Surfing’s never had as much exposure as it does right now.
Professional surfing has helped a select few individuals carve out iconic careers that have placed them firmly in the public eye.
But who are these famous surfers that have really taken the surfing world by storm and solidified themselves as standouts in an already vibrant surf industry?
We’ve done our research to bring you a list of the best surfers from all over the world, highlighting some of the male and female titans of surfing.
The 15 Most Famous Male Surfers In The World
Let’s take a look at some of the icons that have shaped our sport.
Credited as the father of modern surfing no list of surfing fame would be complete without Duke Kahanamoku.
Duke is a Hawaiian surfing legend who competed in three Olympic Games, if that wasn’t enough he held the first surfing exhibition ever at Freshwater Beach, Sydney in 1915!
After the success of his first exhibition, Duke continued to travel and spread the joy of surfing as far as New Zealand.
This love of surfing is credited as the beginning of modern surfing and without Duke surfing may not be in the same great shape it is today.
Want to know more? – Drop into our list of famous Hawaiian surfers to meet more of the legends that make their little isle such a force in surfing.
Kelly Slater or the GOAT (greatest of all time) is part man, part surfing machine.
With an unrivalled 11x World Surf League world title under his belt, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest surfers of all time if not THE greatest.
He charged onto the competitive surfing scene at 5 years old and after working his way through the regionals and nationals he found himself on the big stage of the ASP world surf tour.
But it didn’t take him long to find his first world title in 1992 at the age of 20 before going on a monumental run of wins.
To make things worse Kelly took a hiatus which many expected (including his rivals) he may not return from, but after his break, Kelly came back with the same competitive fire and continued to win world titles for years to come.
While still competing he’s managed to build his own wave pool in the form of the Surf Ranch and start up his own surf fashion brand (even if it is a bit pricy) Outerknown.
With a big question mark over whether Kelly will compete on the world tour again next year, the question remains, can anyone rival the King and his world record title wins?
American surfing legends – Head over to our list of the most famous American surfers to get to know some of the best-known faces in US surfing.
Tom Curren is the definition of a surfing icon.
His clean, smooth surfing interspersed with releases of raw power make him a pleasure to watch on the face of a wave.
Staring with a sponsorship deal over at OP swimwear he quickly got noticed by Rip Curl where he remains to this day.
Hailing from Santa Barbara, California Tom’s got three-world titles on his mantlepiece and will always be remembered as a surfing great.
Gabriel Medina is a genius on a surfboard. His fast-paced aerial surfing mixed with powerful hacks and a deadly backhand snap positioned him perfectly as the first Brazillian to claim a WSL world title.
Hailing from São Sebastião, São Paulo, Gabriel has won the 2014, 2018 and 2021 WSL World Championships putting him an even second on world titles next to Tom Curren.
He brings a laser focus and competitive savvy that is unmatched by most of his rivals on the tour and was an integral part of the Brazillian Storm that still dominates professional world surfing today.
More reading – The Brazillian storm is a force in global surfing right now but it’s built on a rich history of surfing culture. Meet some of Brazil’s most famous surfers in our definitive guide.
John John Florence
John John Florence is a professional surfer from Oahu, Hawaii
Born in 1992, Florence began surfing at a very young age and quickly showed a natural talent for the sport.
He began competing professionally in 2010 and he quickly went on to beat a competitive field of adults at the Triple Crown, one of Hawaii’s most prestigious surf comps.
In 2016, Florence went on to win the World Surf League Championship Tour, becoming the youngest surfer ever to win the title. He’s also one of the few surfers who can proudly say they won the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea.
John John’s brothers are also notable figures in the surfing industry with Nathan and Ivan Florence both making regular appearances in John’s free surf edits.
Joel Tudor is a pro surfer loved for his stylish, traditional approach to the sport.
Born in 1976 in San Diego, California, he began competing professionally in the 1990s and quickly established himself as one of the top longboarders in the world.
Joel is a nine-time winner of the prestigious Duct Tape Invitational and has even turned his hand to shaping with Joel Tudor Surfboards.
