So what’s the criteria? Well, it’s a perfectly inexact science that sees the surfers who represent themselves the most authentically through their surfing and living at the top. Their creativity rewarded. Their flaws embraced. Their zest and style counting exponentially. There are no numbers, it’s all feeling. Like music. Or poetry. Subjective. Like surfing should be.
We made this list not as a means of pitting them against each other either, but as a way to bring them together. In whatever parallel universe we can make it happen in. And one day we will. We think it would be a much more entertaining experience for us all. Imagine this crew on a World Tour. Imagine how it would sound! And look! And how much fun we’d all have. And the ripping would be ridiculous. So here we go. The What Youth Top 34 for 2016.
THE WHAT YOUTH TOP 34:
1. Ozzie Wright, AUS
Yep. Current World Champ. Oscar himself. After spending a few days with him at his new home in Byron Bay surfing, drawing band posters, booking a tour for the Goons of Doom, painting with his daughter, sinking midday beers, guitar jams, shit talking and creative outlooks and hearing about his new philosophy that says “yes” to just about anything. We’re crowning Ozzie. He’s nailing it.
2. Taj Burrow, AUS
We’ve already dubbed him the World’s Greatest Professional Surfer of All-Time. And here he is, holding steady as the perennial bridesmaid, but something tells us if he sheds that WSL singlet in the next few years, the next chapter of Taj could be even better. What Youth World Champ is only a matter of time. Couldn’t be a sicker person, surfer, travel buddy, dad, boat trip companion, beer drinker, style, and all around good dude.
3. Craig Anderson, AUS
He quit. Just like us. Walked away from a big, longtime sponsor, and regardless of the circumstances, that’s pretty punk. He currently has no main sponsor and still dropped what’s got to be one of the best edits of the year so far in Welcome Elsewhere. He’s just mysterious enough. Just spontaneous enough. Just rebellious enough. And his style is probably the most emulated at your local beach break wherever you live. A true WY World Champ contender.
4. Yago Dora, BRA
“Yags” is the freshman. The new blood. But he’s so damn refreshing — fun to watch and as we learned in this year’s This is Us: North trip he’s down to jump in the van and go. Wherever. He’s well-rounded and one of the raddest kids we’ve met in years. He also just hit us up for tickets to Burger Records 5th Anniversary festival this weekend. What a Lord. Going to be ranked high for a long time.
5. Chippa Wilson, AUS
Another guy missing a sticker on the nose of his board (but not for long). After spending a week with him at home in Cabarita on the Gold Coast, where he maintains a pair of motorcycles, a pair of agile cats, a fun beach break, a fun pointbreak, some really sick surfboards, a nice house and shares it all with a lovely girl named Emily, it’s easy to see that Chippa is in fact, absolutely killing it. What he did on the points over 2 days on a Neal Purchase Jr. shaped twin fin changed our whole perspective on shit. Stay tuned for that. Chip is about to make a push.
6. Dane Reynolds, USA
Dane is in the lab. Working on a new brand. He’s been feasting on El Niño, and working. This much we know. Working on his next move. And if we know anything from past experience with Dane, the moment that you think he’s done. That he’s over it. He’s too old. He’s lost it. That’s exactly when he quietly drops a thunderbolt. We’re ready Dane. So ready. We want “Fuck You” hacks on the road with us.
7. Noa Deane, AUS
Noa could live on his Cluster part for like 5 years or more. But somehow he gave us Tuff last year too. He continues to be Noz. And that’s all we ask: keep doing it just like that.
8. Mikey Wright, AUS
Not many have come in and poured more moxie on the game than Mikey. He’s raw as fuck. No other way to put it. He’s unapologetic. (Never say sorry). He does crazy things on a surfboard. Charges. And if you need a reminder, watch the laybacks in this. Or re-watch this interview with him to see why we can’t get enough.
