MSW's Top 50 Trending Surfers of 2018


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Updated 138d ago

Welcome to the inaugural compilation of MSW's Top 50 Trending Surfers. And what a year 2018 has been so far; the biggest ever ridden at Nazare, the greatest ever Jaws barrel has been wrangled, first ever CT contest in a wave pool is about to kick off. Right here, we acknowledge those big performances, maybe a surfer's competitive streak, perhaps a freesurfer who's cruised with soul and exceptional poise. Or maybe there's some particular Insty notoriety that's propelled them into the spotlight? Well, whatever the reason, they all have something in common; they are so hot right now.

These are our top 50 trending surfers of 2018 so far.

50) Josie Prendergast

Always a pleasure shooting with @nathanoldfield

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Josie Prendergast is surfing’s girl next door and a talented longboarder. Josie's got a down-to-earth vibe that can only come from growing up on an island in the Philippines and then moving to Australia.

49) Bianca Valenti
Bianca charges colossal Mavericks and anything else that comes her way. But also, Bianca's fighting to bring equality to big wave surfing, currently campaigning to get the prize purse levelled out for men and women. A long battle but hopefully positive changes can be made.

48) Pedro Calado
Does anyone charge harder than Pedro Calado? If so, we haven’t heard of them. Pedro shows up at all the important XXL swells, spins and sends it on the biggest waves, recently made one of the best XXL barrels of all time at Puerto Escondido, and has qualified for the 2019 Big Wave Tour. That’s quite a year.

47) Pete Mel
When Pete Mel retired from his job as the Big Wave commissioner, he probably thought he was going to get some rest. But the past year has been one of the former Big Wave World Champion’s busiest to day, between surfing in a couple of BWT events, serving as a world tour commentator, and running safety for his teenage son John out at Mavericks.

46) Seth Moniz

The clip of Seth Moniz landing a backflip at the BSR wave pool in Waco was enough to put him on the list of the 50 most talked about surfers, but lest we forget, he is also currently the top ranked surfer on the QS and pulled the above vid off...

45) Jack Robinson
If John John Florence is the best barrel rider in the world, then Jack Robinson is a close second—and the best barrel rider not on the world tour. He put in a solid performance at Margaret River (North Point!) and won the Padang Padang Cup—enough said.

44) The Coffey Sisters
Ellie-Jean and Holly Coffey are the self-described Kardashians of the surfing world, which is to say they are attractive, wear very little clothing, and have a ton of Instagram followers.

43) Kolohe Andino
Although Kolohe suffers from a bit of inconsistency in a jersey, he is still the top-rated American on tour (currently sitting in 10th), and one of the most technically gifted wave riders on the planet.

42) Noa Deane
Surfing’s latest cig-smoking, no-fucks-given bad boy, Noa Deane has single-handedly brought back the front foot deck pad (to the chagrin of many), and recently dropped Head Noise, one of the most talked-about edits of the past year.

41) Owen Wright
Owen was already one of the most popular surfers in the world—and arguably the hardest charging on the world tour—before he bonked his noggin and then made a miraculous recovery and comeback from a TBI, winning his first event back from the injury. Now fully recovered and back in form, he is rated 6th in world, and the eldest of the first three-sibling tour dynasty.

40) Brett Barley
When you think about cold, brown, sandy left-hand barrels, Brett Barley comes to mind. Between East Coast edits and a number of recent trips to Skeleton Bay, Brett has been all over Instagram and the Internet in general over the past year. He’s also a featured athlete in our On It feature.

39) Alana Blanchard and Jack Freestone
Alana and Jack are the Brad and Angelina of surfing—a power couple that dominates both in the water and on social media. Both former world tour competitors, both beautiful humans, and now both parents to a new baby, Alana and Jack are as popular as ever.

38) Jordy Smith

Jordy has been one of the world’s best surfers for more than a decade now, but his inconsistency in events has him in danger of being labelled the next Taj Burrow (i.e., the best surfer in the world to have never won a world title). Jordy started strong this year, but as the tour moved into the back half of the season, he’s started his customary slide down the ratings.

37) Tatiana Weston-Webb
Kanoa Igarashi wasn’t the only world tour athlete to change the flag he’s competing under in order to grab a spot in the Olympics. Kauaian Tatiana Weston-Webb shares dual citizenship with Brazil, and swapped teams earlier this year in preparation for Tokyo. She’s also currently ranked third in the world, which means that if selection happened tomorrow, she’d make the Brazilian Olympic team with ease.

36) Ramon Navarro

© 2019 - Scott Winer.

The hype leading up to the “biggest Cloudbreak swell of all time” was almost as big as the swell itself. But the hype surrounding the wave that Ramon Navarro towed into that day was even bigger—and deservedly, since it was the biggest wave ever ridden at the world’s best XXL reef break.

