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Who are the greatest surf explorers of all time?


by SSN Staff

surf explorer

Kepa Acero is a great surf explorer, but is he the greatest? Photo courtesy of Kepa Acero

Recently GrindTV asked whether Basque freesurfer Kepa Acero was the world’s greatest surf explorer. This got us thinking about who Kepa might be up against. Here is a list of some other candidates for the GOAT.

Peter Troy

In 1952 Troy became the first surfer to ride Australia’s Bells Beach, and then he went on to introduce the sport to Indonesia, Brazil, Italy, Peru, and the Channel Islands, just to a name few. He also hitchhiked from the world’s southernmost township, Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, to its northernmost, Spitsbergen, Norway—with a 10-foot balsa board in tow. All in all the Australian visited more than 140 countries and became one of the sport’s great historians before dying in 2008

Antony “Yep” Colas

When asked of his travels, the French photographer told GrindTV, “I’ve been focusing on the 3 M’s over the last decade. In the Mediterranean I’ve surfed Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Malta, Cyprus, and Montenegro as well as the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. In the Maldives I’ve scoured 20 out of 26 atolls and completed 15 boat trips since 1998. And for the Mascaret [a word that means "tidal bore" in French], I’ve documented Brazil (Pororoca), China (Quangchao), Malaysia (Benak), and Indo (Bono).” Apart from his M-based travels, Colas has also explored Pakistan, Hainan, India, Maluku, the Philippines, Madagascar, Cabo Verde, and Gabon. Not sure what he’ll run out of first—countries, or letters of the alphabet.

surf explorer

Surfer explorers, including Antony “Yep” Colas, aren’t always looking for palm trees and perfect waves. Photo courtesy of Antony Colas

Mike Boyum

After dropping out of college in the mid ’60s, American Boyum traveled to Tahiti, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand before heading to Bali in 1969. After spotting a long left from the plane, he traced his steps back to West Java and, with his brother, was the first to surf Grajagan, going on to set up the world’s first ever surf camp. In the late ’80s he moved to the Philippines, discovered Cloud 9, and eventually died after enduring a self-imposed 50-day fast.

Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton

In 1972 the two young Americans hit the road with their camera gear and surfboards. For a decade they chronicled the waves and people in places like California, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Africa, Morocco, Ireland, France, and Fiji and motivated a whole generation of surfers to sack off the real world and broaden their horizons. Parents hated them, but for surfers they were the link to a bigger and better world.

Surf explorers Peterson and Naughton were featured in Surfer magazine, and they inspired a generation of surfers to travel.

Surf explorers Peterson and Naughton were featured in Surfer magazine, and they inspired a generation of surfers to travel.

Martin Daly

“I couldn’t believe it. I’d traveled, sailed, and explored Indonesia, but the Mentawais was a whole new class. And we had it to ourselves, for about five years,” Martin Daly tells GrindTV of his years in the Mentawais, first discovered in 1983. After building a successful surf charter business with his Indies Trader, in 1999, he then embarked on The Crossing, a Quiksilver-funded exploration of the whole goddamn world. Suffice it to say Daly lays claim to discovering more breaks than any other, and he ain’t done yet. Read Martin’s rules for surf exploration, published in Surfer magazine, to start planning your next trip.

Tony Hinde

After running aground in the Maldives, halfway through a surfing and sailing exploration mission from Sri Lanka to Reunion Island, Aussie Tony Hinde realized he’d been shipwrecked somewhere special. It was so special he didn’t leave, became a Maldives citizen, converted to Islam, and married a local girl. For the next 15 years he kept his secret surf spot between him and a few mates, but then he opened a surf camp in the early ’90s. It was fitting then that Hinde died in 2008 surfing Pasta Point, the wave he had discovered and surfed on his own for two decades.

Three decades after Hinde's discovery this surfer makes his own journey to the Maldives. Wave Image via Shutterstock

Three decades after Hinde’s discovery, this surfer makes his own journey to the Maldives. Wave Image via Shutterstock

Timmy Turner

Back in the 2000s, Huntington Beach, California’s Timmy Turner took the old Indonesian exploration theme and went a step further. He chose the outer frontier of Panaitan Island, off Java, and with a mix of madness and talent, took to its shallow, deadly perfection with obsessive dedication. Camping on the land, living off rice and dodgy water, he spent whole seasons getting 20-second tubes and fighting malaria. Timmy ended up with and survived a staph infection of the brain, and these days turns his wandering eye and camera to the freezing waters of Canada and Alaska.