9. Ryan Burch, USA
South America section in Psychic Migrations. Don’t need to say much more. It’s the most renegade piece of cinema in surfing we’ve seen since Greenough slid on a fucking mat. Completely caught us off guard. As did Burch, who’s gone from your favorite NSSA grom in Encinitas, CA to an avant-garde surfer/shaper/persaonality drawing lines that redefine every line before it. Fan favorite in the Top 10.
10. Bruce Irons, HAW
He’s on the cover. He called his North Shore return. He has a new lease on his surfing life. You can see it in his eyes and there isn’t anyone we’re happier to see. Welcome back Bruce. We missed you.
11. John John Florence, HAW
He’s easily the best surfer in the world. He only falls to 11 because we miss him.
12. Mason Ho, HAW
What a drink of water Mason Ho is. Hell, just riding for Lost gets him ranked high. But eptimozing it and harnessing decades of Lost history gets him ranked near the top 10. We’ll stop doing just about anything to watch a new Mason edit or interview. And remember when he got in the garage with Archy? Gold.
13. Mitch Coleborn, AUS
Mitch Coleborn invited us to hangout and play pool during the first night of his honeymoon in New York City. You had us at that. Oh, then he called out Kolohe for ditching his own movie premiere that same night. Mitch is definitely What Youth enough for these cheeseburgers. We love you, Mitch. And we promise, this is the only tour that matters.
14. Creed McTaggart, AUS
He tours with a band. He has a Bowie song to his part in Cluster. He’s one of the most stylish, charismatic, badasses there is. Who would have thought West Oz could birth such a rebel legend. Well, they did give us Taj. Should have seen that coming.
15. Damien Hobgood, USA
Generally when you retire from one world tour, you don’t make it on another one. But Damien Hobgood finds a way to be as relevant as ever these days. From scoring up and down the coast of California and the world, he maintains more energy and enthusiasm than anyone on this list. He’ll sink a beer with you and be at Todos the next morning if it’s gonna be massive. And be back that afternoon to take his kids to a birthday party. Cool dad.
16. Nate Tyler, USA
Nate has just figured it out. He lives in Central California, one of the worlds’ most beautiful, quiet places on earth. He surfs how most of us wish we did. And he fucking loves Hooters and Coors Light.
17. Andrew Doheny, USA
No one is surfing and living to the beat of this drummer quite like Droid. An absolute original, and when he stands up, there are honestly few who catch our eye more. He’s like Kurt with an acoustic guitar.
18. Kelly Slater, USA
He still responds to our texts. So that’s cool. He’s totally in-tune with everything in surfing. We can reference three decades and an infinite number of perfectly timed reinventions he’s been through. And we still can’t keep our eyes off his surfing or what he’ll say next.
19. Jack Robinson, AUS
If he can rally his air game, Jack will literally jump to the top of this list. But what he does at Teahupoo is out of fucking control.
20. Dion Agius, AUS
The lizard himself. He shot the first ever cover of What Youth [Craig Anderson, Issue 1] and he still contributes on both sides of the lens to this day. He’s an entrepreneur. A free surfing icon. An absolute original. Love you, Sliz.
21. Ryan Callinan, AUS
The most underrated guy in Cluster. We just hope he can maintain his flair while donning the corporate WSL singlet. We think he can. Hell, we know he can. Show ’em that whip dude and you’ll be just fine.
22. Matt Meola, HAW
He did one of the wildest airs we’ve ever seen. He took us hunting (still scarred). And showed us the Maui we never thought we’d see. His family is as hospitable and lovely as they come. We just love the Meolas and Matt happens to surf better than a lot of people. He also surfs Jaws…
23. Dill and Beeg, USA and ZAF
We haven’t seen ’em separated in a few years. And that’s fine, they’re like Hall and Oates. They put out one of the best flicks of the year so far. They’re both as stylish as they come. Cerebral, inseparable, stylish and as myself and Oliver Kurtz agreed while watching The Dill and Beeg Project the first time: “This is fucking really good.”
