Can you guess?
Last Monday, the excellent website Surfline published a list of the “10 Best Power Surfers of All Time.” It was written by Sam George, and you can read it here.
San Francisco’s Matt Warsaw, the self-appointed bearer of the sport’s history, however, was made furious by the list and published his own list of power surfers on Surfer.
Warshaw then contacted BeachGrit with a proposal.
Warshaw: Much hullabaloo online about both lists. Ian Cairns was pissed off at Sam and Surfline; Nick Carroll called me out for not including Dane Kealoha. Various and sundry power-list-related pissing matches went on for three days. Therefore, should we have a little rave about the ridiculous and irresistible draw of list-making?
BeachGrit: I want to ask you about your power list. Where’s Sunny Garcia? The most powerful surfer of all time. Surfing’s greatest icon! (Hello Sunny, yes I’m coming to the North Shore this season…)
Warshaw: Sunny would probably be on my list for Best at Backdoor and Most Compelling World Champions. And yeah, you know, he’s powerful as fuck, but I only had five slots!
BeachGrit: Here’s a list topic. Most Overrated Surfers.
Warshaw: No way.
BeachGrit: Got anyone in mind? I’ll touch if you touch.
Warshaw: Everybody’s got a guy they’d put on that list. You know why you can’t do it, though? Cause that guy, whoever he or she is, is going to win the next contest, or post some batshit crazy clip, and you end up being the idiot who had him on the Most Overrated list. And you wear that forever, like a tattoo.
BeachGrit: Okay, okay, wear this. I can’t say I was surprised when Quicksilver collapsed shortly after nominating Matt Banting as their most marketable surfer. Who kills you?
Warshaw: You’re calling out Matt Banting? That’s not going out on a limb, really, Derek.
BeachGrit: Tough guy, huh? Who you got?
Warshaw: I’ll tell you this. I remember at the beginning of the year, at Snapper, when all the guys in the booth were squealing on about Italo Ferreira, and how good he was, and I watched and was incredibly unimpressed. Same at Bells and Margarets. I would have gone public with that too! But after Cloudbreak and Tahiti, I’m Italo’s biggest oldest fan. Putting on some chub around the waist in homage! What I’m saying is, it’s a risky game, making those calls.
BeachGrit: Didn’t Sunny call you out?
Warshaw: I said he wasn’t going to win a title when I was at Surfer and he promised to bitch slap me at the soonest possible opportunity.
Derek: Did he slap?
Warshaw: What he did was actually way better. A year or two later, at Huntington for the Op Pro or US Open or whatever it was, Sunny saw me at the event walked over to me with death rays coming out of his eyes, and just before I wet myself he veered off without saying a word. Then of course a couple years later Sunny did in fact win the world title. Sunny will always get the last laugh. Always.
BeachGrit: Do you think Kolohe Andino is the most underrated surfer on tour? I certainly do.
Warshaw: Dino is and always will be my favorite Andino. Kolohe’s dad was an amazing surfer in his day. Kolohe himself . . . I don’t know. His magic hasn’t yet worked on me. So yeah. Opposite of underrated, if you’re going to twist my arm. Now watch! He’ll win Portugal!
BeachGrit: Tell me, do your eyes light up at the thought of Matt Banting getting the injury wildcard?
Warshaw: Honestly Derek, I can’t even work up a visual of Matt Banting. I like his name.
BeachGrit: Do you have a visual of Glenn Hall? No one could accuse that brave little man of being overrated…
Warshaw: The little Irish pug. Micro is so much the total opposite of a guy you’d build your new marketing campaign around that you have to love him. Somebody is going to make a heart-warming documentary about Glenn Hall, mark my words.
BeachGrit: In history, and according to your readings, who is the most overrated surfer of all time?
Warshaw: Not a chance
BeachGrit: When were you neutered?
Warshaw: Third or fourth grade, around there.
BeachGrit: Unlike you, did any surf writers escape the knife? Lewis Samuels? My own Chas Smith?
Warshaw: Chas says you keep his boys in a small velvet clutch on your desk. Lewis is intact, but the Google blade is parting his scrotal fur as we write. Tell you what. You tell me who the all-time most overrated surfers is, and I’ll render judgement.
BeachGrit: Rob Machado? The contest-hungry kid who split the tour to create faux-soulster meme?
Warshaw: Machado is verging on becoming a caricature of himself. Or no, actually he passed that station 10 years ago. But he’s a triple-blackbelt flowmaster. Craig Anderson’s white robes could use a little dirtying up, though.
Laird Hamilton is our very own Rod Stewart. Has become such a laughing-stock, that you forgot how amazing he was. Laird in the ‘90s was so far ahead in the big-wave game, so creative and powerful and balls out, that basically there was nobody else on the field.
BeachGrit: …you leave Craig alone. Number three in the world, behind Dane and John John…
Warshaw: Rob Machado is Gerry Lopez for the Momentum Generation.
BeachGrit: Craig Anderson is Wayne Lynch for beautiful people. Tell me about Laird Hamilton.
Warshaw: Kind of our very own Rod Stewart. Has become such a laughing-stock, that you forgot how amazing he was. Laird in the ‘90s was so far ahead in the big-wave game, so creative and powerful and balls out, that basically there was nobody else on the field.
WSL is producing a Laird doc. Which I first read about in one of Chas’ BG pieces, actually. They called me week before last and to get the Great Surf Historian’s rapturous take on Laird. Which I kinda did, but when I started talking about what he’s become, and what tow surfing has become, and how Shane Dorian in a lot of ways is the more interesting and ballsy big-wave surfer . . . it was pretty much “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
BeachGrit: I know you’re sceptical about Tom Blake. Tell me more. (Click here for a little historical background.)
Warshaw: Tom Blake is overrated. The hollow surfboard, his baby, was a bigger design mistake by far than those narrow flip-tip pieces of shit we were riding in the ‘90s. I also get the feeling that Blake was the most depressed of all surf icons, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s overrated, but it does make me think he shouldn’t be wearing any Surf Lifestyle Pioneer laurels. Which, to be fair, he never asked for.
BeachGrit: How about Duke Kahanomoku? Overrated? Fine swimmer and nailer of gals but given too much credit as the daddy of a sport?
Warshaw: A long time ago The New York Times eye-rolled the Boss, saying something like “If Bruce Springseen didn’t exist, music critics would have made him up.” That’s how I feel about Duke. He’s the perfect guy for the Father of Surfing job. He’s Hawaiian, has a half-dozen Olympic medals hanging round his neck, he’s big and good-looking and friendly, no dirt on him whatsoever. I read somewhere that one of his brothers, maybe Sam, was actually the better surfer. But Duke is perfect. He’s the guy you want up on that pedestal.