The Last Decade In Surf: Andy Irons’ Passing, Kelly Slater’s 11th World Title, And Brazil’s CT Dominance
Revisit the 10 stories that defined 2010-2019.
Compiling ten years of professional surfing into a meagre 10-point listicle is a futile task. Too much has happened in these past ten years to possibly cram into a single article, and by narrowing that list down to 10 or so stories there’s every chance you’ll leave out something crucial.
Despite this, there’s something neat in trying to summarise this past decade of professional surfing. Not the ten years of competitive surfing—we summarised those here—but by the stories which, in hindsight, have defined this decade.
Below is a list of ten stories that shaped the 2010s linked with the articles we wrote when these stories first dropped. They’re in no particular order, unlike the top 10 films piece, but feel free to tell us in the comments which stories we’ve missed!
Andy Irons’ Tragic Passing
In late 2010, the surfing world lost one of its best surfers and biggest personalities. November 2020 will mark the tenth year since we lost Andy Irons to a drug-induced cardiac arrest.
The void left in professional surfing by Andy’s passing is one which will likely never be filled. His surfing influenced a generation, and on the Championship Tour, Andy was the one surfer to put it to Kelly Slater in his prime.
The events surrounding Andy’s passing are best described in the film Kissed By God or the original exposé by Brad Melekian, but for a reminder of his surfing ability and the influence it left, you can watch Stab’s commemoration of Andy five years on above.
Kelly Slater Drops A Wavepool On Adriano de Souza’s World Title
Hours after Adriano de Souza had won his maiden World Title (and Brazil’s second), Kelly Slater unveiled his secret wavepool to the world.
At the time, the pool’s location was unknown (except to a few clever internet sleuths), the water was freezing cold, and they clearly dubbed a cheer-track over the Goat’s first ride, but for those 3 minutes and 40 seconds, all anyone could think about was the fact that Kelly Slater had produced the most perfect man-made wave we’d seen to date. Since its unveiling, the pool has undergone further improvements such as getting more sections, bigger waves, a left, and even an attempt at an ‘air section’ towards the end.
Wavepools had been built for years but none quite like this. Naturally, this pool would become home to the tour’s first competition in a (legitimate) wavepool and also set the benchmark for man-made tubes.
Mick Fanning Is ‘Attacked’ By A Shark, It’s Streamed Live To The World
Late one night on the couch in Australia I sat up to watch Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson in the J-Bay final. Early in the heat a fin popped up next to Mick, knocked him from his board, and thrashing ensued before a wave obscured both the shark and Mick from sight. I yelled at the TV, my heart stopped, and then for a few seconds I wondered whether I’d just witnessed the demise of my favourite surfer through my adolescence. That footage I saw (seen above) was streamed around the globe to thousands of viewers. Fortunately, Mick came away unscathed, but the story wasn’t the same for the J-Bay comp.
The remainder of the comp was cancelled (Mick and Julian were both given second place) and a vote took place as to whether to return to J-Bay the year after. The comp did return, Mick Fanning won in the final, and we haven’t had any shark scares on the CT as close as this since.
Filipe after winning the WSL’s first event at Snapper Rocks.
The Association of Surfing Professional The World Surf League
At the end of 2014, news broke that the ASP would be no more. This, however, did not signal the end of competitive surfing’s global platform, but rather a transition to a new name and new approach. Twenty-fifteen was the first year the WSL ran a world tour, and despite a few initial hiccups—like Mick being attacked by a shark—overall we think they did a decent job.
Kelly Slater, the 11x World Champion, exiting a barrel shortly before leaving Quiksilver.
Kelly Slater, Dane Reynolds, and Craig Anderson Leave Quiksilver
In reality, these three events didn’t occur at the same time. In 2014 Kelly Slater announced his departure from his 23-year sponsor, Quiksilver, before embarking on his own exhibition into surf-related apparel with Outerknown.
For well over a decade Quiksilver’s team consisted of both the best competitive and non-competitive surfers, with nearly every dominant name in the sport riding for the mountain and wave at some point in time.