Michael “MP” Peterson was a rebellious pro-surfer born on the 24th of September 1952.
At 15 years old, Peterson’s family settled in the surf-centric Coolangatta on Australia’s Gold Coast.
From there he began to hone his skills on his surfboard and led the charge of the shortboard revolution that gripped Australia in the late ’60s.
He was a skilled barrel rider with iconic rides at his local surf spots Kirra and Snapper Rocks.
Michael Peterson went on to win the 1972 and 1974 Australian Surf Championships and solidified himself as one of the country’s most famous surfers.
Alongside his surf fame, he was also known for run-ins with the law and famously led a 20-car police case before being eventually stopped by a blockade on Story Bridge.
Titus Kinimaka is one of our favourite big-wave legends. Born 24th of January 1955 in Kauai, Hawaii.
Titus is a waterman through and through with stand-out sessions at some of Hawaii’s most challenging big wave surf spots, most notably Waimea.
His big wave prowess earned him one of the longest runs of invites to the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, appearing in the contest from 1986 all the way through to 2009.
Titus’ family now runs a surf school in his honour, using techniques developed and passed down by the man himself.
Rob Machado is a professional surfer from San Diego, California and is one of our personal favourites here at Honest Surf.
Born in 1971, Machado grew up surfing the waves of Southern California and quickly established himself as one of the top surfers of his generation.
He began competing professionally in the 1990s and won numerous competitions, including the well-respected Pipeline Masters and US Open Of Surfing.
Rob’s a champion for environmental activism and has done some great work to help improve our planet.
Since retiring from professional surfing Rob has gone on to shape successful surfboard models for a range of surf brands.
Notable mentions include his Motorboat model at Channel Islands (Al Merrick) and his Seaside model for Firewire, both inspired by his laid-back, stylish approach to surfing.
The king of power surfing, Sunny Garcia is a Hawaiian pro surfer known for his domination of the Triple Crown surfing event with 6 wins to his name.
He was a force to be reckoned with in the ocean, performing arguably the most powerful, destructive down carves of any surfer of his era.
Growing up in Waianae, Hawaii, he first shot into the surfing eye when he took our reigning world champ Tom Carroll at the Sandy Beach Gotcha Pro circa 1986.
In 2000 Sunny went on to win the at the time ASP World Championship Tour cementing himself as a surfing icon.
Sunny Garcia’s life wasn’t without its up and downs, in 2006 Sunny was sentenced to three months in jail for tax evasion and has always been open about his struggles with mental health.
In 2019 Sunny attempted to take his life leaving him in critical condition, since then his family have requested privacy but we can only wish this surfing great all of our best wishes and a speedy recovery.
Andy Irons was born on July 24, 1978, in Princeville, Kauai, and began surfing at a young age alongside his smaller brother Bruce.
It didn’t take long for local surfers to quickly realise these two skinny kids would go on to do great things.
Initially, Bruce looked like he was set to be the star but when the brothers made it onto the World Tour circuit it was Andy who turned out to be the competitive machine we all know and love.
His raw style, expert tube riding and vicious backhand snaps made his surfing a thing of beauty.
During his time on tour, Andy became a three-time world champion, winning the title in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
In addition to his success on the ASP tour, he won several other prestigious events, including the Pipeline Masters and the Rip Curl Pro Search.
Andy was one of the few surfers able to go head-to-toe with Kelly Slater in his prime.
The award-winning surf documentary Fly In The Champagne details perfectly the journey of one of surfing’s greatest rivalries.
Tragically, Irons passed away on November 2, 2010, at the age of 32. His death was a shock to the surfing community, and he was remembered as a true legend of the sport.
Today, his legacy lives on through the Andy Irons Foundation helmed by his wife Lyndie Irons.
Filipe Toldeo is arguably the fastest, most acrobatic surfer on the planet today. His arsenal of aerial manoeuvres and devastating carves places him firmly as one of the top five male surfers on the planet.
Hailing from Ubatuba, Brazil, Filipe fine-tuned his skills on the often less-than-perfect beach break waves in the area.
Filipe’s father Ricardo Toledo is a 2x national and was instrumental in coaching Felipe to success.
