6 Of South Africa’s Most Famous Surfers (Icons Of Surfing)


South Africa is an absolute gem, from legendary right-handers at J-Bay to cultural traditions as old as time itself.

With 3000 kilometres of coastline along the bottom of the African continent, it’s got some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and waves all year round.

So it’s no surprise some of the best surfers in the world have grown up surfing the many reefs, points, and beach breaks that litter the coast.

Let’s meet a few surfers who’ve become household names and cemented themselves as South Africa’s most famous surfers.

Shaun Tomson

Shaun is a former world champion who has taken his game-changing Code Leadership Method to every corner of the world from fancy boardrooms in the US to humble schools in South Africa.

On top of that, he’s a solid entrepreneur, co-founding apparel brands Instinct and Solitude alongside his wife Carla.

He’s authored two books, “Surfer’s Code” and “The Code – The Power of ‘I Will'” and co-produced and co-wrote the award-winning documentary “Bustin’ Down the Door” detailing South African and Aussie surfer’s struggle to reach the highest echelons of surfing.

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker

Twiggy is an absolute legend in the world of big-wave surfing with two Big Wave World Tour Championships, two Mavericks titles, five other WSL Tour titles, and a bunch of WSL XXL awards.

He’s tackled some of the biggest waves in the world from Mavericks in California to the truly terrifying Dungeons sitting half a mile outside of Hout Bay in Cape Town.

Now he spends much of his time devoted to charitable work in his country helping to give underprivileged kids access to the ocean and a chance to experience surfing.

Jordy Smith

Born on February 2, 1988, Jordy was introduced to the world of surfing at a very young age by his dad, Graham Smith.

At the time Graham had the Lost Surfboards license in South Africa so Jordy was surrounded by boards and surfers and it was only a matter of time before he jumped on his first surfboard.

It didn’t take long for Jordy to start to dominate in the juniors and before long his combination of powerful carves and progressive airs saw him secure a spot on the then-ASP world tour.

Despite battling injuries for almost five years, he’s a force to be reckoned with, notching up two runner-up finishes for the world title in 2010 and 2016, proving he’s got what it takes. 

When Jordy’s firing on all cylinders, he dominates the tour like a boss. In 2017 and 2019, he nailed three top-five finishes, and in 2020, he proudly represented South Africa at the Tokyo Games.

Michael February

What Jordy has in power and progression, Mikey matches with perfect timing and a silky flow that most of us can only dream of.

We all have our own unique surfing style but Mikey has one of the best on the planet and that’s not exaggerating.

He grew up in Cape Town but regularly made the pilgrimage down to J-Bay to sample the world-class rights that rifle down the point.

He qualified for the WSL world tour in 2017 where he spent a year travelling to the best surf spots in the world but his relaxed approach didn’t really fit with the pressure-filled world of competitive surfing.

Now he spends his time free surfing with help from his longtime sponsor Vans and working alongside the Waves For Change organisation collecting old boards that he can pass on to the less fortunate.

Bianca Buitendag

Bianca Buitendag, born on November 9, 1993, hails from Victoria Bay in the Western Cape, South Africa. 

She discovered her love for surfing at the tender age of 8 inspired by her father and two brothers.

In 2011, Bianca made her first mark on the international stage by becoming the Billabong ASP World Junior Champion.

The following year, she joined the WQS tour full-time and by 2013, at just 19 years old, Bianca qualified for the ASP World Tour.

Bianca was part of a flourishing group of talented surfers alongside Carissa Moore, Coco Ho, and Laura Enever who were all pushing women surfing to new heights.

She astounded everyone by winning the prestigious “Rookie of the Year” Award and finished her first season ranking an impressive No. 8 overall.

Rosie Hodge

Rosie was blessed enough to grow up in the small town of Jeffreys Bay, literally walking distance from one of the best right-hand points in the world.

She spent four years battling out on tour with the world’s best where her smooth rail-to-rail meant she was a threat in any heat.

After retiring from professional surfing, Rosie seamlessly transitioned into the world of broadcasting and commentary at the WSL.

With her charismatic personality and deep understanding of the sport, she provides expert analysis, offering unique insights into wave selection, technique, and the mindsets of athletes.

Heather Clark

Heather Clark is a famous South African surfer who’s as well-known for her surfing as she is for her fierce determination.

Back in 2003, she blasted her way to the top, landing herself a phenomenal 3rd place among female surfers worldwide.

But life had a wicked twist in store for Heather, in 2009, things took a heart-breaking turn when she got caught up in a life-altering car crash caused by a drunk driver.

The injuries she suffered were no joke, pushing her to her limits physically and emotionally. It was an uphill battle, but Heather’s spirit refused to back down.

Against all odds, she made an epic comeback in 2010 by securing the International Surfing Association World Masters Surfing Championship, snatching her second consecutive gold medal.

And the next year? You guessed it, another shiny silver medal to add to the growing collection.

Heather Clark’s journey is a testament to the unstoppable power of the human spirit.

Her story shows her triumphing over obstacles, showing resilience in the face of life’s curveballs, and never losing that deep passion for the sport she holds dear.