9 Famous American Surfers (Icons Of Surfing)

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock for the last few decades then you’ve probably heard of some of the most famous American surfers like Kelly Slater.

But there’s a whole load of surfers who have not only dominated the waves but also left a lasting impact on the sport as we know it.

Join me as we take a deep dive into the lives of some of these surfing legends and explore how they’ve shaped surfing in the US.

FAMOUS AMERICAN SURFERS

9 Famous American Surfers We Love

We’ve created our definitive list of the best surfers the US has to offer from old-school legends to some of the best high-performance surfers in the world today.

Kelly Slater

Kelly has a whopping 11 world titles to his name earning him his nickname the ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time) and making him the most successful professional surfer ever.

He was born on February 11, 1972, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA. Despite Florida’s relatively small surf Kelly managed to hone his skills to a professional level very quickly.

Slater’s surfing career began in the mid-1980s, and he quickly rose to prominence as one of the sport’s top young talents.

He won his first world championship in 1992 at the age of 20 before dominating the sport throughout the 1990s, winning six world championships in that decade alone.

He now dabbles in a range of surf brands including:

  • The Wave Ranch
  • Outerknown 
  • Kelly Slater Designs

Kelly still competes on the World Surf League tour and at the age of 51 he’s the oldest surfer competing by over a decade.

Tom Curren

Tom Curren is a certified surfing legend born on July 3, 1964, in Santa Barbara, California, USA. Curren first rose to prominence in the 1980s, winning three world championships in quick succession.

He won his first world title in 1985 followed by two more wins in 1986, and 1990. His fluid, graceful style on the face of a wave, combined with his ability to perform devastating carves at will made him a standout competitor and an inspiration for anyone picking up a surf mag at the time.

Tom’s also an accomplished musician, recording several albums over the years while maintaining his longstanding sponsorship with the surf brand Rip Curl.

Despite officially retiring from competitive surfing in the early 2000s, Curren continues to shred and remains an active and respected figure in the surfing community.

Lakey Peterson 

Lakey Peterson is an American professional surfer born on September 30, 1994, in Santa Barbara, California.

Lakey grew up in Santa Barbara, where she began surfing at the age of five. She quickly fell in love with the sport and began competing in local competitions.

In 2012, at the age of 17, she qualified for the Women’s Championship Tour before joining to finish in the top 10 in her rookie year and earning the prestigious Rookie of the Year award.

Peterson’s success continued in the following years, as she won multiple events on the CT and finished in the top five in the rankings.

Lakey won the first prestigious Surf Ranch Pro event held at Kelly’s famous wave pool. She has also represented the United States in international surfing competitions, winning a gold medal at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games.

Lakey’s surfboard is littered with stickers with sponsorships including Hurley, Red Bull, and Oakley.

If you haven’t seen them yet I thoroughly recommend “Leave a Message” and “Zero to 100.” which both contain standout video parts featuring Lakey’s razor-sharp rail work and progressive air game.

With a style and technique honed on the walls of California’s best surf breaks, we won’t be surprised if Lakey has a world title somewhere in her very near future.

Kolohe Andino

Kolohe Andino is a pro surfer and world tour veteran born on March 22, 1994, in San Clemente, California, USA. 

Kolohe began surfing at an incredibly young age and quickly demonstrated a talent that set him out as one of the best upcoming groms in the world.

He honed his skills at his local break of T-street and was a regular standout at the high-performance skate park of Lower’s perfect walls.

Kolohe currently holds the world record for the most National Scholastic Surfing Association title wins for any male surfer and was an unbeatable force in his early career.

His surfing is heavily influenced by his father, Dino, who was a top surfer in the 1980s and 1990s, pushing the early wave of aerial surfing.

Together, Kolohe and Dino form a dynamic father-son duo, with Dino providing guidance and support that’s led his son to be one of the very lucky few to be able to compete for their country at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton is an American surfer and waterman, he was born on March 2, 1964, in San Francisco, California, but grew up in Hawaii where he developed a deep connection with the ocean.

