That’s a wrap, folks. As 2017 quickly enters the rearview, it’s time to look back at the stories that defined the year in SURFER. For this volume, which is the 58th since the magazine’s founding by John Severson, we tackled everything from Tyler Wright’s sisterly motivation to win her first world title, to how sea level rise is affecting the Solomon Islands, to Australia’s blue-collar slab hunting culture and more. These were stories that we knew had to be told, and we’re fortunate enough to have a group of extremely talented and dedicated writers who could tell them in truly dynamic fashion. Click the titles below to read each piece in their entirety, kick your feet up and enjoy SURFER’s best features of 2017.
ISSUE 58.1: “HER BROTHER’S KEEPER”
2016 was a wild year for the Wright family. Owen had suffered a horrific brain injury after getting pummeled by Pipeline, and no one seemed to know when (or if) he’d ever be able to return to surfing on the World Tour. Owen’s sister Tyler had been by her brother’s side every day early in his recovery, but when the Women’s World Tour season started back up, she had a choice: to stay with her brother, or to go compete and try to bring back a world title for him and the family. The story of Tyler’s year, wonderfully told by Sean Doherty, captures a kind of heartbreak and triumph seldom seen in surfing, and showcases just what human beings are capable of when they’re acting on behalf of something larger than themselves.
ISSUE 58.1: “SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”
In recent years, we’ve seen global shark populations grow and their encounters with humans grow as well. From Orange County to New South Wales, the fear of shark attack has permeated every lineup, leading some surfers in especially dangerous areas to ask themselves: “Is paddling out worth the risk?” To learn more about the risks surfers face in sharky lineups, features editor Justin Housman headed to Australia and discovered that the situation is as complicated as it terrifying, and at the end of the day, the only real “solution” is to accept the fact that our safety in the lineup is never certain.
ISSUE 58.4: “THE DROWNING ISLES”
From a distance, the Solomon Islands seem like the epitome of a tropical surf haven: picturesque reef passes, quaint coastal villages, crystal-clear water and white-sand beaches. Upon closer inspection though, you’d find that all is not well in paradise. Sea level rise fueled in part by climate change has devastated parts of the island chain, and the government has had to take drastic measures to ensure that those who call these islands home can continue to do so in the decades to come. Managing editor Ashtyn Douglas traveled to the islands to get a closer look at the problems facing these coastlines, where the politicization of climate change has gone right out the door as the incoming tide threatens to envelop entire communities.
ISSUE 58.5: “BATTLE FOR THE BAY”
Over the last few years, the notoriously localized break nestled in the affluent community of Palos Verdes has become the subject of a handful of court cases, which have called the future of the surf spot into question. Ashtyn Douglas spent months speaking with lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants of these cases to piece together the story of Lunada Bay, the conflict that localism has wrought there, and what the outcome of the situation may mean for localism at large.
ISSUE 58.7: “CLOCK IN, CLOCK OUT, PULL IN”
Slab surfing is a strange subset of wave riding practiced by some of the most unhinged characters in the surf world. They throw themselves over monstrous ledges, launch over steps in the face like kicker ramps on a skateboard and come up laughing (most of the time) when they get drilled by an evil-looking set. Crazier still is that most of these surfers aren’t doing it for a paycheck. For this feature, SURFER senior writer Sean Doherty spent time with the firefighters, electricians, housepainters and other blue-collar blokes who use their time off to do the sort of thing that would give most of us nightmares. What he found was a brotherhood like none other, where workaday surfers put their lives on the line for little more than a quick thrill and the respect of their fellow chargers.
[Top image: Torren Martyn in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Chachi]