35) Carissa Moore
Despite the fact that she’s having a slump year by her standards (currently ranked 5th in the world, with three events to go), Carissa Moore is still arguably the best female surfer in the world, and one of the nicest people to ever pick up a surfboard.

34) Zeke Lau
John John Florence came into this season the clear favourite for the world title, having handily taken out the past two years. But when Zeke Lau drew his fellow Hawaiian at Bells Beach, he wasn’t about to back down. He ended up sitting on Florence in one of the most aggressive displays of hassling we’ve seen in years, drawing the ire of thousands in the process. His paddle antics resulted in a new WSL rule on hassling, and may have kickstarted John John’s slump of a season.

33) Russell Bierke
When the future of slab surfing comes up in conversation, Russell Bierke’s name always gets mentioned. Bierke has been charging as hard as anyone since he was a young teenager, and recently dropped jaws for the thousandth time with yet another crazy edit. He also earned his way onto the 2019 Big Wave Tour through a top-10 finish in the Big Wave Awards Overall Performance category.

32) Rob Machado
What do you do when you have already enjoyed a lengthy career as the most stylish surfer in the world? How about start shaping, and release your own line of boards? Rob Machado’s quiver of fish-inspired Firewires prove that he is just as relevant as he has ever been—as do the edits he continues to drop, well into his 40s.

31) Josh Kerr
Kerrzy may be retired from full-time competition, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down at all. Josh recently won the Maldives contest, ripping on a single fin, a twin fin, and a thruster. He also test-rode a huge quiver of twin fins for Surfline, appears to be helping present the future WSL air contest circuit, and regularly drops clips of him surfing and skating with his adorable family.

30) Laura Enever

© 2019 - Stu Gibson.

While she isn’t on the world tour anymore, Laura Enever certainly hasn’t been sitting still. She has been invited to the past few women’s big wave events, and recently turned heads towing scary Shipstern’s Bluff.

29) Ian Walsh
A lot of the world’s big wave surfers spend their entire careers looking for one single wave—and Ian Walsh found that wave during the Peahi contest last winter. His 10-point ride was the best XXL barrel ever ridden, won him ride of the year in the Big Wave Awards, and qualified him for the 2019 Big Wave Tour—all in the span of about 10 seconds.

28) Tyler Wright
One of three siblings on tour (with Mikey now almost guaranteed to qualify for the 2019 season) and defending two-time world champ, Tyler Wright has become one of the biggest names in surfing. The fact that she is having a bit of a slump year (by her standards, anyway) and isn’t battling it out with Steph and Lakey for the top spot hasn’t diminished her following at all.

27) Sebastian Steudtner

© 2019 - Helio Antonio.

Steudtner is no slouch when it comes to big Nazare—he’s always in the running for biggest tow wave of the year, and has taken home Big Wave Award hardware in the past. But Steudtner’s fame got a bit of a boost last month when numerous mainstream media outlets mislabeled one of his waves as Rodrigo Koxa’s record-setting wave from this past season. The ensuing confusion and controversy has his name popping up all over the place, even more than usual.

26) Mason Ho
A perennial entertainer, Mason Ho combines a quirky sense of humor, an affinity for weird waves, and plain good surfing. Now he has teamed up with Mick Fanning to revive Rip Curl’s The Search by chasing epic waves in far-flung destinations. Not a bad gig.

25) Albee Layer
We can always count on Albee Layer to speak his mind, especially when there is some sort of controversy bubbling up in the surf world. But Albee is relevant for more than just his opinions. He’s arguably the best surfer at Peahi’s west bowl, he’s one of the featured athletes in MSW's “On It,” and he’s headlining the upcoming air contest in Waco (which Albee insists should be judged by anyone but Kelly Slater).

24) Nic Von Rup
Nic Von Rup is a full-time heavy-water hero, chasing scary barrels and scarier bombies all over the world. He takes time between edits to make sure everything he drops is A+, and is a featured athlete in the ongoing MSW edit, On It.

23) Bethany Hamilton
Bethany has long been on of surfing’s favourite heroes. She’s arguably the second most famous wave rider, after Slater, and she continues to inspire more than a decade after losing her arm in a shark attack. She is set to inspire us yet again, as she’s been given a wild card into the Surf Ranch event. Oh, and she dropped a clip of a 10-second barrel at the Ranch in the run up to the event, just to prove that she’s on her game. The other ladies should be nervous.

22) Wade Carmichael

No one is quite sure how a furry, blue-collar, Australian power surfer has surfed his way to 5th on world tour rankings, but his results make it clear that Wade deserves to be exactly where he is, and that he’s a shoe-in for rookie of the year. Heck, he could theoretically even win the world title.