He was born to a surfer father, Bill Hamilton, (who also shaped surfboards). By 13, Laird was already competing in surfing competitions and was considered a promising young talent.

When the late 1980s arrived, Laird Hamilton began to focus on big-wave surfing. In 1992, Laird made history by surfing a 30-foot wave at the infamous Mavericks surf break in Northern California.

He continued to push the limits of big wave surfing throughout the 1990s and 2000s, riding waves that were considered unrideable by many.

Hamilton was also involved in the development of new surfing equipment and techniques being one of the first surfers to experiment with tow-in surfing and taking stand-up paddleboarding to its limits with famous rides at Teahupoo in Tahiti amongst other dangerous waves.

Caroline Marks

Caroline is a professional surfer who has quickly risen to become one of the top surfers in the world thanks to a deadly backhand attack.

She was born on February 14, 2002, in Boca Raton, Florida, and began surfing with her brothers at the age of eight.

Her vicious approach to the face of the wave and her undeniable skill in the water helped her become the youngest surfer to qualify for the Women’s Championship Tour at the age of 15.

She won her first Championship Tour event at the 2019 Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast in Australia and followed that up with another win at the MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro held in Peniche

She was also the youngest surfer to qualify and compete in the Tokyo Olympics, finishing an impressive fourth and securing the highest heat score of any man or woman at the event.

Caroline Marks is sponsored by several major surfing brands, including Roxy, Reb Bull and Lost Mayhem who supply her with all her surfboards.

Overall, Caroline Marks is a highly accomplished surfer for her age and has become a role model for young surfers all over the world.

Taylor Knox

Taylor Knox is a professional surfer who’s been an influential figure in the sport for several decades. He was born on May 15, 1971, in Thousand Oaks, California where he began surfing at the age of 10. 

In Knox’s early years, he won several major competitions and established himself as one of the top performers on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour.

He was known for his powerful carves which allowed him to dominate in larger waves and challenging conditions.

He won the Surfer Poll Award for Best Performance in 1998 and was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Knox also represented the United States in international surfing competitions, winning a gold medal at the 1996 ISA World Surfing Games.

He was a perennial contender on the ASP World Tour, finishing in the top 10 in the rankings several times and winning several major events.

Dane Reynolds

Dane Reynolds was born on September 7, 1985, in Ventura, California, USA which happens to be a hotbed for some of the country’s best surfers including the famous Malloy brothers.

Surfing around Ventura he was quickly noted as a raw talent with a unique style that set him apart from many of his fellow peers.

It was around this time that he started a lifelong relationship with the legendary surfboard shaper Al Merrick of Channel Islands.

This led to several performance shapes being released under Dane’s name and he now continues to work with Britt Merrick, Al’s son who is now well and truly at the helm of this surfboard brand.

Reynolds enjoyed a successful competitive career, winning the US Open of Surfing in 2009 and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in 2010.

Most of his success and fame came from his features in many surfing films, including “Dear Suburbia” and “Cluster” alongside famous videographer Kai Neville and other Modern Collective surfers like Jordy Smith

Reynolds was in high demand during his competitive years sponsored by several well-known brands, including Quiksilver, Channel Islands Surfboards, and Electric Eyewear.

He also founded his own clothing company Former, which he started in 2016 with fellow surfer and free soul Craig Anderson.

His casual approach to life and somewhat introverted character make him very likeable and his unique approach to turns and manoeuvres means he’s still arguably one of the best surfers in the world.

Peter Mel

Peter Mel was born on January 14, 1969, in Santa Cruz, California, USA, he rose to fame as a big wave surfer tackling the world’s most dangerous waves at spots like Mavericks and Cortes Bank.

His big wave prowess has seen him take to the podium at the Mavericks Invitational in 2013 and led to a first-place finish on the 2011-2012 big wave world tour.

Pete now spends most f his time following the WSL tour as part of their full-time commentary team bringing insight into exactly what professional surfers are riding under their feet.

He’s been featured in several surfing films, including “Riding Giants” and “Step into Liquid” and you’ll still find him catching bombs whenever a large swell hits the Californian coastline.

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