By Jake Howard
“It’s the morning of the final,” Kelly Slater famously uttered en route to his 1990 professional debut at Lower Trestles. The moment was captured in a Quiksilver video called “Black and White” and basically served as the launchpad for the Florida surfer’s now storied career. It was, after all, on the beach at Lowers where he signed, what at the time, was the biggest contract in pro surfing history and then went on to win the contest.
What you don’t hear nearly as much about, but definitely should because it ties directly into state-of-the-art surfing today, is that the year prior, local boy Christian Fletcher beat the establishment at Lowers courtesy his brash, unapologetic approach to both above-the-lip and power maneuvers. The godfather of aerial surfing, the unseeded Fletcher, won a cool $30,000 for the effort, beating North Hollywood’s Joey Jenkins, Cardiff’s Colin Smith and San Clemente’s Noah Budroe in the final. Dino Andino, father of Kolohe, who will be surfing in this year’s Hurley Pro, finished fifth.
Thanks to Fletcher in ’89 and Slater in ’90, today, the contest means the best surfers in the world pushing the limits of high-performance surfing to the absolute limit. You can’t win unless you let it all hang out, and you have to beat the best to be the best. Over the past few years, the Hurley Pro has turned out champions that have been able to carry on this legacy, here’s a quick look at a few that are still in the game:
As the defending Hurley Pro champion and current WSL ratings leader, this is the moment that Jordy Smith has been waiting for. He relocated from Durban, South Africa, to San Clemente to be closer to Lowers. And now, with a world title so close he can almost touch it, Smith is surfing better than ever. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him atop the podium again this year when this thing’s all done and dusted.
A two-time winner at the Hurley Pro and a three-time world champion, nobody surfs Lowers with more precision than Mick Fanning. A winner in 2009 and 2015, Fanning always enjoys his time in California. He usually stays down the road in Carlsbad with his good friend Taylor Knox and is spending a little extra time here this year working on some Rip Curl projects. He hasn’t had the kind of competitive year he’s used to, but he can make that turn on a dime at Lowers.
2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2005
Nobody’s won more at Lowers in the last 20 years than 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. In the last 15 years, he notched wins in 2005, ’07, ’08, ’10, ’11 and ’12. Sadly, he won’t be surfing this year due to a busted hoof. During a warm-up session at the J-Bay Open in South Africa earlier this summer, Slater broke two toes on his right foot. He’s already undergone successful surgery and is now going through the rehab process, but his recovery time is estimated to be four to six months, so the only thing he’ll be doing at Lowers this year is watching.
One of the senior members of the tour, Joel Parkinson won the Hurley Pro (previously the Boost Mobile Pro) in 2004 and 2006. With his impeccable style and spot-on timing, Parkinson is always a threat at Lowers. Comfortably in the Top 10 of the WSL rankings, he may be a sneaky pick to win the contest. Surfers in the world title chase like Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson and John John Florence will receive the lion’s share of the attention, giving a confident surfer like Parkinson a chance to slide right up to the top.
For the women, the Swatch Pro was first launched in 2014, so to date there have only been three champions. All of them worthy, all of them world champions.
Tyler Wright was pretty much unstoppable in 2016. Out of the ten contests in the season, she won five of them (and finished second in two others). Inspired by her brother Owen, who was overcoming a severe head injury that he suffered at Pipeline in 2015, Wright blitzed through every contest she surfed in, including Lowers. She’s back in the driver’s seat again this year and leading the world title race, but a third and a fifth-place finish at the last two contests may have her a bit hungry for a win. If she is, look out.
Some surfers were meant to surf certain waves. Carissa Moore and Lowers is one such combination. The winner of the 2015 Hurley Pro, she put in a performance for the ages. It’s one thing to do a few turns, maybe bust an air or two and connect all the dots, but Moore does it with such seamless, timeless style. In the early days of her career she won too many NSSA titles to count at Lowers, and as she’s matured and grown up the performances have only gotten better.
Winner of the inaugural Swatch Pro in 2014, Stephanie Gilmore started this season with a win at her home break of Snapper Rocks in Australia and now sits ranked fourth in the world. She has some ground to make up on rating’s leader Wright, but if she can find some of that old, fashion magic she could be right in the hunt for an astonishing seventh world title.
Read more of the Hurley Pro/Swatch Pro special section edition HERE: