10. Kainoa McGee
Hawaiian to the core. Kainoa buckled boards with pure power and takes off on the biggest Pipe waves to dare unload on the famed reef. It’s a shame he never won a Pipe comp but riding 15 ft. second reef bombs on dropknee and dropping in on unmakeable waves only to come out of the barrel with a claim… well that’s Kainoa. He’s in his element in the barrel and he’s a complete water man, manhandling huge barrels on his belly, on his knee, standing up or with a paddle. I met Kainoa once and I remember three things super clear: 1.) he looks like someone you’d NEVER want to mess with, 2.) he’s a super cool and nice guy and 3.) I reminded him physically of Alex Kinimaka. Not too bad a day for a stoked grom if I do say so myself.
9. Neymara Carvalho
While many women are super worthy of admiration for their skills, courage and power, Neymara was the first female bodyboarder I can remember of that busted more hardcore than guys. Her airs at Backdoor commanded the respect of all the people and she’s a hell woman if I’ve ever seen one. The funny thing is that if she were any more bubbly she’d be a friggin champagne. Seeing her go from land to water was like watching a hello kitty doll transform into the Tasmanian Devil and to me, she’s always been a super standout on any wave where you can boost being one of my favorite riders to watch… without gender distinction.
8. Andre Botha
At 17 I was finishing high school, at 18 I was starting college… At those same ages, Andre Botha was winning back-to-back world titles. Like other Zaffas, Andre has a tendency to take off on bigger waves than you’d want to even try to imagine yourself on. To make matters more intense, his style was classic Zaffa… smooth, powerful and pretty much damn perfect. Any young grom looking to make a mark has his benchmark to strive for…
7. Ben Severson
Mike’s nemesis in the 80’s, he was the first guy to establish a rivalry in the sport. Super quick, great spinners, deep tubes, and the most vocal advocate for hitting a roll as you came out of a barrel, Ben was a guy who excelled at fast waves. His BZ models were some of my first, with the classic T-10 Channel being one of my favorite boards in my life and he got so good shaping, he decided to make his own company. Think about it, channels, transition rails, wide points… these things we casually analyze nowadays were probably brought to the light thanks to Ben. Now say thank you.
6. Ryan Hardy
Hardballs… Want one wave to express how good Ryan is? Look for his spinner in the barrel at Teahupoo in the Tahiti Skins Competition. Want one session to express how good he can be in one session, look at him at the Box. Hardy charges and he’s one of the most emotional guys you’ll ever meet when it comes to competition making me suspect that he’s at least 1/8 Brazilian. When you think Ryan, you think precision and power. Where’s the best place to hit the lip? He’s there. What’s the most critical part of the wave to pull a move? He’s there. Like Mitch Rawlins, Ryan has a tendency to execute moves so perfect you wonder how the hell they do it. That’s because they have vision. While people focus on just hitting the lip and boosting, Ryan and Mitch both share that innate super power to already think about how they’re going to cross their legs while they’re boosting five feet above the lip.