In November 2015, it was confirmed that Dane Reynolds, one of surfing’s most marketable men, had also parted ways with Quiksilver. Then just over a month later, his friend and fellow Quik rider, Craig Anderson, also announced his departure from the brand. Today, Dane and Craig have their own brand, Former.
These departures were indicative of the times for the surfing markets biggest brand names. Soon it became clear there would be no resurgence from the collapse of the industry in the late noughties.
Brian Singer and Doug “Claw” Warbrick decided to sell their brand after 50 years.
In 2020, every single major surf brand is owned by a larger conglomerate.
In 2015, Quiksilver was purchased by Oaktree Capital after years of enormous financial losses which eventually led to them filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Billabong was on a similar path, and was also purchased by Oaktree Capital, which eventually consolidated both companies under the Boardriders Inc. banner in 2018.
Last year marked the further decline of the independent surf label with the sale of both Rip Curl and Hurley.
Three months ago Rip Curl’s founders and owners, Brian Singer and Doug “Claw” Warbrick, sold their 50-year old brand to Kathmandu for $350 million. Then, just over a month later, surfing giant Hurley sold to Bluestar Alliance, which soon resulted in the contracts of riders like Rob Machado and Barron Mamiya being relinquished.
No longer are the main surf brands owned by surfers themselves—in fact, you’d struggle to find anyone high up in the chain of commands of these companies who has anything other than a Wavestorm stuffed in their holiday house’s garage.
Effortless as always, Stephanie Gilmore, the most winning woman in surfing.
The WSL Awards Equal Pay To The Men And Women
Late 2018 saw the announcement by the World Surf League that the men and women would receive the same pay from the 2019 season onwards. They were the first international sporting body to award equal pay to the two sexes in this landmark decision, one which received acclaim for the media at large, and was divisive amongst interweb trolls.
From 2019 onwards, both the men and women receive $100,000 USD for a win on the Championship Tour, with monetary prizes remaining equal all the way down to 17th place.
Payments as a whole are not equal throughout surfing—sponsorship wise, the men earn significantly more than the women—but this was a big step forward in the fight for equal pay.
Gabriel Medina wins the 2014 World Tour (despite actually winning it a month earlier in Portugal)
In 2014 Gabriel Medina dominated the World Tour and took home the title at the the second last stop in Portugal. The passionate sporting nation erupted, and seemingly with it a flurry of other future South American World Champions.
Adriano de Souza won in 2015, Gabs again in 2018, and now our most recent champion Italo Ferreira with Filipe Toledo seemingly not far behind.
The 2010’s was the decade the storm struck and it all started with Gabe Medina in 2014.
Put this down in the history books and slash Stab from their records if it is ever disproven: no male surfer will ever match, beat, or even come reasonably close (let’s call that 9) to Slater’s 11 World Titles.
That one man achieved this unfathomable feat defied all numerical logic. For two to do it, well, that would cause the world’s oceans to converge on themselves, cooling earth’s core and killing off any living thing that grows on it or in it, humans included.
Thus, you shouldn’t be cheering for an 11-peat to happen again, ever.
Kelly is the best competitive surfer that will ever live, which he proved twice in two days in San Francisco, California.
We get it—some of you don’t believe that humans have played a part in our current climate change crisis, while others don’t believe we’re in the midst of a crisis at all. And while we wish we had the confidence to believe that we’re smarter than 97+% of climate scientists—who study this type of thing every day, from every angle, and have come to the consensus agreement, yes, the earth’s temperature is increasing at an alarmingly rapid rate and, yes, humans are to blame—we’re at least smart enough to know that we’re not.
In the past decade, we’ve seen water levels continue to rise, storms of an unprecedented magnitude strike small island nations, devastating floods, fires, and everything in between—in other words, exactly what climate scientists predicted when they saw the levels at which earth’s temperature was rising.
We wrote a piece all about how climate change could affect surfing’s future here.
If you disagree, that’s fine. We’re all gonna die soon anyway.
Welcome to 2020!
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