Drugs, Sharks, And A Glasscock: The World’s Unluckiest Surfers Have Some Unbelievable Stories…

The surf gods weren't looking down on these poor souls

Call it fate, bad management, or simple bad luck., these nine surfers have all had their fair share of it. From lightning strikes to bone cancer, fist fights to narrowly missed glory, shattered dreams to actual death, here are nine surfers who haven’t always had lady luck on their side.

The Broken Back – Glenn Hall


31-year-old Glenn “Micro” Hall, an Australian surfer with Irish heritage had come staggeringly close to qualifying for the elite World Championship Tour on numerous occasions over a ten year period.

However a combination of surf injury issues – a cruciate knee injury and multiple ankle problems, and sheer bad luck – twice he finished within one heat of qualifying, thwarted him for most of his 20s.

It was goal I had been trying to reach for roughly a decade,” Hall said on his blog afterwards. “A decade of my wife and family giving up things in her life to support my dream.

However in a cruel twist, after finally achieving his dream and making the grade in 2013, more rotten look struck when in he broke his back surfing in a competition in Fiji, and couldn’t surf for the rest of the year.

To add insult to injury, the suits at the ASP then decided not to give Hall the injury wild card spot for 2014. Of course Hall, one of the most achingly positive humans on earth, doesn’t consider him unlucky and fought back to be in this year’s top 32 on the WCT.

The Lightning Strike – Pierre Tostee

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They say lightning never strikes twice, although for former professional surfer Pierre Tostee, it took two disastrous and cruel pieces of luck to end his professional career.

In Newcastle, Australia, in 1987, Tostee earned the distinction of being the only surfer ever to be struck by lightning during a world pro tour competition.

Tostee was waiting on the rocks to paddle out for his heat when lightening struck. After a brief hospital stay, Tostee recovered sufficiently to surf in the competition the next day.

However, just one year later the clean living Christian accidentally ate some of fellow pro surfer Nicky Woods’ space cakes and went into a drug-induced psychosis and that required an extend stay in hospital.

The episode effectively ended his pro surfing career, although he’s now a successful ASP surf photographer.

The Perenial Loser – Ricky Basnett


The South African surfer has the unfortunate record of being the first professional to go through a whole year on the elite WCT without winning a heat.

Back in 2008, the man known as Ricky Bobby (also kind of unfortunate), lost every heat he surfed, 22 in total, to come a distant last on the world tour rankings.

Last year the feat was repeated however with both Raoni Monteiro and Alana Blanchard also failing to register a single heat win. Basnett though has always been good humoured about his Annus horribilis.

I’m bummed to be sharing the record, as I worked really hard for it!” Ricky told Surfline last year.

The Big Wave Fatality – Mark Foo


There is perhaps no more unlucky turn of events than losing your life, and that cruelest of twist of fate occurred to Hawaiian surfer Mark Foo.

The famous big wave surfer had traveled to surf Mavericks, California for the very first time and after a series of cruel circumstances the wave ended up taking his life.

First the wave while big, wasn’t anywhere near the size of some of the waves that Foo had caught in his illustrious career. The wipeout too, caught by photographers from two angles, was also shown to be fairly innocuous.

Most experts seemed to think Foo’s leash become entangled on the rocks, a rare occurrence, and a second wave prevented him from taking the leash off and getting to the surface.

Another surfer Mike Parsons, who rode that second wave, actually bumped into Foo underwater, but could do nothing to help, himself being rolled by the massive wave. All-in-all it was a series of freak accidents that ended the life of one surfing’s most experienced big wave riders.

The Nearly Man – Gary “Kong” Elkerton

Photo: Dan Merkel /

Gary “Kong” Elkerton was one of the world’s best and most powerful surfers throughout the ’80s and ’90s. His successful and influential career was only tarnished by the fact he never achieved his ultimate goal of winning a world title.

Such was his determination to win, he dropped his famous nickname “Kong” and banned anyone from using it, as he feared it was affecting his reputation for professionalism.

He eventually finished runner-up three times, in 1987, 1990 and 1993, although he lost every single one after incredibly close calls and controversial interferences in the final decisive heats.

In Hawaii, during the 1990 decider at Pipeline, for example, two Hawaiians allegedly effectively took Elkerton out, increasing the chances of their fellow Hawaiian Derek Ho winning the event.

In 1987 Elkerton lost a single heat by a few points that would have given him the title he so craved. In the end, such was his unfortunate luck he had to settle for the tag as “best surfer never to have won the world title”.

The Assault And Battery – Larry Blair


Larry Blair, was a surfer from Maroubra, Australia, who had an incredible competitive run in the late ’70s. He won back-to-back Pipeline Masters in ’78 and ’79 – the first non-Hawaiian to do so.

He also pocketed Sydney’s prestigious Coke Contest in 1978, which at the time the most lucrative event in professional surfing.

However the actor trained surfer, who was famously called “the hottest kook in the world”, luck ran out when he arrived in the North Shore to try to score a hat trick of Pipe Masters titles in 1980.

Some local Hawaiians were unimpressed with both Blair’s acting credentials and his confidence at Pipe, and assaulted him on the beach, punching him in the head and stamping on all his boards.

It was perhaps no surprise that he was eliminated early from the event and never again won a major surfing competition.

The Trier (With An Unfortunare Surname) – Wayne “Shiva” Glasscock

Photo: Mana Photo /

Surfing’s version of hapless UK Ski Jumper Eddie the Eagle or the Mozambique swimmer Eric the Eel would be Wade “Shiva” Glasscock. Glasscock was born and bred in Texas, and didn’t take up surfing until he moved to Hawaii at the age of 24.

After eight years of learning surfing in Hawaii he moved to Australia and, at the tender age of 36, decided to have a crack at the World Qualifying Series. He toiled on the WQS series, usually against surfers half his age, for four long years suffering a spectacularly poor run of results.

He surfed in around a dozen competitions per year, with his best result at 17th in Portugal. In fact, that was the only event where he ever progressed through a heat, and only after two of the other surfers failed to show up.

He reached a career high ranking of 425, before giving up on his dream, the run of bad luck proving too much.

The Acidic Test – Rob Page

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Whilst surfing and drugs have been intertwined since the very start, and many surfers busted for their habits, perhaps none were as unlucky as Australian Rob Page.

Page was unfortunate in that a) he was caught with a tiny single scrap of paper (all be it one blotted with acid) and b) he was in Japan. This was in 1992 and Page spent a total of 66 days in prison, of which 30 of them were spent in solitary confinement.

He later said, “I once asked my mum when I came out of Japanese prison for possession of LSD, how come I ended up in there? And she said, oh, it’s simple. You lost appreciation for the fundamental values of life.” Or maybe he was just damn unlucky.

The King of Misfortune – Richie Lovett


In terms of crooked luck, the likable Australian pro surfer might just take the cake. He had already been attacked by a shark and washed into the Indonesian jungle by a tsunami, before being diagnosed with cancer that ended his career.

Initially the shark attack was considered a once-in-a-lifetime piece of bad luck, until in 1997 he was ripped from his bed in a jungle hut in off G-Land in Java by a Tsunami and deposited 300 metres inland, surviving the ordeal with just scrapes and bruises.


His biggest test however came in 2005, when still ranked 23 in the world, he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called clear cell chrondrosarcoma.

My life did a complete 180-degree turn; one minute I was traveling as WCT competitor, the next minute I was learning to walk again with a huge piece of metal inside me where the top of my femur used to be,” Lovett wrote in his book The Big Sea.

Happily, Lovett beat Cancer, still rips, and now considers himself one of the luckiest people on the planet.

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