These Are The 12 Best Waves Ridden In 2016
Included: Some waves that aren’t actually made, and others that aren’t in saltwater.
Even if the wave's not a make we still believe it deserves a spot in our rides of the year. Because some of the best visions you'll get in life are hopeless waves that you go on anyway. Damien Hobgood will contest to that with his Cloudbreak drainer that landed in the nine spot. So in honour of the pending new year, we've put together our top 12 waves ridden in 2016. Our selection came to fruition after lengthy discussions with Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews in order to create a watertight list.
12. Tyler Wright at Cloudbreak (as displayed above)
It was a debate between Tyler’s beachbreak wave and the hands-free tube at Cloudbreak (Mark Mathews was adamant the right was better). For me, the no-hands barrel at Cloudbreak is what gets over the line. It’s one of the best barrels a woman has ever caught. She’s on the foamball and doesn’t grab rail the whole ride, looking comfortable and casual. Backside hands-free barrel riding is one of the hardest things to do in surfing. And Tyler went out to Cloudbreak, which has a pretty unpredictable barrel, and got one of the best waves – if she had grabbed a rail it still would have been one of the best waves a girl has ever caught out there.
11. Bruce Irons at The Rip Curl Padang Cup
Only John Florence, Jamie O’Brien or Kelly Slater could have ridden this wave the way Bruce did. What we loved about this wave is the way he stalls and speeds up. The whole time he keeps you on your toes thinking he might not make it, and when you hear the guys in the background they’re thinking the same. What makes it so special is the fact it’s out at Padang. It’s hard to stay in the barrel through the whole wave there. Guys usually get the first and the end section and come out in between. Bruce stalls, it’s almost like he messed up and it sucked him deeper. When I was watching it live I thought he was going to get blown apart, then in true Bruce form he pumps his way out of it.
10. John John’s Alley Oop, Backdoor
John did this oop on the same day Kelly got the winning ride. John didn’t get barrelled, although his air was much higher than Kelly’s. John tried to paddle out from Off the Wall, got super pounded then did what many are calling the biggest oop ever made. It’s extraordinary how big it is and how easily he lands it. Watch how he re-corrects his board mid air and flattens it out so he land perfectly. If there was another section he could have gone into a snap and a couple of turns, no doubt.
9. Damien Hobgood at Cloudbreak
Everyone was talking about Damo’s wave at G-Land and that wave was obviously amazing, but it was perfect so he just stood there in his usual sick style and the wave did all the work. Cloudbreak was a different story. This is another wave that’s not made, but to manoeuvre his board the way he does through here is mind blowing. He’s riding an 8’8” and watch how he weaves. He goes down and pulls back up and then goes down. We’re talking a 12-foot plus wave. Had he made this, it would’ve been the best wave ever caught out there.
8. Ryan Hipwood at Ours during Cape Fear
If I can think of three sessions I remember this year, the Cape Fear event would be one of them. It was just mental, even my wife was watching and she knows nothing about surfing. She was glued to the TV. I was having anxiety watching it all day. Then Hippo paddled into this wave, got in late and it’s got to be one of the best waves, if not the best wave, ever caught out there. That day was massive. I can’t imagine how much water was moving in that lineup. To position yourself under the ledge, get over it and paddle into one of the best waves ridden on a day that was primarily paddled is a testament to Hippo being one of the best barrel riders in the world.
7. Albee Layer’s 540, Maui
Jesus. Apparently, he had done one of these before but nobody got it on camera. So to go and do it again is impressive. I mean, Albee’s pretty much unsponsored. He doesn’t make much money and he got two waves this year that were some of the year’s best. John’s been trying this move and not making it and Albee stuck it before him. That’s a feat in itself. It’s not a small wave, either. He hits a really meaty section and extends and compresses twice while he’s in the air. That’s the thought process in that move, getting your body through these motions the way a snowboarder of skateboarder does. They’re wrapped up, curled and grabbing to hold themselves into position. In surfing, you can’t do that kind of spin with a grab. Or at least, no one has.
6. Mason’s wipeout at the Eddie
No, this is not a finished wave, but The Eddie was an iconic day. It was the biggest it’d ever been for the contest and was incredibly challenging. Mason’s wave was the biggest caught that day, and to me it’s probably the biggest wave paddled into at the Bay. While everyone else was scrapping over the back, Mason just turned and went. It was out of this world. It was a set that closed out the Bay and he went for it. Look at him going on the face and then he eats shit at the bottom. He turned a wave nobody wanted into something special.