21) Joel Parkison
Parko has always been one of the smoothest surfers on tour, but his classic brand of shredding lacks the hi-fi factor that the young guns are bringing, and the writing has been on the wall for a while now. When Parko announced his retirement at J-Bay this year, it wasn’t much of a surprise—his best mate Mick had retired a few months before, and now it was Parko’s turn to have his incredible career celebrated. Unfortunately, Kelly Slater decided to announce his coming retirement—one and a half seasons in the future—an hour after Parko’s announcement, essentially stealing his thunder.

20) Kanoa Igarashi
What would you do for a shot at Olympic gold? Would you change your citizenship? Move to another country? Depending on whom you ask, Kanoa Igarashi would do both—although the online trolls who call him a traitor tend to be few and far between. Most agree that the Californian’s decision to claim his dual Japanese citizenship this year (at least in terms of world tour competition) was a brilliant move, as it all but guarantees him a spot at surfing’s first Olympic Games in 2020—which just so happen to be hosted in Tokyo.

19) Paige Alms
Forget the fact that Paige Alms is a multiple Jaws women’s event winner and the de facto women’s big wave champion—she’s one of the best big wave surfers and waterpeople alive, man or woman. From swell strike to Nelscott Reef to snowboard heli-trips to Alaska to standout performances at her beloved Peahi, Paige has had a heck of a year—and one gets the feeling that she’s only just begun.

18) Caroline Marks
The “it” rookie on the women’s world championship tour, Caroline Marks is still in high school, yet she’s already being compared to Mark Occhilupo for her backhand abilities—and that’s a compliment that few other surfers have ever enjoyed. Caroline won’t win the world title her first year on tour, but if her early success is any indication (she’s made a quarter and a semi, and is rated 6th with three events to go), that trophy will come long before she’s of drinking age.

17) Griffin Colapinto
Griff had all the hype coming into the beginning of the season. He was the hottest surfer in the new batch of rookies, he put in a cracker of a performance on the Gold Coast, with an epic triple-barrel and a third place finish, and he dropped a couple clips from the Surf Ranch that made him appear to be the guy to watch there. But Kolohe Andino got the call up for the Founder’s Cup instead of Griffin, and the rookies competitive results slowed down as Wade Carmichael’s heated up. While the Californian’s glory run is surely far from over, he’s definitely ready for another big result.

16) Koa Smith

Sometimes it only takes one wave to cement your place in surfing history. Of course, if you are Koa Smith—arguably one of the best at Skeleton Bay, which is arguably the best wave on the planet—you end up finding that one wave a couple times a season. Koa’s 40-second+ barrel in Namibia a few years ago was the ride against which all others have been measured—until he found a two-minute wave with eight barrel sections a couple months ago. A new standard may have been set when it comes to sand-bar barrels, but it’s still the same guy who is leading the pack.

15) Laura Crane
Many of us may not have known who Laura Crane was a few short months ago—heck, a few of us might still not know who she is. But after she started starring on the reality show Love Island, a helluvalot of Instagram followers know who she is. UK-based ripper Laura has more than 600,000 followers on IG, and made news recently when she spoke out about her five-year battle with bulimia. She hopes to be a positive example to young women everywhere, and if an audience and a message is any indication, we’d say she’s off to a pretty good start.

14) Lakey Peterson
The one woman who can stop Steph Gilmore from claiming her seventh title, Lakey has put in a world-beating season thus far in 2018. With another win or two over the last four events of the season, and the tiniest slip-up from Steph, Lakey could very well end up with her own silver cup.

13) Rodrigo Koxa
If you want to force the world to stand up and pay attention, there aren’t many better ways than to set a world record. Rodrigo Koxa towed into an 83-foot wave at Nazare this past winter—the biggest ever ridden—and his publicity has been off the charts ever since, both within the surf industry and in the mainstream media in general.

12) Lucas Chumbo
If you want to know who the best big wave surfer in the world is, you ask the other best big wave surfers in the world—and virtually everyone who holds accolades in the heavy water realm agrees that Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca is the future. Chumbo chases more swells than anyone, running down purple blobs with a persistence and energy that is mind-boggling. And when he shows up, he always blows up, which is what is truly remarkable about the kid. Chumbo wan the Nazare Challenge this year—his first major event win—and in doing so qualified for the 2018/2019 Big Wave Tour. He also won the Overall Performance Award in the Big Wave Awards, which many feel is an equal to if not greater than achievement than the Big Wave World Championship. With Carlos Burle now standing in the young chargers corner and taking over coaching duties, it is only a matter of time before the big wave championship trophy finds its way back to Brazil.