His small wave surfing skills quickly gained him some notoriety and he became a force to be reckoned with in Brazil’s junior comp circuit.
He hit the global stage in 2013 when he won the World Junior Championship (a good indicator of rising talents soon to reach the big stage).
After joining the WQS circuit for qualification he quickly flew up the ratings and in 2015 he earned his spot on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour.
Since then Felipe has gone on to win the 2022 World Championship with notable event wins at the Oi Rio Pro in Brazil and the J Bay Open in South Africa.
His domination also extends to the US Open of Surfing where he sits as a 2x winner in 2014 and 2016.
Mark Richards often referred to as ‘MR’ is 3x world champ hailing from Newcastle, Australia.
His parents owned and operated a surf shop before he was even born so with surfing well in truly in his blood it was no surprise when Mark found a passion for the sport.
Spreading his time between surfing and cricket he entered several junior competitions, often travelling up and down the coast with his father to compete.
Before long he began travelling to Hawaii to take on the huge, dangerous waves of the North Shore.
Mark cemented himself as a surfing great when he went on to win the ISP World Tour from 1980 through to 1982, fending off his rival Cheyne Horan.
Dane was a one-in-a-generation surfer, pure natural talent for all to see. Born July 17, 1986, in Ventura, California, Dane was already surrounded by some of the world’s biggest surf brands
It didn’t take long for local surfboard shaper Al Merrick to notice Dane’s groundbreaking high-performance surfing and all-or-nothing approach.
Next Quicksilver sets its sights on Dane with stand-out performances in their Young Gun video series alongside other up-and-coming young rippers at the time like Clay Marzo and Jeremy Flores.
With all the hype around this young Californian, it was no surprise when his competitive results didn’t really tell the same story.
Dane’s laid-back approach to life didn’t really fit the cutthroat world of competitive surfing and despite a win at Vans Triple Crown of Surfing it was clear Dane wanted to pursue his other passions.
After retiring from competitive surfing Dane started a film project called Marine Layer Productions which mainly documented Dane’s hunt for waves on the Ventura coastline.
Since then Dane seems to have somewhat dropped off the surf media radar, other than launching his new surf brand ‘Former’ alongside fellow free surfer Craig Anderson.
Mick Fanning is a now retired professional surfer from the Gold Coast in Australia. Born on June 13, 1981, in Penrith, New South Wales, Mick quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with at the national level.
His laser-sharp snaps and carves earned him the nickname ‘white lightning’ and to this day his top-to-bottom rail surfing is still considered some of the best in the world.
Mick’s surfing excellence comes in part from the company he chose to keep from a young age. Known as the ‘Cooly Kids’ Mick joined fellow soon-to-be pro surfers Dean Morrison and Joel Parkinson.
This tight-knit group pushed each other to higher and higher levels that would eventually see them gain access to the prestigious ASP World Tour of the time.
While on tour Mick won the 2007, 2009 and 2013 titles cementing himself as one of the best surfers of his era.
In 2015, Fanning made headlines when he was attacked by what is presumed to be a Great White shark during the J Bay Open in South Africa.
It’s unclear whether the shark attacked unprovoked or became entangled in Mick’s surfboard leash but either way, he was incredibly lucky to escape unharmed with quick thinking and a strike to the nose potentially saving his life.
Mick now focuses his efforts on business ventures including a Coffee brand and a line of foam surfboards called Mick Fanning Softboards.
Additional reading – Meet the men and women who’ve dedicated their lives to surfing for Australia in our deep dive into famous Australian surfers.
The 7 Most Famous Female Surfers In The World
Let’s take a look at some of the greatest female surfers of all time.
Stephanie Gilmore is without a doubt the most successful female surfer of all time. She brings a truly unique style and grace to high-performance surfing.
When it comes to specialist surfers, Steph’s performances on the long reeling walls of Snapper Rocks are unforgettable.
Born on January 29, 1988, in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, she grew up surfing around the local area and started competing from a young age.
By 19 years old Steph became the youngest-ever female surfer to win the ASP World Tour and since then has gone on to secure another seven titles making her the greatest competitive female surfer ever.
