The history of professional surfing and complete list of world champions

Last updated on: January 23, 2023
The complete list of surfing world champions

The complete list of surfing world champions

  • This list only includes; the winners of the World Championship Tour (CT).
YearMen's WSL Championship Tour Women's WSL Championship Tour
2023Filipe Toledo (BRA)Caroline Marks (US)
2022Filipe Toledo (BRA)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2021Gabriel Medina (BRA)Carissa Moore (HAW)
2020Cancelled due to COVID-19Cancelled due to COVID-19
2019Ítalo Ferreira (BRA)Carissa Moore (HAW)
2018Gabriel Medina (BRA)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2017John John Florence (HAW)Tyler Wright (AUS)
2016John John Florence (HAW)Tyler Wright (AUS)
2015Adriano de Souza (BRA)Carissa Moore (HAW)
YearASP Men's World TourASP Women's World Tour
2014Gabriel Medina (BRA)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2013Mick Fanning (AUS)Carissa Moore (HAW)
2012Joel Parkinson (AUS)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2011Kelly Slater (USA)Carissa Moore (HAW)
2010Kelly Slater (USA)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2009Mick Fanning (AUS)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2008Kelly Slater (USA)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2007Mick Fanning (AUS)Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2006Kelly Slater (USA)Layne Beachley (AUS)
2005Kelly Slater (USA)Chelsea Georgeson (AUS)
2004Andy Irons (HAW)Sofia Mulanovich (PER)
2003Andy Irons (HAW)Layne Beachley (AUS)
2002Andy Irons (HAW)Layne Beachley (AUS)
2001C. J. Hobgood (USA)Layne Beachley (AUS)
2000Sunny Garcia (HAW)Layne Beachley (AUS)
1999Mark Occhilupo (AUS)Layne Beachley (AUS)
1998Kelly Slater (USA)Layne Beachley (AUS)
1997Kelly Slater (USA)Lisa Andersen (USA)
1996Kelly Slater (USA)Lisa Andersen (USA)
1995Kelly Slater (USA)Lisa Andersen (USA)
1994Kelly Slater (USA)Lisa Andersen (USA)
1993Derek Ho (HAW)Pauline Menczer (AUS)
1992Kelly Slater (USA)Wendy Botha (AUS)
1991Damien Hardman (AUS)Wendy Botha (AUS)
1990Tom Curren (USA)Pam Burridge (AUS)
1989Martin Potter (UK)Wendy Botha (AUS)
1988Barton Lynch (AUS)Freida Zamba (USA)
1987/88Damien Hardman (AUS)Wendy Botha (RSA)
1986/87Tom Curren (USA)Freida Zamba (USA)
1985/86Tom Curren (USA)Freida Zamba (USA)
1984/85Tom Carroll (AUS)Freida Zamba (USA)
1983/84Tom Carroll (AUS)Kim Mearig (USA)
YearMen's IPS World CircuitWomen's IPS World Circuit
1982Mark Richards (AUS)Debbie Beacham (USA)
1981Mark Richards (AUS)Margo Oberg (HAW)
1980Mark Richards (AUS)Margo Oberg (HAW)
1979Mark Richards (AUS)Lynn Boyer (HAW)
1978Wayne Bartholomew (AUS)Lynn Boyer (HAW)
1977Shaun Tomson (RSA)Margo Oberg (HAW)
1976Peter Townend (AUS) -
YearMen's Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing ChampionshipsWomen's Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships
1975Mark Richards (AUS) -
1974Reno Abellira (USA) -
1973Ian Cairns (AUS) -
YearMen's ISF World Surfing ChampionshipsWomen's ISF World Surfing Championships
1972James Blears (USA)Sharon Webber (USA)
1970Rolf Aurness (USA)Sharon Webber (USA)
1968Fred Hemmings (USA)Margo Godfrey (USA)
1966Nat Young (AUS)Joyce Hoffman (USA)
1965Felipe Pomar (PER)Joyce Hoffman (USA)
1964Midget Farrelly (AUS)Phyllis O'Donnell (AUS)

A history of surf champions

Professional surfing has taken place for 57 years, and through half a century, it has gone through a lot of change. The evolution of the sport is incredible, and so are the athletes competing on The Championship Tour. 

