Kelly Slater: 11-time world surfing champion

Competitive surfing can be divided into five different eras. From crowning the first world champion in 1964 until now, there have been several tours, spanning from 1964 to present day.

The history of surfing is also made of champions. Athletes who, in a judge-based action sport, surfed better than their opponents in the decisive heat.

They're the most famous surfers of all time, not only because they've had an impact on their generation, but also because they won titles. So, who won what in the long history of pro and amateur surfing?

It all starts with the creation of the International Surfing Association (ISA). The world governing body for the sport of surfing was founded in 1964 by Eduardo Arena, and it is the only top level surf organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Between 1964 and 1973, the ISA was named International Surfing Federation (ISF). They were the first entity to crown world champions. Today, the institution headquartered in La Jolla, California, crowns its own world champions in one-off events held every year at a different location.

So, the first ever surfing events were the ISF World Surfing Championships (1964-1972). They paved the way to a new way of watching and selling the sport to brands and spectators.

Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships: the North Shore events will never be forgotten

Then, in 1969, came the Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships, brought to us by Fred Hemmings, a former pro surfer, and event promoter. The first contest was held in Santa Cruz, California, but one year later the competition moved to Oahu's North Shore, where it remained until 1977.

In 1976, Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick created the International Professional Surfers (IPS). Together, they developed a small circuit of contests in Hawaii, Australia, and South Africa named IPS World Circuit.

The IPS World Circuit was the first tour to introduce the man-on-man heat format and a decent total prize money for male and female surfers. However, a revolt led by Ian Cairns resulted in the creation of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) in 1983.

The ASP was the longest and most successful pro surfing organization in the history of the sport. It increased the prize money, helped build media visibility, and introduced surfing to the internet age.

Mark Richards: a surf star of the 1980s

Despite all the controversies and setbacks, the ASP World Tour created the first global surf stars, surf legends, and role models. Between the 1990s and the 2000s, surfing became an incredibly popular water sport, and the surf industry lived its golden years.

In 2013, ZoSea purchased the ASP World Tour and renamed it World Surf League (WSL). The new insignia took over in 2015.

You could ask: so, what is the difference between the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the World Surf League (WSL)?

ISA regulates the sport, certifies surf instructors and surf schools, develops adaptive surfing, and makes the bridge between national governing bodies and the Olympic movement, and runs the World Surfing Games.

The World Surf League (WSL) organizes and runs the professional surfing tour, a circuit featuring multiple venues around the world. WSL crowns shortboard, longboard, and big wave surfing champions in both male and female divisions.

Now, let's take a look at the complete list of world surfing champions and corresponding tour names:

ISF World Surfing Championships | Winners

Midget Farrelly: the world's first surfing champion

1964: Midget Farrelly (AUS), Phyllis O'Donnell (AUS)
1965: Felipe Pomar (PER), Joyce Hoffman (USA)
1966: Nat Young (AUS), Joyce Hoffman (USA)
1968: Fred Hemmings (HAW), Margo Godfrey (USA)
1970: Rolf Aurness (USA), Sharon Webber (USA)
1972: Jimmy Blears (HAW), Sharon Webber (USA)

Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships | Winners

Corky Carroll: winner of the 1969 Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships

1969: Corky Carroll (USA), Margo Godfrey (USA)
1970: Nat Young (AUS)
1971: Gavin Rudolph (RSA)
1972: Paul Neilsen (AUS)
1973: Ian Cairns (AUS)
1974: Reno Abellira (HAW)
1975: Mark Richards (AUS)
1976: Mark Warren (AUS), Jericho Poppler (USA)
1977: Reno Abellira (HAW), Jericho Poppler (USA)

IPS World Circuit | Winners

Peter Townend: the 1976 IPS World Circuit champion

1976: Peter Townend (AUS)
1977: Shaun Tomson (RSA), Margo Oberg (HAW)
1978: Wayne Bartholomew (AUS), Lynn Boyer (HAW)
1979: Mark Richards (AUS), Lynn Boyer (HAW)
1980: Mark Richards (AUS), Margo Oberg (HAW)
1981: Mark Richards (AUS), Margo Oberg (HAW)
1982: Mark Richards (AUS), Debbie Beacham (USA)

ASP World Tour | Winners

Tom Carroll: the 1983/1984 ASP World Tour champion

1983/1984: Tom Carroll (AUS), Kim Mearig (USA)
1984/1985: Tom Carroll (AUS), Freida Zamba (USA)
1985/1986: Tom Curren (USA), Freida Zamba (USA)
1986/1987: Tom Curren (USA), Freida Zamba (USA)
1987/1988: Damien Hardman (AUS), Wendy Botha (RSA)
1988: Barton Lynch (AUS), Freida Zamba (USA)
1989: Martin Potter (UK), Wendy Botha (RSA)
1990: Tom Curren (USA), Pam Burridge (AUS)
1991: Damien Hardman (AUS), Wendy Botha (RSA)
1992: Kelly Slater (USA), Wendy Botha (RSA)
1993: Derek Ho (HAW), Pauline Menczer (AUS)
1994: Kelly Slater (USA), Lisa Andersen (USA)
1995: Kelly Slater (USA), Lisa Andersen (USA)
1996: Kelly Slater (USA), Lisa Andersen (USA)
1997: Kelly Slater (USA), Lisa Andersen (USA)
1998: Kelly Slater (USA), Layne Beachley (AUS)
1999: Mark Occhilupo (AUS), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2000: Sunny Garcia (HAW), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2001: C. J. Hobgood (USA), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2002: Andy Irons (HAW), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2003: Andy Irons (HAW), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2004: Andy Irons (HAW), Sofia Mulanovich (PER)
2005: Kelly Slater (USA), Chelsea Georgeson (AUS)
2006: Kelly Slater (USA), Layne Beachley (AUS)
2007: Mick Fanning (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2008: Kelly Slater (USA), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2009: Mick Fanning (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2010: Kelly Slater (USA), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2011: Kelly Slater (USA), Carissa Moore (HAW)
2012: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2013: Mick Fanning (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW)
2014: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)

World Surf League | Winners

Adriano De Souza: the 2015 World Surf League champion

2015: Adriano De Souza (BRA), Carissa Moore (HAW)
2016: John John Florence (HAW), Tyler Wright (AUS)