OK, so this is a few days late. Lots of rum-infused discussions around fire rings to sort the order. But we did it. Just in time to beat the big boys out at Snapper. And so, just to brush up here’s the criteria:
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 2017.
THE WHAT YOUTH TOP 34:
1. Chippa Wilson:
For the way he has carved his own space. He’s probably the most respected and technical aerialist right now, he continues to throws wrenches at his quiver, giving us new outlines, shapes and approaches. He’s genuine, kind, thrash and seriously up for anything. He’s been on skate trips, surf trips, snow trips — he’ll call you up to have a beer and go surf, for no reason. He is who we all strive to be and he does it like only the gold lion can. Chippa, you deserve this. WY World Champ for 2017. Enjoy your reign.
2. Craig Anderson:
You rip up a paycheck and you are instantly our hero. Do what you want, be you. And that is exactly what Craig Anderson did last year. All the while, he was slipping away like a gypsy to secret slabs and just released a follow up clip to his early 2016 release, Welcome Elsewhere. Both are game changers. Former is live. He’s ripping through Hello, Sea and he’s one of our best great friends and we’re so happy he did it his way. And then there’s this.
3. John John Florence:
John’s most recent video proves that there is no one in the world more enjoyable to watch surf. In anything. He’s the thing. The only reason we miss him is because he keeps a tight circle these days — a long way from the antics of his early Barbados and Japan days with us. Maybe that’s why he’s ripping, either way: John John, we’re right here, watching with big silly hand praising emojis.
4. Yago Dora:
A lot of surfers are scared to go on trips with Yago because he’s so gnarly at surfing. Going left, there aren’t many I’d put above him, if any. He’s also the raddest dude. Great family. Great style. He is a well-deserving number 4.
5. Mason Ho:
No one has redefined the way we look at our sessions more than Mason. If you can’t find a way to put a smile on your face after watching his clips, then don’t surf.
6. Dane Reynolds:
Still moving to the beat of his own snare drum. He added some bass this year by launching his new brand Former. And releasing one of the best surf films ever released. True to his own voice. Now we wait on his new part for Former, but Dane is always going the other way and we still love every bit of that.
7. Soli Bailey:
8. Gavin Beschen:
He gave us a turkey while we were in Hawaii. Literally, gave us a coupon for a free turkey from Food Land. He’s also leading an existence, on his own terms, peacefully raising his family, living off the land and surfing all along the North Shore as rad as anyone.
9. Noa Deane:
10. Kai Hing:
11. Tom Curren:
12. Ozzie Wright:
This guy just keeps blowing our mind. Resurrected and killing it 500 times over. His surfing, his lifestyle, his music, his family: They’re all such radical representations of what happens when you embrace your inner zombie and let it bloom for all to see.
13. Creed McTaggart:
Mysterious as ever. On tour with his band, still tweaking airs and putting out Rage edits. RAGE. We honestly have no idea what to expect next from Candy, but no one is more excited to watch than us.
Last year Mick dropped off the tour and decided to go surfing. He’s unlocked slabs and secret points and been smiling through it all. A well-deserved break from a pretty rad dude who we enjoyed seeing outside a singlet all year. Hoping he sends us a case of beer from his new company Balter while we got him…
15. Eric Geiselman:
Eric has been around the game for a long time, but his showing on our recent “Hello, Sea” boat trip was rad. Floridian cruiser who can and will and did pull a flip.
16. Taj Burrow:
The man has discovered free surfing, got engaged and had a perfect child. Taj is killing it, and always will be.
17. Mitch Coleborn:
You can call him The Australian Psycho, The Barrel, Spawn or a variety of other mystery nicknames, but one thing is for sure: The dude is still so fucking sick to watch on a wave. He’s hilarious as fuck to hang with (see here), and is very fun on the piss.
18. Colin Moran:
Easily one of the most refreshing additions to surfing this year. Unique, sick style on a wave. A legend at the bar top and is not afraid to say, “Fuck it let’s go!” We loved watching Goose come into his own this past year. And you know he’s cooking up some freshness.
19. Julian Wilson:
His most recent clip is something that finally woke the sleeping dragon that is surfing. Something we can all enjoy together.
20. Luke Hynd:
Luke is a nice quiet young Australian who looks so at home on a board. As you saw in Everything’s Wrong But in the Right Place: he’s not scared of the big stuff and he’s got a technical air game. Right under the radar, but probably not for that much longer.
21. Lee Wilson:
Lee is the hardest working, most authentic surfer there is. He’s created a life around him in Bali that is his studio, where the world’s best come to surf with him. He’s seen the other side, appreciates what he’s doing and it shows in his surfing.
22. Ryan Callinan:
If you’re ever having a bad day, go hang with Ryan. He will cheer you up and then some. Humble, talented and fucking awesome.
23. Dion Agius:
The lizard is busy as ever! Charity work in Mozambique. Can’t wait to see what his next adventure is.
24. Mikey Wright:
Bogan as fuck and owning it! Mikey’s healed up and ready to charge in 2017.
25. Austyn Gillette:
Austyn copped some shit in the skate world for starting a “surf” brand. But the thing is: he doesn’t give a fuck. He just keeps skating better than everyone and surfing because it’s fun(nny). There’s no time to not do what you want. Austyn, Dane, and Craig are doing that and we back em, whatever fucking board they wanna ride.
26. Dillon Perillo:
He’s had some cameos in Dane’s films this year that shocked us: Some of the smoothest forehand carves we’ve seen, and he’s still the most existential surfer we know.
27. Jack Robinson
There is no denying how crazy this kid surfs in Hawaii, Tahiti…anywhere scary. His air game is on the rise and his rail game gets deeper every year. Kid can pack a pit though.
28. Balaram Stack:
For taking us to a NY Rangers game, feeding us mushroom pizza and handing us tickets to Run the Jewels all within, like, 36 hours.
29. Christian Fletcher:
For continuing to push us all to remember where we came from and fucking go where we want to go. His bathtub scene in Metal Neck II. And for slugging that beer on the front of Issue 6. He was also at the Mayhem show the other night.
30. Ian Crane:
Ian is a throwback. I like to think of him as a modern Benji Weatherly. He’s surrounded by a great crew, he rips as hard as anyone, he’s hilarious to be around and just the kind of person you want to come along, for anything.
31. Jack Freestone:
Predicting some pretty damn big things for this one. He’s as charming as they come and always a good many to sink a beer with.
32. Andrew Doheny:
His part in Metal Neck II is the type of part that reminds us that Mexico is just over the border from Southern California and there is a lot of fun to be had down there. Also, because he still refuses to be anyone but Droid
33. Kelly Slater:
The man continues to give us things. Wavepools (even though we’re not the biggest fan yet, still waiting for our test run,) a new brand (Outerknown) and another go on the tour to snag what could be a 12th title or something crazy. He’s our renaissance Benjamin Button and we can’t not love every bit of his evolution.
34. Owen Wright:
Welcome back dude. We missed you.
Wildcard: Bruce Irons:
Bruce Irons surfing Backdoor will always make this list.
Wildcard: Kook Slams:
For making us laugh with water in our eyes. You’ve taken the Internet and our tendencies for watching destruction and put a cherry on top.