Men's world titles of the decade rated…
Nothing disappoints like an unfulfilled tease.
Last week, Chas threw out the idea that there could be an appearance of some Top Ten listicles for the decade/year/week/day in these pages.
In capable hands, those that can make fun while also provoking debate, that shit heats me up!
But, yeah, since it doesn’t look like that’s coming from him or anybody else, I decided to rank the World Titles for men for the last decade (counting it as a one in the tens of year number, 2010-2019, rather than one to ten, 2011-2020).
10. 2012 – Joel Parkinson
After over a decade on Tour, and four second-place finishes, Parkinson put together an uninspiring/lame enough campaign (even Ol’ Micktory would applaud) that the powers that be at the ASP, experiencing a down year accentuated by the void created by Dane’s departure and sinking level of high-performance surfing, were satisfied enough to gift him with a Lifetime Achievement Award World Title.
I guess it’s exciting, for Joel maybe, that he was able get one, though I can’t escape the feeling that surfing, not to mention Parko’s legacy, would be better if he had not won it.
Think about it.
Who is a more memorable surfer, Cheyne Horan or Barton Lynch or Damien Hardman?
Easy, Cheyne. Forever the bridesmaid, he is remembered for being one of the greatest surfers never to win a World Title, while World Title holder Barton is reduced to being a Golden Retriever in the WSL booth and the only compliment anyone ever gives about two-time Champion Damo Hardman is that he was cut-throat, not remembering that he was actually pretty good.
Joel could’ve been the greatest surfer without a World Title, over Taj, who, let’s be honest, with distinct weaknesses in large lefts, Europe, and competitive strategy, had to have everything break perfectly for him in order to win one.
The only thing to come out of Joel’s campaign is it means there’s hope for Jordy and Julian. Maybe they can stick around long enough to snag their own Lifetime Achievement Award Title in a down year.
9. 2011 – Kelly Slater
8. 2010 – Kelly Slater
A dominant, thrice ascendant Kelly Slater obliterates the field to pad his lead and earn his record tenth and eleventh World Titles. Nothing new to learn from these years, except that Kelly is FREAK, the only competitor with the ability to perform above his own abilities in competition while also relying on overdeveloped mind games and tactical abilities to manifest and prey on the mental weaknesses of his opponents, something nobody else, save Gabe in small stretches, has been able to do efficiently. 2010 places just above 2011 because of Dane, who finished fourth and 2010 and basically quit in 2011, taking with him a large fraction of high-performance surfing on Tour.
7. 2019 – Italo Ferreira
A little early to tell exactly how this one shakes out and is viewed in the future. The most exciting surfer on Tour, Italo finally put together a good enough campaign, with the help of a fortuitous injury and the biggest brainfart/meltdown in ages, to take out a Title, the third different Brazilian to do so in the last five years. Hate to tell people, but injuries are part of the game and health is a skill, like anything else. No asterisk necessary.
6. 2017 – John John Florence
John John’s second World Title was a display of total domination. Despite only taking out one event, he avoided clunker results, making the quarters or better in the contests that ended up counting towards his total. His average heat score (15.85) was approximately 1.70 points higher than that of the next highest competitor (Gabe). Additionally, he was freakishly consistent, showing the lowest variance in his performance by heat score of any other surfer.
At the end of the year, with his performance, the Tour, and surfing at large all firmly in his clasps (stroking his pubed chin hair), John John looked to be in the early stages of putting up a Kelly-like run of Titles, preemptively dashing the hopes (in the minds) of any of the myriad of de Souza disciples (including the ever-fervent Jordan Michael Smith, who summitted Safety Surfing’s Peak at Trestles in the Finals) wishing to practise safe surfing and win.
A man at his apex would not be stopped by anyone but himself.
5. 2013 – Mick Fanning
Mick wins his third World Title to finally exceed Dooma for number of Boring-Repetitive-Surfing-Won-By-An-Aussie World Titles. Not yet attacked by that shark, Mick solidifies his legacy as a winner and true Tour great, influencing surfers to care about their health, pounding brotein shakes and hurling medicine balls. Two titles is nice, but three mean more… the day of his clinching marked the nine-and-a-half year anniversary of him hearing “Portions for Foxes” and then he cried.