Winning the world title is the ultimate goal for any professional surfer, and we have experienced many outstanding athletes throughout the history of surfing. Every surfer who has won The Championship Tour has left an impact on their generation and will go down in history.

The five eras of professional surfing

Professional surfing has taken place since 1964, and this period of competitive surfing can be into five different eras.


Profesional surfing came to life back in 1964 after The International Surfing Association (ISA) was founded. During this first era of professional surfing, six men and women became World Champions between 1964 and 1973.

The ISF paved the road for professional surfing and the commercial aspect, as the first organization to arrange professional surfing events where they crowned elite surfers with The World Champion title.


In 1969, a new organization called the Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships got founded by the former pro surfer, Fred Hemmings. In 1973 it became the official World Championship for elite surfers, where it took place on Oahu’s North Shore – the birthplace of modern surfing.

It became a relatively short run in the era of professional surfing, as The Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships only got to crown three official world champions.

1976 – 1982

However, Fred Hemmings’ influence on professional surfing wasn’t over,

he simply had a bigger vision for the Championship event. In 1976 he started the International Professional Surfers (IPS), together with Hawaiian surfers Randy Rarick. 

With this new format, they organized a small circuit of events around the world, making it the first-ever world championship tour. The IPS World Circuit took place in Hawaii, Australia, and South Africa. 

They made an international ranking system that would encourage the best surfers around the world to get involved. They also introduced the man-on-man heat format, as we know it today, as well as decent prize money for The Champions. 

International Professional Surfers (IPS), is considered the original world governing body of elite surfing on a professional plan. However, a revolt led by Ian Cairns resulted in the foundation of the ASP World Tour, still considered by many to be the most influential Pro Surfing Tour of our time.

1983 – 2014

Former surfer Ian “Kanga” Cairns, developed a concept with a stronger focus on joint ownership and control of the sport for event organizers and the surfers on tour. This new way of thinking became the organization we know as, Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP). 

In the mid-1990s, ASP evolved into the “Dream Tour” concept, where the focus shifted from hosting events in the metropolitan areas to finding the best destinations with high-quality surf, despite its remote locations. 

The philosophy of the “Dream Tour” has played an important role in the popularization of the sport, together with the internet which has helped build media visibility. 

In this era, we have seen some of the all-time best surfers, counting names like; Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Andy Irons, Layne Beachley, Mick Fanning, and Carissa Moore.

2015 – Present

In 2013, the ASP World Tour got purchased by ZoSea and rebranded, The World Surf League (WSL). It became official in 2015 when we saw the first World Surf League Championship Tour. 

ZoSea has taken the sport of surfing even further by its way of commercializing it and making it more mainstream and popular among people around the world. We are stoked about the future of the sport and the positive impact that ZoSea will leave on it. 

Nowadays we have:

  • The International Surfing Association (ISA): Which is the world governing authority for all the disciplines within surfing, counting regular surfing, SUP, bodyboarding, etc. The organization regulates the sport and certifies surf schools and surf instructors. The organization also creates a bridge between the sport of surfing and the Olympic movement, as it is recognized by the International Olympic Committee. In 2020 surfing reached a big milestone, as it became an official sport at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.


  • The World Surf League (WSL): Is the governing body for elite surfers. They organize and run professional events to showcase and crown the best talent in a variety of formats. The World Surf League crowns surf champions in a series of tours like; shortboard, longboard, and big wave surfing, in both male and female divisions.

WSL Surf competitions

As mentioned above, The World Surf League consists of many different tours, where The Championship Tour is the biggest and most known of its kind, that draws the most commercial and media coverage.

As for 2021, this is the complete list of all the different tours organized by The World Surf League: 

  • Men’s Championship Tour
  • Women’s Championship Tour
  • Men’s Challenger Series
  • Women’s Challenger Series
  • Men’s Qualifying Series
  • Women’s Qualifying Series
  • Men’s Big Wave Tour
  • Women’s Big Wave Tour
  • Men’s Longboard Tour
  • Women’s Longboard Tour
  • Men’s Junior Tour
  • Women’s Junior Tour
  • Specialty Events
  • Vans Tripple Crown
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