11) Andy Irons

Andy’s death in 2010 was one of the biggest tragedies the surfing world has seen—a three-time world champion and one of our most colourful characters cut down in the prime of his life. For a while, the media refused to talk about the cause of Andy’s death. Tropical diseases were initially blamed, and the d-word was all but taboo. But with the recent release of Kissed by God, the Andy Irons biopic that talks in detail about his struggle with and eventual overdose on drugs, our community has finally found the strength to talk about what really happened. While it is sad that Andy’s latest stint in the limelight has come nearly a decade after his death, it is heartening to see how many people still love him and think of him on a daily basis.

10) Kai Lenny
Kai Lenny may have been robbed of a big wave world title by a Nazare contest that should have never run, but that hasn’t stopped him from proving time and again that he’s the world’s best waterman. Whether it’s dominating big wave paddle sessions, driving through eight-second XL barrels on a 10'0" gun, towing the biggest waves in the world, or boosting airs on his foil board, Kai excels on every type of surf craft in existence, and is arguably the most well-rounded surfer alive.

9) Julian Wilson
Julian is another guy you would have bet on for his long-anticipated world title this season, especially after a strong first half of the year. But like Italo, Julian has slipped up a few too many times over the past two months, and now finds himself with a lot of catching up to do if he wants a chance at that elusive trophy.

8) Mick Fanning
A lot of people spend large parts of their careers looking forward to about retirement, but most could never dream of a retirement like this. Fanning isn’t even 40-years-old yet, but the three-time world champ decided to hang up the jersey and float on into his golden years after the second event of the season at Bells (where he came this close to winning). After one of the most celebrated retirements/careers in surfing history, Mick shook off the effects of the after party and got busy with his post-career responsibilities—chasing all the best swells to all the best waves in the world.

7) Italo Ferreira
Two months ago, after his performances in Brazil and Keramas, you would have been foolish to bet against Ferreira winning his first world tour in 2018. But three events later, the Brazilian’s armor has started to show some cracks—and his compatriots Toledo and Medina have happily taken advantage. It is going to take a major push from Italo to move himself back into title contention come Pipe.

6) Mikey Wright

Mikey the Mongrel already has two siblings on tour, but it would seem that he’s tired of cheering them on from the sidelines. Mikey has had a good showing on the qualifying tour thus far this year, but has done even better on the world tour, where he has leveraged early wild card berths into a legitimate qualification campaign. Despite the protests from some that Mikey is being gifted a spot on tour by the WSL, the reality is that he has put in solid results at his WC showings, and is currently rated well within qualification range, hovering around 10th.

5) Steph Gilmore
Steph has had a quiet couple of years (by her standards), being somewhat overshadowed by the competitive juggernaut of Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore. But this year the six-time world champ is back in control, leading the title race and looking confident on her way to what could be a record-tying seventh world title.

4) John John Florence
Another multiple world champ with an injury problem, John John blew his knee out doing an air in Bali a few months ago, and that effectively ended his 2018 season. But the bigger story may be the fact that his 2018 season before the injury had been a total write-off, with the defending two-time world champ barely in the requalification zone before his knee went bad. Still, whenever double J drops a banger, it has us all picking jaws off the floor. A remarkable feat staying relevant through injury - and John John's not going anywhere.

3) Kelly Slater
The fact that Slater is trending shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. What is surprising, however, is that he’s been getting attention this year not for his surfing, but for his NOT surfing. Slater has been crying injury since breaking his foot at J-Bay a year ago, but the past few months have seen the credibility of that injury dwindle—particularly after his foot was healthy enough to compete at the Founder’s Cup and J-Bay, and surf maxing Cloudbreak, but not healthy enough to surf the events at Brazil and swell-deprived Teahupoo. Whether or not Slater’s foot is healthy enough for the world tour event at his Surf Ranch wave pool next week, you can be sure people will be talking about it.

2) Gabriel Medina
Gabby finally added a W to his season at Teahupoo, which is pretty much mandatory if you want to be world champ. He trails Toledo by around three or four heats, and already has a couple throwaway results, but he also has the advantage of being one of the best competitors in the game. If anyone is going to stop Felipe, it’s Medina.

1) Filipe Toledo

One of the examples of Filipe's prowess.

Filipe has been a title contender for years—at least on paper. But he’s never been able to put together an entire season of results, often due to his sub-par performances in the heavy left-hand reef breaks. This year, Cloudbreak is off the schedule, and Filipe managed to make the semis at Teahupoo (where he'd flown out weeks before to get some training in at The End of the Road). With a solid lead on the rest of the field, and the Surf Ranch event next on the schedule (at which Filipe has to be considered the favourite), it’s beginning to look like 2018 is the year Toldeo finally meets his potential.

There it is! 50 surfers, ordered in some form of semi-coherent list. Agree? Disagree? Don't be shy, let us know.