5. Ben Player
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rider who has polarized me as much as Ben. Originally, I didn’t like his style in the first videos I saw with him and Toby… then he goes to Hawaii, then he starts boosting, then he starts charging, then he starts pulling off moves perfectly, then he starts putting his style on his moves, then he starts putting his style on everything he does, then he becomes the ideal. Ben is the evolution of style embodied by a rider and now I need to see every segment he’s in even if he’s just doing a duckdive.
A long descendant of Daedalus, Eppo was the air man of air men. He made people want to commit to the air more than anyone. He pushed the sport with the ARS, the backflip, the double roll and airs higher over the lip than waves I’ve ridden. While some people push deeper into the barrel and others push harder into their moves, Eppo took to the sky and the sport has never been the same since.
3. Jeff Hubbard
Freak… that’s how you define Hubb, launching higher than physically and psychologically healthy, Hubb’s segments look like they come out of a damn videogame. Abnormally flexible and with the most complete skills of any rider to ever ride on a board, Hubb is who everyone wants to be. He can win with the deepest barrel. He can win with the highest air. He can win with the most fluid combinations of moves. Simply put, if anyone can win, it’s Jeff... Lucky for all of us, anyone watching a heat he’s in or a segment he’s riding on also wins.
2. Guilherme Tamega
A lot of people say they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win. Each of those people is quoting Tamega… there’s saying you’re willing to die to win, and then there’s making everyone fear for your life to prove that you’re not talking bullshit. It’s 1994, Tamega launches what becomes known as the Death Roll on a closeout at Pipe and takes off on one of the best 10 point rides in history to claim a win… Fast forward 17 years to Chile and he launches what is called a Death Roll over dry reef at Arica to win. With time some people change… but the heroes in our lives, they always stay true to who they are. Tamega is the real deal and during his reign of terror, no one came close to taking him down. When it comes to crazy rolls, crazy air forwards and fierce competitive drive, Tamega is King.
1. Mike Stewart
Having the respect of your peers is one thing, commanding respect from everyone who’s ever done a water sport is another. You see, getting the wave of your life at Pipe has to do with luck as much as skill… bodysurfing Pipe and attempting to do it from Second Reef… that’s beyond comprehension. Nine Time bodyboarding Champion, Eleven times bodysurfing champion, Mike proves that knowledge truly is power. Style, grace, power, and above all else skill… few people are as technical as Mike and no other rider in existence has been studied as in depth as Mike. Let’s face it, if the conditions are big and it’s a barrel fest… Mike will be in the final. Last year I met Mike for the first time in my life and it’s a milestone for way too many reasons to list but one of the top would be that even as revered as he is, I’ve met few people in life who live with as much stoke as Mike and it just goes to show… the secret to happiness isn’t status, it’s to approach everything in life like a pumped up grommet going for a session.