You know those slow moments during a contest webcast when your mind begins to wander and you start to imagine what it would be like if yesteryear’s pros surfed against today’s ASP darlings? You do that too right? Ever wonder if an in-their-prime world champ from the ’80s would stand a chance against the current crop of title contenders? How the best freesurfers on the planet would fare when thrown into the bloodthirsty world of competitive surfing? We composed a fantasy slate of two-man heats to find out.
Who wins? Vote below.
KELLY SLATER 2005 vs. KELLY SLATER 2013
Highest Career Ranking: Slater (2005) 7x World Champion. Slater (2013) 11x World Champion.
By the end of the 2005 season, Slater had won his seventh, and most difficult, world title after taking three years off on a competitive rumspringa, and then toiling for another three years to solve the riddle of Andy Irons. Arguably, this was the most competitively seasoned Slater the sport has seen. Ah, but the 2013 model of Slater has tacked on four more titles, all while raising his surfing level to the realm of the unreal. Cloudbreak is the only appropriate playing field for a Slater on Slater battle, and history suggests that Slater’s only real competition is himself.
DANE REYNOLDS vs. MATT ARCHBOLD
Highest Career Ranking: Reynolds No. 4 in 2010. Archbold No. 37 in 1987
A monumental battle between two of the greatest what-could-have-beens in competitive pro surf history. Or a snorefest of poor wave judgment and flyaway tail-blows. Could be either. As far as competition goes, Archy was Dane before Dane was Dane. Just with more tattoos. Like Dane, Archy surfed better and harder than almost everybody on tour, but lost interest once he put on a jersey. Both Archy and Dane have been praised as the “World’s Best Freesurfer,” at times, but short of Dane’s run in 2010 and Archy’s limited success on the domestic tour circuit, neither had much luck in heats.
SHAUN TOMSON vs. JOEL PARKINSON
Highest Career Ranking: Tomson, World Champ in 1977. Parko, World Champ in 2012.
Possibly the handsomest heat in surfing history. Tomson, the most genteel pro surfer the sport has ever seen, always seemed as though he was a refugee from a royal family somewhere. He surfed like it too. Polished, smooth, not a finger or lock of hair out of place, Tomson rode waves like he was doing them a favor. Parko is Tomson’s equal in smoothness, in the water at least, and buoyed by his world title, now surfs as though winning is inevitable.
JORDY SMITH vs. MARTIN POTTER
Highest Career Ranking: Smith, No. 2 in 2010. Potter, World Champ in 1989.
A power battle for the ages. Two Saffa regularfoots who blend eye-popping airs with rail work badassery. Both surfers are mercurial talents, prone to streaks of otherworldly performance punctuated by head-scratching lapses of concentration. Neither is a stranger to the bawdy underworld of the pro surf party scene. Each boasts a terrific head of hair.
CRAIG ANDERSON vs. MATT WILKINSON
Highest Career Ranking: Ando, N/A. Wilkinson, No. 20 in 2011.
Two of the styliest goofies on earth. Wilko probably is the closest thing the tour has to Ando: long-haired, uninhibited, and flaunting a backhand approach that’s based on tail wafts and power finners. Ando is more limber with a bigger bag of air tricks, but his mind may wander a bit during a heat. In fact, if he spent the whole heat paddling around chasing a butterfly, nobody would be surprised.