10 Sick Surfers You've Never Heard Of
All deserve way more applause than they get
The next ten men are surfing to its salty, intrepid core. Money or no money, these guys would be doing it regardless, travelling the world, camping in remote jungles, and getting maaaaaad pitted. They are the true legends of this sport.
1. Clay Marzo
Clay Marzo is quite simply one of the best surfers to have ever lived.
Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds have said as much. His trademark is explosiveness and elasticity, particularly in waves that break in the left-peeling direction. But its when it starts to pipe that Marzo enters a league all of his own.
"He was dropped by his sponsor after his illness made it difficult for him to meet obligations of a paid surfer"
You'll see it in this clip above, filmed over a ten day period in Australia's no bullshit North West. In it, Marzo joins an all-star cast of underground heroes in some of the best waves you're ever likely to see up there.
Famously diagnosed with Apsergers syndrome (which makes it difficult for him to interact socially among other things), he was dropped by his major sponsor when, according to some, the illness made it difficult to meet the obligations of a paid surfer.
Not that it's hurt his surfing. Clay's flaring harder than ever, as you're about to see.
"I bridged the way I was living in the ocean with how I was living on land," is not a sentence you want to hear come out of Shawn Briley's mouth. 'Cos when it came to the water, no one was more mad.
The understudy of legendary Hawaiian big wave hellmen Marvin Foster and Clark Little, Briley was 12 years old when he first paddled out at the most feared wave on the planet, Pipeline.
"Why did he stop surfing? Because if he didn't, he would have died"
By 17, he was one of the most respected big wave surfers in the world, famously going left at giant Waimea Bay and getting barrelled.
He spent a brief period on the surf industry pay roll in his early 20s, in which time he pulled off some of the most incredible rides in the history of Pipe.
But by 24, he was out of the game. Why? Because if he didn't he would have died, he says rather candidly. They were prescient words, too.
Today, with a wife and two children, he is a contented family man. The same can't be said for fellow big wave contemporaries like Todd Chesser, Sion Milosky and Mark Foo, all of whom have died in the line of charging.
Joe Crimo lived in the fast lane. By that I mean he did copious amounts of speed, until his eyes bled and his face ran blue with tattoo ink.
He was also ten years ahead of his time when it came to aerials, pioneering many of the board tricks that have become a staple of high profile stars like Chippa Wilson, Julian Wilson and Dane Reynolds today.
"He was ten years ahead of his time when it came to aerials"
The guy ripped, though he was unlucky to come of age at a time when the world was obsessed with the style and grace of Tom Curren.
In comparison Crimo seemed jagged and unorthodox; a fate suffered to similar though slightly lesser extents by aerial contemporaries Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold.
Today, however, he is looked upon as an underground legend and aerial pioneer.
How many 16 year olds you know charge Shipsterns? How many do you know can also go toe-to-toe with Kelly Slater at one of the heaviest waves in the world and hold their own?
Sixteen year old Russ Bierke is one of the most promising talents to come out of the big wave scene in a long time.
"He's one of the most promising talents to come out of the big wave scene in a long time"
Born in Hawaii, he moved to Australia with his family as a child and has spent the last half dozen years honing his craft on the intimidating reefs of south-east Australia.
Big wave surfing is in his blood. Dad Kirk is a legendary big wave surfer and shaper in his own right, having lived on the North Shore of Oahu for some two decades.
The same day Russ was going head to head with Kelly, Kirk was a just a few bays away throwing down some big wave heroics of his own. A performance that would earn the father a nomination in that year's Oakley Big Wave Awards. Crazy stuff.
He's one of the top five maddest humans on earth, surely.
Damien 'Dom' Wills is largely unknown outside of Australia but his heavy wave heroics (and beatings) remain some of the most mind-boggling the sport has ever seen.
"Dom was the first person to bodysurf Shipersterns!"
Famous for becoming the first person to bodysurf Shipsterns, Dom has made a career out of simply tackling waves no one else wants.
This footage here has to rank with the all time worst wipeouts ever; the wave itself considered a complete death trap by most top line surfers. Not Dom though.
The great finless magician Ryan Burch, known for riding traction-less blocks of foam everywhere from Californian beachies to the rugged reef breaks of North West Australia.
A true modern day visionary, Burch exists in the sport's margins where he tinkers away with futuristic designs, all the time redefining what was thought possible on a surfboard.
A product of Cardiff, CA, he grew with Rob Machado and Joel Tudor as mentors. You can tell watching his effortless approach and speedy transitions on all kinds of crafts.
The great Basque nomad, Kepa Acero is arguably surfing's most intrepid traveller. Which is no small feat in a sport known for great adventurers.
Kepa has done it all - Africa, Europe, Australia, Indonesia, South America - on a shoestring budget, using some of the most ingenious methods imaginable to document his trips.
"He's become one of the most loved figures in surfing"
A former semi-professional surfer who competed on the World Qualifying Series for a period, Kepa got jack of competing one day and decided to hit the road with no other goal then to get pitted.
A throwback to the Basque adventurers and seafarers of yesteryear, he has become one of the most loved figures in the surfing underground.
No figure in surfing is as shrouded in mystique as the man known only as Camel.
Famous for long stints camped out in the Indonesian jungle, Camel is considered at the top of the chain when it comes to modern day surf-ferals - a breed of nomadic surfers that goes back to the early seventies and the likes of Peter Troy.
A highly talented surfer in his own right, he has a habit of popping up anywhere around Australia or Indonesia if the swell is macking and perfect - whether it be an offshore bombora in South Australia or to save a man being attacked by a shark in north west Australia.
"'CAMEL, TAKE MY HAT OFF TO YA MATE!' - JOEL PARKINSON"
Back in 2012, Camel had a brief moment in the spotlight when he collected the Oakley Big Wave Award for the biggest wave paddled into that year in Australia.
Waves like the one featured below, meanwhile, have received props from the likes of 2012 World Champion Joel Parkinson.
"Do you know how far up the reef this is? Do you know how shallow it must’ve been in front of him? Camel, take my hat off to ya mate," said Parko after seeing it.
Travis Potter comes very much in the same vain as Camel. In fact the pair spent considerable time together camping in remote parts of Indonesia, with Travis attributing much influence to the great feral.
Travis has since become one of the great Indo ferals of his own generation having spent years travelling from tip to tip of this endlessly wave-rich archipelago.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing for Travis, however, after nearly dying of cerebral Malaria while searching for waves in war-torn Papua New Guinea.
His feature film Second Thoughts, made with fellow Californian nomads Timmy Turner and Brett Schwartz, remains one of the seminal depictions of frontier surf travel ever. You can see it in full above.
When the surf's flat, Kohl Christensen can be found tending to his avocado farm and installing solar energy units around Hawaii's North Shore.
When it's not, say like during the jaw dropping events at Cloudbreak in 2011 and 2012, the guy can be found performing some of the most fucked up shit ever done on a rhino chaser.
"This guy can be found performing some of the most fucked up shit ever done on a rhino chaser"
Having grown up on the North Shore of Oahu, Kohl cut his teeth on many of the island's harrowing offshore reefs. Often he'd paddle out to surf in a pair of boardshorts covered in dirt and cement from the day's hard labour.
An early pioneer of the feared cold water big-wave island of Rapa Nui (5000 km off the coast of Chile) Kohl leapt into the mainstream consciousness following his feats at Cloudbreak. The wave above was almost one of the great big-wave barrel makes of all-time.