Recent years have seen major changes to the way the world’s top surfers go about making their mark on a wave, and to be the best today requires a huge arsenal of weapons. The things these guys and girls do with apparent ease wouldn’t even have been dreamed of 15 years ago, and as a result the upper echelon of surfers is as good as it’s ever been. There are, however, a few who stand out about the rest, so let’s take a look at the world’s top three surfers.
- Gabriel Medina
- John John Florence
- Stephanie Gilmore
Last year’s World Champion Gabriel Medina has been making serious noise on the World Tour since he burst onto the scene in 2014. Entering his first full World Championship Tour season, the Rip Curl sponsored goofy-footer quickly made his mark with a win at the first event of the season, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, and ultimately went on to become the youngest World Champion since Kelly Slater in 1992 and the youngest Brazilian World Champion ever.
With a penchant for aerials the likes of which few, if any, have ever been able to match, Medina has racked up sponsors like he has circuit wins, and today boasts the support of some of the biggest names in surfing, including Rip Curl, Oakley, and FCS traction and fins. Aged just 25, he has already claimed victories at most of the stops on tour, including Cloudbreak, Supertubos and Pipeline, as well as a couple at the Billabong Pro in Tahiti and three at the Quiksilver Pro in France. When he’s on his game, Medina seems impossible to beat, and it would surprise no one to see him add to his two World Titles – quite possibly on more than one occasion.
John John Florence
One of the few surfers in the world who can match it with Medina, John John Florence has for a long time been regarded by many as the best surfer on the planet, and is likely as good as there has ever been at Pipeline, his home break. Prodigiously talented from a young age, John John signed with O’Neill at just six years old, and became the youngest surfer to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in history aged just 13 and standing at less than 5’ tall.
For some time, this failed to translate into success on the World Tour, but he quickly turned that around with back-to-back World Championships in 2016 and 2017. Sponsored by the likes of Stance, Futures and Nixon, John John is unstoppable when conditions are barrelling – something which can likely be credited to his upbringing on the footstep of Pipeline – but is equally dangerous in the air and has a rail game like few others. He was unable to add a third consecutive World title to his trophy collection last year as a result of an injury-riddled campaign, but he is back and bigger than ever this year, and in with a huge chance to make it three in four years.
Stephanie Gilmore has been a dominant force on the world surfing circuit for upwards of ten years. Born and raised in Murwillambah, New South Wales, Gilmore won her first ever event on the World Tour aged just 17 at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in 2005. It was a sign of things to come – two years later she won her first World Title, after which she won the next, and the next, and the next again. Since then, she’s been crowned World Champ in 2012, 2014, and 2018, bringing her total to seven, a number matched only by Layne Beachley and headed only by Kelly Slater.
Standing at 5’10” and significantly taller than most of her competitors, Gilmore’s frame gives her a power which few can match, and when combined with a graceful rail game, it’s easy to understand why she’s been successful for so long. With Roxy, Creatures of Leisure and more behind her, Gilmore has racked up over $1 million in career earnings, and at the ripe age of 31, it seems like there’s still plenty more to come.
Medina, Florence and Gilmore are three of the top surfer’s in the world, but they’ve got plenty of competition. With the likes of Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson, Carissa Moore, Courtney Conlogue, and plenty more keeping them honest, competitive surfing on both the men’s and women’s circuit is as good as it’s ever been.