5 Legendary Moments In Surfing

Every sport has its heroes: the massively talented untouchable legends that change and define the course of the pastime, with seemingly with every step they take. Some make their mark and quietly step back from the limelight, while others seem to chug on forever, building their legacy to unbelievable proportions. These are the events that made those heroes...

November 27, 1953

– Skip Tsuzuki takes the iconic photo of Buzzy Trent, Woody Brown and George Downing cruising a bruiser of a wave at Makaha. 

Buzzy Trent, Woody Brown, and George Downing at Mahaka

The 40’s were all about surf experimentation—the sport was just reaching public acceptance. By the 50’s, surfers were starting to mess around with different ideas and pushing the limits of board design and riding.

This picture took those boundaries and CRUSHED them—setting the stage for big wave riders like Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner and creating a whole new movement to the North Shore. Who knows how many phenomenal surfers these guys inspired to take up the sport?

While others were content with your average fare, these guys were charging headfirst into almost triple overhead conditions without a second thought. Featured on the cover of newspapers and magazines worldwide, this picture ushered in a new age of surfing.

December 4, 1969

- Greg Noll rides what is considered to be the biggest wave of all time. Waves that day started at a mind numbing 40 ft and just continued to grow and grow at a terrifying rate. By the time Greg Noll paddled out, waves were peaking at a whopping 6-7 stories and understandably, he was the only one crazy enough to be out in the water.
"I sat there with the guys for at least forty-five minutes, watching these big, thunderous giants coming down out of the north, from Yokohama Bay, towards us.  At times they looked so perfect you'd swear you were looking at waves at Rincon or Malibu, only these waves were thirty feet high with a lip that threw out thirty yards or more.  At other times the waves broke in sections of two or three hundred yards across.  They were horrible, absolutely horrible.  As they peeled off towards us, a giant section would dump, and we'd count, 'One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three...' then, BOOM!  The wave would bottom out and, even though they were a quarter to a half-mile away, the impact of the breaking waves was so tremendous that it made beads of water dance on the deck of our boards.  I'd never seen that happen before.”
People were literally evacuating the area to escape the monster waves—in fact by the end of that day, several beachside surf shacks had been totaled by the sheer force and volume of the water—and what did Greg Noll do? He charged the biggest wave he could find and surfed till it couldn’t be surfed any further. You can read the full story here—trust us, its crazy. http://files.legendarysurfers.com/surf/legends/lsc208.html#makaha_nov1969 or you can watch a video here.


- The surf industry is notoriously averse to change. New constructions, new shapes, new tails—everything needs to be proven, endorsed, and re-approved before it’s accepted by the surf community.

Simon Anderson riding his Thuster at Mahaka

As the originator of the Thruster design, Simon Anderson suffered the doubts, derision, and heckling—the whole gamut. No one thought his bizarre invention could even function in the water, much less improve on the then prevalent single and twin fin setups.

It was assumed at that those 3 dinky fins wouldn’t be able to hold anything bigger than shoulder high waves, if that. SO in 1981, Mr. Anderson set about proving his creation—and you gotta hand it to the guy—he did his job and he did it with style.

Not only did this guy take his prototype to rip 15 ft waves at Bell’s Beach when everyone else was just skipping straight down the face, but he went on to use the same board to dominate at that year’s Pipe Masters—taking the Crown and cementing the Thruster firmly into its rightful place in surfboard design.


- A living legend and surfing conundrum, Tom Curren is idolized by world class surfers, all over the globe. Shy, inexplicably impulsive, and innovative in the water, Curren was undoubtedly one of the most worshipped surfers of 80s and 90s.

Throughout his career, he was known to just up and disappear, hermit-like, for a few years before returning and blowing people away with newer, bigger feats of skill and eccentricity. A Younger Tom Curren

It was said that Tom Curren picked up a 5’ 5 retro fish secondhand from a surf shop the day before the ’93 ASP and used it to cleanly trounce Matt Hoy (then ranked no. 8 in the world)—singlehandedly catalyzing a fish surfboard revival across the community.

True to style, Curren then rapidly lost interest in the surf scene, and went on to continue his pursuit of other endeavors—like playing drums and guitar for Skipping Urchins. At the height of his career in 1990, Curren showed up to the world title race unseeded—which essentially meant he’d need to surf through all the trails at every venue the World Tour was hosted at and dominate every single one if he even wanted a chance at the title.

So what did Tom Curren do when faced with this superhuman marathon of surfing? He did it anyway. Presumably just for kicks. Oh, and he won the title that year. Yeah. What the hell. Here’s a video of Curren doing his thing.


- Kelly Slater snags his first world title. Kelly Slater – redefined competitive surfing with his own unique, explosive style of surfing kicking off an era of surf domination that has only recently shown signs of even slowing down with his recent near miss bid for his tenth World Title. Kelly is singlehandedly the biggest name to come out of the surfing community—and even non surfers know that. 

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit, the man has some serious skills. This guy collects World Championships and Titles like stamps and to date has dominated over 3 generations and styles of surfing:

80s Power Surfers, 90s New School, the current Coolie School. Up until the most recent Jordy Smith Gen, no one besides Andy Irons has made the dude break so much as a sweat. The craziest part? He’s pushing 40.

Now we know this isn't a complete listing--there's too much good stuff going on in the water for us to cover in just one article!

Got a sick moment of surf history we missed? Be sure to give us a shout out and let us know about your favorites. Ready to start your own surf legend? Get your FREE 34 pg. Surfboard Guide:

everything from shapes, dimensions, breaks, and more +5% off your next Degree 33 Surfboard.

Garek Hurt
Garek Hurt


1 Comment

Lucius Janeczko
Lucius Janeczko

May 07, 2014

No arguments from me

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