The Greatest Rivalries in Surfing History

From battling for the world title to surfing the world’s biggest wave, the path to success has never been easy. There’s always some bastard getting in your way, stopping you from reaching the top – nowhere more so than in surfing.

So here they are, make a list the greatest rivalries to ever grace the world of surfing…

1. Kelly Slater and Andy Irons

bielmann_pt8w9590Photo: Bielmann

Until Andy Irons arrived in professional surfing, no one came close to Kelly Slater for supernatural talent and competitive smarts. Again the difference between the two personalities fed their much hyped antagonism.

It was Slater with his good looks and articulated thoughts against Iron’s brash animal magnetism. The rivalry reached its peak between 2003 and 2005 when Slater couldn’t wrestle the title from Irons.

“We wanted the same thing and knew the other was in the way.” Slater would say later, summing it up simply. The end point was when Andy defend his title against Kelly at the Pipe Masters, winning with a wave on the buzzer.

After that high point Andy’s competitive desire drifted, while Slater’s stayed strong. However in that brief time, surfing had never seen a rivalry like it.

In a tribute to Andy after his death in 2011, Kelly said, “I loved and hated the guy, but I probably only hated him because I admired and envied what he was capable of.”

2. Mark Richards and Cheyne Horan

From 1979 to 1982, Australian Mark Richards won four consecutive word titles. Until Kelly Slater arrived, he was acknowledged as the best competitive surfer in the history of the sport.

However each year Mark Richards won, the runner-up trophy was given to his great Australian rival Cheyne Horan. This was the formative days of pro surfing and even to this day Horan claims that some of his losses were dubious.

In 1979 in Hawaii, one of Horan’s heats was called in early and in the Bells Beach final in 1981, it was universally agreed that he won the final over Simon Anderson, but wasn’t given the result by the judges.

In both those years, Horan lost the world title by a tiny amount of points, the closeness of the race further heightening the competitive tension between the two.

Richards retired after his 4th world title, while Horan never recovered from his narrow four losses.

3. Mark Occhilupo and Tom Curren

Rip Curl Pro Bells BeachPhoto:

As with most rivalries they tend to arise between two very different personalities. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, surfing’s most talked about battles occurred between Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo.

Curren was the smooth natural footer from California whose mellow and aloof act on land didn’t hide his fierce competitiveness in water. Occy was a powerful gooyfooter whose childlike exuberance and flamboyance couldn’t have been more different to Curren’s.

The battle reached its high point in 1986 in the semifinal of the Rip Curl Pro, a contest dubbed the best heat in professional surfing, with both surfers pushing themselves to produce remarkable performances.

Curren would win that heat and go onto to win the World Title, but the two very different surfer’s intense rivalry pushed surfing in a whole new direction.

“We weren’t friends, but we weren’t enemies either,” Occy told Mpora recently. “But when we put the contest singlets on, we both knew we had to surf as good as we possibly could.”

4. Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo

Ken-Bradshaw-and-Mark-FooPhoto: Encyclopedia of Surfing

Ken Bradshaw was the square jawed 6’2” Texan that built himself a reputation as one of the biggest chargers on the North Shore and one of its most intimidating enforcers.

Mark Foo, of Chinese extraction, was a slight, lightfooted bundle of energy who loved the limelight and made a name for himself surfing Hawaii’s biggest waves, especially Waimea Bay.

For over a decade, they waged a running battle of exposure and credibility, each vying for the mantle as the world’s best big wave rider. Their rivalry is chronicled in the excellent book Stealing The Wave by Andy Martin.

In it he says, “We talked of this and that, and then I said to him: ‘Ken, I’ve heard rumours, is it right that you’re at war with Mark Foo?’

He gave the question serious consideration. ‘Andy,’ he finally replied, in his most meditative, professorial style, ‘I can’t be at war with Mark Foo. If I wanted to go to war with somebody, they would cease to exist. I would win.’”

They would eventually reach some sort of truce. However, in a final tragic twist, Bradshaw was just one of the last people to see Foo before he drowned surfing the Californian big wave spot Mavericks in 1994.

5. Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning

Read full article, here

Sources: | Author: Ben Mondy


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