On August 3, three phenomenal surfers – Rabbit Kekai, Dane Reynolds and Andy Verdone – will be inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame.
The athletes will immortalize their hands and footprints in cement at Huntington Beach, California, just like movie stars leaving their mark at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. This year, the Hall of Fame event marks its 15th anniversary. Here are the greatest surfers enshrined in its cement.
Inducted a decade ago, Laird Hamilton was raised on Hawaii’s North Shore. Locally, one of the world’s wildest wave breaks, Pipeline, served as his playground. His stepfather, the elite surfer Billy Hamilton, tweaked his technique. By the age of 17, Hamilton had become an able surfer and could have quit his “regular job,” modelling, for a career gracing surfing’s World Championship Tour. He, however, shunned that option, because he had seen Billy Hamilton suffer from the pressure. Laird Hamilton, who treats his sport like an art form, may be the best big wave surfer ever. He regularly rides swells that rise 35 feet tall, traveling at over 30 mph. He is fond of attacking the monster waves cranked out by Peʻahi reef, aka Jaws, seen above, on Maui’s north shore. A star of the 2004 surf documentary, Riding Giants, Hamilton was featured in the opening sequence of the 2002 James Bond movie Die Another Day, as the agent’s big-wave surfing double. “He is our most accomplished living waterman, equally adept at windsurfing, paddling the English Channel, longboarding or carving laybacks on the world’s biggest waves,” says the Hall of Fame. It adds that Hamilton’s unrelenting attempts at designing alternative waveriding methods are unmatched.
Inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in the same year as Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater is a powerhouse. He has been crowned Association of Surfing Professionals World Champion a record 11 times, including five successive titles from 94–98. Slater is the youngest, at age 20, and the oldest, at age 39, to win the title. From Irish and Syrian roots, Slater grew up in a sleepy Florida town called Cocoa Beach. There, according to Slater, the waves break far out. Good training, he reckons. “If I had the choice of learning in Florida or Hawaii, I’d choose Florida. You don’t try to run before you can walk,” the Hall of Fame quotes Slater saying. For better or worse, he branched out from surfing, appearing in the kitsch surfing series, Baywatch and forming a pro-surfer pop group called The Surfers. On May 8, 2010 the United States House of Representatives honored Slater for his “outstanding and unprecedented achievements in the world of surfing and for being an ambassador of the sport and excellent role model.”
One of the most instantly recognisable figures in surfing, Rob Machado comes from a Pacific city with a swaggering surfing tradition: Sydney, Australia. Machado, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2006, boasts 12 World Championship Tour wins and a Pipeline Masters title won on the cusp of the millennium, as reported by SurfersVillage. His silky style has earned Machado the nickname Mr. Smoothy. Surfline describes him as “one of the most stylish and successful American goofyfoots of all time,” alluding to the way he leads with his right foot. Machado is popular with sponsors and surf magazine readers, who often vote him their favorite in polls. After his parents moved him to Cardiff, California in 1977, he had a thick Australian accent, which prompted his mom to enter him in speech classes, Surfline reports. “Picture some funny-looking little kid with an afro going, ‘Yeeeeah, roit, matey,’” Machado is quoted saying. The Rob Machado Foundation hosts some of Southern California’s biggest beach events, some of which trade on his name, like the Rob Machado Beach Classic, Cardiff Beach Fair and Rob Machado’s Par 3 Experience. He is said to be one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.
The former NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) champion, Mike Parsons is an ASP tour veteran with a thirst for spectacular stunts. In 2001, Parsons rocked the surfing community when he carved a 66-footer at Cortes Bank, California. For that exploit, the Billabong XXL competition awarded him $66,000, the highest professional surfing prize ever given. Parsons, however, is better-known for riding a 64-foot wave during a contest at the Jaws break on Maui’s north shore. The jaw-dropping feat filmed by helicopter became the opening scene of the 2003 film Billabong Odyssey. In 2008, the year he entered the Hall of Fame, Parsons was snapped surfing a Cortes Bank wave that the Billabong XXL measured at 70+ feet. That is what Parsons, who comes from San Clemente is all about: tackling the planet’s biggest behemoths. His nickname is Snips, thanks to his competition-days ability to slice through low surf.
Aussie surfing legend, Mark Occhilupo, entered the Hall of Fame in 2004. The organization describes the Queenslander as “fiery,” which is quite an accolade in the laid-back surfer dude world. Occhilupo shone in the World Championship Tour (WCT), showing extraordinary power for a 17-year-old. The cocky Aussie duly shot to the top of the ASP ratings and set performance standards yet to be bettered, Surfline reckons. The mercurial showman struggled, however, with himself more than the waves. Consequently, his focus and urge to surf faded, fizzling out during the 80s. In 1995, he bounced back, appearing at the Billabong Challenge, which Surfline describes as “his coming-out party.” Occhilupo began placing well and in 1997, was runner-up to Kelly Slater for the world title. In 1999, Occhilupo sparked a sensation by winning the world title at 33, a granddaddy age by surfing standards. The battler’s Italian surname means “eyes of the wolf.” His similarly feral nickname is “Raging Bull.”