24. Jack Freestone, AUS
Somehow Jack Freestone is both one of the most consistent and radically progressive surfers in the world. All at the same time. He also dates Alana.
25. Eric Geiselman, USA
We always wonder why we don’t see more of Eric. He’s one of the most exciting surfers in the world. He’s crazy at skating. Plays music as well as anyone. And still somehow maintains a low profile. Instead of hating, we’re just going to applaud it. We heard about his set up in Florida, and much like Chippa, he’s nailing it.
26. Balaram Stack, USA
This tour needs a New York native who isnt’ afraid of blizzard waves or Teahupoo. Balaram has thrives in both. He’s also discovered several sneaky slabs in Central America that we’d love to know the coordinates of. And he does all this with a crooked Yankee cap and the ability to order pizza in any Big Apple neighborhood.
27. Kanoa Igarashi, USA
Kanoa is the perfect hybrid: he perfectly blends the OC’s pop culture with ancient Japanese tradition. He recently let us come hang with him in Japan and it was out of control how behind him the entire country is. He’s incredibly intelligent, respectful and he’s coming with us.
28. Dane Gudauskas, USA
There is no way you can leave home without Dane Gudauskas. Imagine what he’d put on the radio! And we’re gonna need someone to paddle out when it gets massive. And we know Dane is down. And he’s always ready to wash it all down with a cold pint wherever we may be.
29. Dave Rastovich, AUS
Rasta has flown so low, so perfectly, maintaining both international superstar appeal, while simultaneously living the life of an absolute recluse. We really dig that. And after stumbling upon him and Ozzie Wright surfing Broken Head the other day, you can’t even imagine the creativity exchanged on their back to back waves. We’d watch that forever. And don’t forget what he said to us recently: “Support the freaks as much as the jocks.” OK.
30. Ian Crane, USA
We just put together a part for him that will come out next week. There’s no one you want to hangout with more. He’s enthusiastic, hilarious, nervous, shy and loves to tell judges how he feels. Which is totally allowed on this tour. Whats a judge though?
31. Clay Marzo, HAW
As long as he continues to trunk it while living in West Oz, dropping quarterly edits of him obliterating lefts, and showcasing a barrel prowess so refined that it feels like he’s more at home in there than he is out in the world, he’s going to be on this list. Doing it his way, always.
32. Beau Foster, AUS
Beau Foster is in the midst of a renaissance. He went from the guy all the girls want, to the guy all the guys would be stoked to surf like. His flick ShitKicker may be the cult classic this silly world needed. And we just like the way he tucks his knee on those forehand cutties.
33. Tanner Rozunko, USA
His band The Rooms have played almost every party we’ve ever thrown. He’s logged the most hours on our mini ramp. He surfs and skates and lives about as awesome as one can. And while he’d be the first to tell you he couldn’t make a single heat on the QS or any circuit for that matter, we would never leave home without him.
34. Wade Goodall, AUS (1st Injury Wildcard)
Wade Goodall is the guy we have a poster of hanging above our bed. Indie icon. Underground warlord. Revolution starter. He’s been the guy forever, but has had a couple very unfortunate injuries throughout his run, which may have kept him off the mainstream surf tour league things radar, but there’s no way he’s not coming with us.
Wild Card: “Muffin Man” (Cole Sandman), USA
It was like picking up a stray puppy. He jumped in our van during a stop through Santa Cruz, and he never really got out. We shot the now infamous Off Beat episode with this little gremlin, and we sent him a sticker kit and claimed him as our first official team rider. He’s maybe 12, but he’s got the best outlook and attitude and enthusiasm of anyone on this list.
Wild Card: “Sushi Man” (Keanu Igarashi), USA
A few weeks after meeting Muffin Man, we ran into Sushi Man in Japan. Similar to Muffin Man, he’s got infectious enthusiasm, intelligence, a great outlook and a lot of potential. Off Beat coming soon.