4. 2018 – Gabriel Medina
After coming on strong in the second half of the season, Gabriel Medina wins his second World Title to knot himself up with John John, winner of the two previous seasons.
Gabriel’s season ranks this high because, despite John John’s poor performances in the early comps and his injury, and maybe because of them, it finally seems like surfing is on the cusp of cultivating a rivalry for the ages between the two men, one that could pass Andy-Kelly as surfing’s biggest, as both men are of prime age and can duke it out over the next decade.
Gabe shuts down the haters with a masterful performance at Pipe to take the Title and the contest.
3. 2014 – Gabriel Medina
Blitzing the competition from the year’s opening event at Snapper, where he beat a stale, yet fun version of Parko in a controversial decision, Gabriel held off Micktory and jumped ahead of rival John John to take home Brazil’s first surfing Mens World Title.
Delivering on the promise from his performance on Tour as a rookie in the middle of 2011, when he won two events after the mid-year cut (Bob Martyrnez was right about the mid-year cut being stupid), Gabriel cemented his status as both a Tour force and a certified surf villain.
Got that Title before countryman and Trail Blazer apparent, The Lil Plumber, who many irrationally hated, could. People hated Gabby and wanted to see him lose. Pretty good shit.
2. 2016 – John John Florence
2016 was the year of a very rare occurrence: the fulfillment of promise from a child prodigy. Pegged since he was eight-years old as being a “Future World Champion,” John John was finally able to harness his otherworldly ability and produce a winning season, destroying the competition, in turn becoming the surfing Great Man Theorists’ messiah, here to save the industry from a complete Brazilian, anti-style takeover.
Quite an achievement that is, but not the most important one he accomplished with his run, that was legitimizing and solidifying the role of coach in surfing, with Bede The Venerable providing him a traveling companion and someone who could do whatever it is coaches supposedly do.
Surf coaches existed before, K-Hole himself formalizing their use when Dino hired Snips to do so, but none mattered, their status not taken seriously, representing themselves as advice-givers rather than full-blown, schedule making, life choice chooser coaches.
Bede’s success, and his desire to chase points on Tour only to be kicked off, lured Jessi Miley-Dyer(rhea) doppelgänger Ross Williams away from the booth, taking away the best commentator, the only one who could provide anything of value when partnered with Mr. Shrimp-on-the BAHBIE-STEAK-and-LOIBSTAH! guy.
Fuck you, Ronnie.
1. 2015 – Adriano de Souza
No other World Title this decade has been more significant than Adriano’s in 2015. The former Brazil’s future first World Title holder, de Souza surfed determinedly, his performance straddling the Mick Fanning Line, or ripping while reducing risk and never pushing out of one’s comfort zone whatsoever but attacking sections with authority, taking out the Title and giving every surfer on Tour a belief in their abilities.
Every pseudo-contender saw him, with his sub-par style and shelved air game, win and got the idea of using the ADS template. For the next two years, safety surfing reigned supreme, peaking with a Jordan Smith Finals appearance at Trestles in 2017 where he never surfed above sixty percent.
Problem was, none of the surfers trying to pull this off were as successful, many ravaged by mental weakness, unable to maintain the level of focus required throughout the whole year, and others just unskilled enough to do anything.
John John in ascendance the following year killed any idea that this strategy could actually work as a way to take out a Title (works better as a strategy for journeymen like Ace to employ in order to just stay on Tour without bombing out), yet some, like Jordan and Jules and Andino to an extent, still try.
This year was also notable for the exposing of the pox that is Surf Ranch, which Kelly revealed in a video loosed after ADS won the Title to both shit on surfing’s new champion, a man who has annoyed him in contests, and gain some much needed attention for himself.
The People’s Champ, ADS deserved better.
Whatever, Kellz, he took down Mick The Shark Puncher at his most superhuman and aura-filled.