Would you agree that surfing is a subjective sport? Everyone has an opinion on who they think is the greatest surfer ever, what board is best for a particular condition, or where the best waves are found. Even competitive surfing cannot escape controversies when critics (and spectators) question how a performance was scored, or what makes a 10-point ride. Regardless, there are still some areas in surfing that are pretty quantifiable like the size of the wave, the number of waves caught, length of ride, the number of titles won, and the time spent in the barrel.
Getting barreled takes a lot of hard work. Given that you have the skill, you still need to travel to places that offer just the perfect wave at the perfect time to catch one, because even the world’s most consistent waves don’t pump every day. Having said that, here are the surfers who took that challenge to heart and racked up the numbers to become the most barreled surfers in the world.
Since the invention of the bodyboard, Mike Stewart has never stopped riding them. He was one of the pioneers of the sport. For the past 35 years, he’s won 11 bodyboard titles and 15 for bodysurfing. He’s already in his 50s, and he’s still winning them.
When he’s not touring (and crushing the competition), he’s chasing foreign slabs or catching those hollow waves from his Hawaiian home. With his experience and ability alone, there’s no denying that Stewart is a legend in his own right, and quite possibly the most barreled surfer in the world.
Another surfer from Hawaii makes the cut. Mikala Jones spends his summers in Bali and winters in the North Shore. And because he’s made these two exotic locations his home, he gets access to some pretty amazing (and heavy) waves all the time. Fortunately, he doesn’t pass up such opportunities.
Committed to the chase since the age of 12 and armed with the knowledge of the hollow reefs, Mikala is probably the most barreled stand-up surfer in history.
Is there anyone in the surfing community who doesn’t know Kelly Slater? The King, who is arguably the best surfer of all time, could have easily been the most barreled as well, but he was too busy chasing world titles. With 11 world titles and the recognition (and the record) of being the youngest and oldest to win it, his efforts were definitely not in vain.
So why is he on the list then? Despite being more committed to competitive surfing, he has seen (and caught) a fair share of barrels. Having houses in pretty much every wave-rich zone doesn’t hurt, as well. Think of a surf spot pumping with waves, it’s highly possible that Slater has been there. A semi-secret barrel? He’s probably scored that too. And if he hasn’t, you can bet that he’d be there soon. With Kelly’s knowledge, skills, and resources, he can easily add “The World’s Most Barreled Surfer” under his belt (well, as soon as he retires).
Alex Gray has been to places famous for world-class barrels – Morroco, Fiji, South East Asia, you name it. When the waves are pumping, he’s likely to be there. He’s been almost everywhere and he has the broken boards to prove it. With his dedication to the chase and impeccable timing to score the world’s best waves, Gray has earned the title of being one of the most barreled surfers ever.
And for those of us who can’t travel like Gray, he gives us front row seats to all his conquests – from amazing pictures to jaw-dropping surf edits.
These are people you’ve never heard of but have been chasing tubes just as much as (sometimes more than) any big-name surfer. For instance, Jon Roseman has seen and caught more barrels than anyone in Tavarua. He probably has one of the best tube styles on the planet. And because he can read swells and waves better than anyone else, he’s always in the right place at the right time.
Jensen Hassett has been chasing the breaks of Mexico and Oahu’s North Shore. Zach Keenan has spent countless hours catching Indonesian slabs that no one probably knew existed. So why haven’t they been making headlines? It’s probably because it’s what they wanted, to stay under the radar and to simply do what they love – chasing barrels.
Is there someone that you think should be on the list? Let us know below.
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