Some of her most prestigious events wins include the Roxy Pro Gold Coast and the Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles.
Today, Gilmore continues to compete on the WSL Championship Tour, where she still sits in the higher ratings alongside surfers like Tyler Wright and Tatiana Weston-Webb.
No list of the best surfers would be complete without Layne on the list. Layne Collette Beachley was born on the 24th of May 1972 in Manly, New South Wales.
She spent her younger years learning to surf around the local beaches, and by the age of 16, she had decided to become a full-time pro surfer.
Just four short years later she was ranked as the 6th best surfer in the world. Not happy to settle with the upper echelons of surfing she set her gaze on the world title and by 1998 she was holding the trophy proudly above her head.
Following this Layne went on to win in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006 bringing her world title total to seven, just one behind Stephanie Gilmore.
Carissa Moore brought a breath of life to female competitive surfing. She approached the wave with aggression and power, chucking buckets of spray for her competitors to see.
Growing up around the powerful waves of Hawaii, Carissa quickly learnt how to tame large dangerous waves with ease, applying carefully executed gouges into powerful walls of water.
Taking her patented Hawaain power to the world stage she quickly started to ruffle the feather of the world’s best.
By 2011 she’d secured her first WSL World Championship trophy and continued to do so again in 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2021.
Carissa’s also one of the very few surfers that can proudly wear an Olympic gold medal, securing one in the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Sally Jayne Fitzgibbons was born on the 19th of December 1990, growing up in the small surfside town of Gerroa, New South Wales.
By 16 she’d won her first event at the Icon All-Girls Open hosted in Lennox Head. In 2009 she made her way to the big league and managed an impressive 5th-place finish on her first year on tour.
Since then Sally has gone on to win a stack of events at the highest level but has sadly never achieved the coveted World Title.
We love Sally because she plays the classic underdog role, working harder than most to hone her skills and continue to compete at the highest level of surfing.
Lisa Anderson is an American pro surfer with an impressive four world surfing titles to her name.
After arguing with her disapproving parents Lisa chose to run away from home at the age of 16 to pursue her career in professional surfing.
She fled to Huntington Beach to surround herself with some of the best surfers in the US. She quickly became a stand-out in the lineup.
Her first big win came in the form of the US Championships at Sebastien Inlet in 1987. This springboard launched her onto the world tour where she finished the year ranked 12th, winning Rookie of the Year.
With a competitive edge and a hunger for winning, she continued her charge up the ranks before securing four consecutive wins from 1994 to 1997.
Bethany Hamilton is a Hawaiin pro surfer who famously survived a shark attack in 2003.
The most impressive thing about Bethany is her ability to continue to surf at the very highest level despite losing her arm in the attack.
From leading the charge in female aerial surfing to tackling some of the world’s best barrels she’s a force to be reckoned with in the water.
Bethany details her ordeal and recovery in her autobiography Soul Surfer which was eventually adapted into a feature-length moving detailing her life.
Laura Enever is an ex-professional surfer who now works on the WSL’s commentating team.
She spent her early years competing and went on to win the ASP Women’s World Junior Champion in 2009.
Practising her trade in big surf, Laura quickly positioned herself as one of the gnarliest female big wave surfers out there.
Her competitive results were strong but not title-strong so she set her eyes on free surfing as a career.
With support from her sponsor Billabong, Laura was able to travel the world seeking out some of the best big wave surfing destinations.
We Answer Your Questions About the World’s Most Famous Surfers
Let’s look at your most pressing questions about the world’s best surfers.
Who’s the most famous surfer of all time?
Without a doubt, 11x world champion Kelly Slater is the most famous surfer in the world. He regularly invites the world’s most famous celebrities to join him at his wave pool The Surf Ranch.
Who’s the most famous Australian surfer?
Mick Fanning shot to global fame in 2015 when he was attacked by a shark at the J Bay Open. This alongside his famed world titles makes him the most well-known surfer in Australia.
Who’s the famous surfer in Brazil?
Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo and Italo Ferreira are all global superstars and it would be hard to pick a winner from the three.