Stab's 10 Best Rides of 2017
A little something to flare your nostrils.
Every year across the world, tens, if not hundreds, of waves are ridden by voracious seafarers. Some lie on boogies, others fuck on SUPs, but the most noble waveriding peoples stand atop spears of fiberglass and foam. We are surfers, kings of the sea.
But while surfers hold a communal hierarchy over the world’s breaking waves, there is still room for supremacy among our ranks. Some of us, it must be said, are more kingly kings than others.
Among 2017’s tens if not hundreds of waves ridden, there were a few that, for one reason or another, stood out to Stab. We’re not calling them the best rides of the year, just our favorites. For clarity’s sake, our main criterion was how loudly the wave had us screaming, What the fuck?!
Oh and, fun fact: half of these rides happened in competition. Do you think this is just a coincidence, or could it be explained by the surplus of cameras, wave quality, and performance-peaking spirit imbued by the competitive arena? We’d argue both.
Either way, here's our breakdown:
10. John John Florence, Margaret River, WSL Drug Aware Pro
Without any context, this wave might not exactly set off your WTF-o-meter. But for anyone who was watching this year’s Drug Aware Pro, you know just how special John’s surfing was. While the rest of the competition had mini-seizures all over Main Break’s lumpy faces, John cut through the chatter with full speed, steeply-angled direction changes, the likes of which had longtime surf journos claiming: “Best ever.” We believe them.
9. Harry Bryant, South Australia, “Rust 2.0”
While filming Rust 2.0, Haz traveled all over Australia hunting sections for pits and punts. During one beautiful moment in time, Harry parsed the two together in what Stab is calling the second sickest combo of 2017. And goddamn is it glorious!
8. Dane Reynolds, Central America, “Premium Violence”
Dane Reynolds is a 30-something, definitely not small father-of-three who’s managed to retain relevance in surfing’s aerial movement. Dane’s latest loft, which has been called the highest of his career, is a slow-rotation reverse to lip stomp somewhere in Central America. And while the air would have been enough to make this list in its own right, the cheeky post-punt coverup cemented this wave as an easy favorite of 2017.
7. Sebastian Zietz: North Point, WSL Drug Aware Pro
Any ride that makes Peter Mel squeal like a little piggy in a tickle fight is guaranteed to qualify for Stab’s Top-10. And if you’re still wondering how Seabass made this impossible multi-section drainer, it’s safe to say you are not alone. No matter which angle you look at it, there’s no way he should have been able to fight through the foamballs and chandeliers that North Point brought forth. The Kauai kid’s got more heart, and thumbs, than most.
6. Julian Wilson: Bali, “Wayward”
This might be the prettiest air we’ve ever seen. The launch, the rotation, and the landing -- oh, the landing -- were so remarkably smooth, it’s as if Julian was riding on briefly microwaved stick of butter. You can tell that Julian surprised himself with this ‘oop by how close his feet were when he reconnected with the wave. With an air of this magnitude, if you don’t land in a perfect transition when your feet are that close, you don’t land at all. You either break your board or your ankles.
5. Matt Meola: Maui, “Numb”
Watching Matt Meola’s newest edit, “Numb”, made us question the core fundamentals of our sport. Because the shit that Matt’s doing on a surfboard these days is unlike anything we’ve even dreamed of, let alone seen. There are twirly flips, one-footed layback sex-changes, and to cap it off that motherfucking double-rote. Even Julian can’t do no motherfucking double-rote.
4. Koa Rothman: Pipeline, Da Hui Backdoor Shootout
We feel weird putting this wave all the way down at number 4, because it’s easily one of the best Pipe waves ever ridden. The only way to explain Koa’s survival of what must have been a Goliath foamball, is that there’s no real explanation. He got lucky, I guess. He got lucky with a whole lot of skill mixed in. For the sake of this list, though, Koa was unlucky in the sense that his ride would have been our favorite in most other years. 2017 was just… wild.
3. Filipe Toledo: Jeffrey’s Bay, WSL Corona Open
This was a major Aha moment for the sport of professional surfing. Guys have done multiple massive ‘oops on the same wave before (Jordy in Stranger than Fiction, Josh Kerr at Rincon), but doing it in competition is another story entirely. After nailing the first air, Filipe could have safety-surfed the rest of this wave to an easy-9 and a heat win. That he had the audacity to try a second one with no real incentive, score-wise, is what makes him special. Combo of the year, confirmed.
2. Ian Walsh: Jaws, WSL Pe’ahi Challenge
What we love about this wave, beyond its height and width and perfection, is the fact that it could have been ridden another 10 meters deeper. That’s no dis to Ian Walsh -- he threaded that tunnel like a brazen silkworm -- but it’s no secret that the Jaws performance barrier has only started to be pushed in the past couple years. Paddling Jaws is essentially a new frontier, where the world’s best big-wavers are still trying to work out what’s possible. We may not see a better Jaws wave ridden in 2018 or even 2019, but we will see one in the not-too-distant future, and that’s terribly exciting. For now we’ll continue to savor Ian’s magnificent ride.
1. Evan Geiselman: Namibia, Instagram/@fullsendben
This Skeleton Bay drainer doesn’t have the size of Ian’s, the impossible-factor of Koa’s, nor even a steady hand behind the lens. But what it lacks in all of these factors it makes up for with its length and stoke-inducing surreality. Because the second half of this ride is relatively blind, we called Evan to make sure this wave was worthy of number 1 on our list.
Our burning question: Was the second half of the wave just as crazy as the first?
“Well, the first part of the wave was definitely the best,” Evan told us, “but I was sitting in the tube until you see me pop out at the end. I think I could have stayed in there longer too, I was just so freaked out that it had already gone for so long, and I wanted to see if they were still filming. That was definitely the best wave of my life.”
It's also the best wave ever filmed (from land) at the best wave in the world. That’s good enough for us!