. Ryan Callinan (14 points)

=17. Shaun Manners (10 points)

=17. Mason Ho (10 points)

=17. Mikey Wright (10 points)

20. Mick Fanning (9 points)

=21. Joel Parkinson (7 points)

=21. Barron Mamiya (7 points)

=21. Albee Layer (7 points)

=24. Sheldon Paishon (5 points)

=24. Ethan Ewing (5 points)

=24. Joan Duru (5 points)

=27. Michel Bourez (4 points)

=27. Eithan Osbourne (4 points)

=29. Mikey February (3 points)

=29. Eli Hanneman (3 points)

=29. Wade Carmichael (3 points)

=29. Craig Anderson (3 points)

=33. Creed McTaggart (2 points)

=33. Owen Wright (2 points)

=33. Kolohe Andino (2 points)

=33. Reef Heazlewood (2 points)

=33. Alex Knost (2 points)

=33. Matt Wilkinson (2 points)

=39. Nathan Fletcher (1 point)

=39. Andy Nieblas (1 point)

=39. Balaram Stack (1 point)

=39. Natxo Gonzalez (1 point)


***1. Stephanie Gilmore (WINNER: 19 points)***

2. Carissa Moore (8 points)

=3. Bethany Hamilton (5 points)

=3. Caroline Marks (5 points)

5. Keala Kennelly (4 points)

6. Lakey Peterson (3 points)

=7. Laura Enever (1 point)

=7. Courtney Conlogue (1 point)

=7. Caitlin Simmers (1 point)

=7. Johanne Defay (1 point)

=7. Coco Ho (1 point)

=7. Alana Blanchard (1 point)

And that’s it folks! Italo Ferreira and Stephanie Gilmore are the 2018 Stab Surfers of the Year, as determined by 50 of the most noteworthy voices in surfing. Wonderful, ain’t it? And deserved!

You can read more about our winners right here


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