1. Owen Wright
January 16, 1990 // Culburra, Australia
Two consecutive years atop the Hot 100 is no small accomplishment. The last surfer to achieve this feat, Jordy Smith, went on to finish second in the 2010 World Title race behind Kelly Slater the following year. Owen Wright is cut from the same cloth. But while Smith failed to live up to expectations in his rookie year on Tour, Wright put on a mature display and finished comfortably in the Top 10. In fact, by his third event of the year, Wright was showing more competitive savvy than Tour veterans 15 years his senior. He went on to claim the 2010 ASP Rookie of the Year on autopilot, taking scalps as accomplished as Bede Durbidge, Taylor Knox, Joel Parkinson, Taj Burrow, and Kelly Slater along the way. As Shea Lopez pointed out in his assessment of Wright in SURFER’s Top 32 Review: If the waves on Tour favored goofyfooters, or added just one high-performance left to the schedule, then Wright would be the favorite to win 2011 World Title.
But Wright’s prospects extend far beyond the contest jersey. His smooth style, progressive repertoire, and in his countless print, web, and video appearances have put him in a league of his own, and have elevated him into the “A-List” category of professional surfers.
Overall, there is no one in Wright’s peer group who is more accomplished or as diverse.
2. John Florence
October 18, 1992 // Pupukea, Hawaii
John Florence seems as old as the hills—a stalwart that’s been around forever. But he’s only 18. And he’s arguably the best 18-year-old surfer in the history of the sport. If you were to compare Kelly Slater in Black and White to John’s B-roll footage from the North Shore this past winter, you’d see what we mean. His snowboard-and skate-influenced aerial repertoire is unrivaled in its creativity and direction. But forget Florence’s progressive bag of tricks for a moment—just about every surfer in the Hot 100 has one—and focus on what he accomplished in January of 2011 alone. At big, perfect Pipeline, he defeated two of the most stacked fields of Pipeline specialists to claim the Da Hui Backdoor shootout and the Volcom Pipe Pro. To top it off, he made it look easy.
Having grown up on the North Shore, Florence’s ability to navigate Oahu’s heaviest lineups was a given, but the level of control, style, and poise that he exhibits has already exceeded all expectations. It’s always good to see a prophecy fulfilled, but when an 18-year-old reaches goals that most retiring pros would be thrilled to have accomplished, you know you’re looking at a surfer who will one day be considered one of the all-time greats.
3. Jadson Andre
March 13, 1990 // Natal City, Brazil
Jadson Andre surprised everyone during his rookie year on the World Tour. His critics (of which there were no shortage) erroneously pointed to his unrefined style, his lack of power, his non-existent backhand attack. To this day there are those that call Andre a one-trick-pony (a pony who’s one trick is an enormous frontside rotation), but in 2010 he proved that he is far more. His backhand was fluid and aggressive in places like Snapper and J-Bay, he didn’t back down at places like Teahupoo and Pipe, and when he won his first World Tour final just three events into his career, he did so by getting under the skin of a resurgent Kelly Slater and then beating him emphatically. More experience and spending time around the world’s best will only strengthen his position.
4. Alejo Muniz
February 22, 1990 // Santa Catarina, Brazil
Along with Julian Wilson, Alejo Muniz is only one of two true rookies on the World Tour in 2011. A former Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the year, and a long-time standout internationally among the Junior ranks, the Brazilian clearly has the competitive chops in an array of conditions, from two-foot slop to solid Sunset. He also has the speed, style, and aerial skills to blow up any video or photo shoot. Simply put, Muniz is one of the most exciting surfers of his generation, something he’ll prove to a wider audience in the coming months.
5. Kolohe Andino
March 22, 1994 // San Clemente, California
Being a wunderkind has its drawbacks. Shouldering the weight of expectation is the most obvious one. So when Kolohe Andino was conspicuously absent from many of the Pro Junior podiums in 2010, a few people started asking questions. The reality is that Andino spent the last part of 2010 with a cast on his leg. Despite this, he still performed well at the World Juniors in Narrabeen, and even had a good showing during a late-season Pipe swell. People forget how good Andino is. At only 17, he’s technically one of the most developed surfers in the world and is already being compared to world champions and Tour veterans. So put aside contest results entirely. You could even disregard his freakish talent, his surfing pedigree, and his extensive media coverage in 2010. All you need to know is that Andino is the best 17-year-old surfer in the world and as he matures he’ll easily grow into the hype that surrounds him.
6. Granger Larsen
February 3, 1990 // Lahaina, Hawaii
This past year was filled with tremendous achievements and near misses for Maui’s Granger Larsen. Having been a prominent figure in the Hot 100 in the past, Larsen’s career reached a crescendo in 2010 after a series of solid finishes left him just six slots from World Tour qualification. Granger’s well-honed approach in an array of conditions saw him finish this year’s Triple Crown with a very respectable eighth-place ranking. Couple that with a cover of Surfing Magazine and it’s safe to say that Granger enjoyed success in 2010. Driven, focused, and supremely talented, all signs point to Granger Larsen becoming the next Hawaiian on the World Tour.
7. Miguel Pupo
November 19, 1991 // Sao Paulo, Brazil
Thanks to a progressive arsenal that he can apparently unleash on command, 2010 saw Miguel Pupo rise from relative obscurity to the cusp of World Tour qualification. He finished fifth at the U.S. Open (taking down the likes of Bede Durbidge), finished third at another ASP Prime event in the Canaries, made the quarters at the Billabong World Junior Championships, and locked down the South American Pro Junior title. Not bad for a kid from a small town in northern Sao Paulo. Currently enjoying a newly signed sponsorship with Hurley, 2011 will see Pupo focus a bit more on travel, photos, and video (he’s fresh off an extended stay in Oz) while also driving toward his ultimate goal of ascension onto the Tour.
8. Nat Young
June 17, 1991 // Santa Cruz, California
Another stellar year from Santa Cruz’s competitive machine. His runner-up finish at the World Juniors almost seemed unjust for a surfer who has been such a dominant force on the Pro Junior circuit. Nat’s work ethic sets him apart from his peer group, but it was his part in Taylor Steele’s Innersction project that quelled any concerns about his freesurfing ability and elevated him into the realm of legitimate surf star. If Nat can continue to diversify his act, he could see himself climbing even higher on the Hot 100 ranking.
9. Gabriel Medina
March 22, 1993 // Maresias, Brazil
In 2009, Gabriel Medina won the ISA World Junior Championships, and turned in a perfect 20-point heat at the King of the Groms event in France. In 2010, the Brazilian looked to build on that competitive momentum. He broadened his experience against world-class competitors via a wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro at Bells. And while he predictably lost to Mick Fanning in Round Three, he did manage to win the GromSearch Finals after falling out of the main event. The fast and flarey 18-year-old is already close to the qualification mark for the World Tour.
10. Mitch Crews
April 5, 1990 // Currumbin, Australia
Growing up on the Gold Coast, Mitch Crews has developed the requisite trick-book to get both waves and attention among some of the most talented, and crowded, lineups in the world. These skills have also served him well in competition, where he is supremely focused and driven. In 2010 he made the semifinals at the Oakley World Pro Junior in Bali, and in the Billabong World Junior Championships at Narrabeen. He also won the ASP Australasian Junior title, an achievement that has historically served as a bellwether for the best young talent—competitive or otherwise.