5. Mick Fanning at J-Bay
The WSL had pretty average waves this year, but when we were thinking about the best combo, this was one of the first we jotted down. The way he does that carve into foam climb and slips right into the tube is just… lovely. In terms of a J-Bay wave, it’s not that long (and we'll just briefly note this was upon his highly anticipated return. He went on to win the event). It’s not the best wave at J-Bay but the way he rides it is unbelievable. The way he holds his speed throughout the wave is the most impressive thing, he doesn’t miss a beat. I think it’s comparable to when Tom Curren came for his first time and rode it. The style, flow and the foam climb floater is what really got me.
4. Anthony Walsh, Namibia
This wave from Anthony Walsh is so perfect it’s hard to watch. It’s perhaps the most perfect wave ever ridden out there. I don’t think people realise how heavy it is at Skeleton Bay. You get fucking hammered. And Anthony’s so deep, it’s like a 45 second tube. Jordy Smith and Strider Wasilewski went for that swell last fall and they came back tripping about how heavy it was. Strider was saying it’s like a beating at Chopes or Pipe with how hard the wave breaks on the sand. Where Anthony is on the wave, the foam is banging up on his rail for the whole ride. He’s easily in the top three most barrelled surfers in the world and he says this is the best wave he’s ever ridden. “It takes most people a few trips there to get one like this,” says my pal Frank Solomon, who happened to be in Stab HQ at the time of watching. “It took me four surfs to somewhat figure it out. And this was Anthony’s first trip. To get one like this on your first mission is pretty sick, you see gnarly guys going over the falls there all day. Anthony just goes out and makes it happen, the magic just comes to him. He’s almost like John John in that sense.”
3. Albee Layer At Jaws
Apparently before this session and wave, Albee had just came back from surfing slabs in Oregon and then had been down to Mavericks. He was invited to the Eddie, the most prestigious big wave event in the world, and in true Albee fashion he turned it down because he knew Jaws was going to be pumping the next day. He said he was feeling a little sick but I don’t think he’d be pulling into Jaws this big if he was sick. This wave, just from the takeoff, if he had just made that drop and rode out of the wave it would have been memorable. The fact that he pulls in and got the best tube ever out there is insane. Also on this day, there wasn’t anybody else out, for the most part he was surfing by himself. Everybody was either watching the Eddie, or in the Eddie, and then Albee got the best tube ever recorded at Jaws.
2. Steph Gilmore at Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch
Before Kelly got his barrel to oop, this Steph Gilmore wave at Kelly’s pool was the leading choice. Why? This pool has been the most talked about thing in surfing the past 12 months and Steph Gilmore looks better on the wave than any male guest since its opening. Gabriel Medina looked like he was struggling in the pool. Kelly, obviously, was doing his thing but he wasn’t getting one consecutive barrel. The way Steph navigates the tube with her front foot on the nose of her board is one of the most stylish waves ridden this year. The thing with Steph is, she’s one of the few women surfers who’s regarded as good as any male. She crosses between power and flow, and does it all with style. I always hear guys saying that they wouldn’t want to surf against her in a heat. And I think guys on tour genuinely wouldn’t want to surf against her on a running righthander. She got the first wave of the day here, which is the best and cleanest, and it’s also typically reserved for Kelly. Said she felt so much pressure, so she just stayed in the tube.
1. Kelly’s Backdoor tube to oop.
It’s fitting that Kelly’s wave was the year’s best. Over the past two years, the most discussed waves were Kolohe Andino’s barrel to oop in Portugal, then Jordy Smith’s at North Point last year. On this wave Kelly is riding a 6’6”, which makes it so difficult to make an air on. The difference between this oop and those of Kolohe or Jordy is the fact that there’s less time between Kelly’s combo. Kolohe or Jordy’s had time to set up. Kelly goes straight into and sticks it easy and clean. John John told Stab three years ago that Backdoor has the best air section in the world. He said it’ll put you in places you never want to be. And, not even he has nailed the tube to air combo there yet. Kelly knew exactly what he was going to do the whole wave. The guy’s almost 45 years old for fuck’s sake. How does someone in their mid-40’s do the first frontside buck fifty spin and then the biggest tube to oop combo ever at Backdoor?