SurferToday has officially named the "Athletes of the Year 2019."
The decade 2010-2019 is over. It's been a long yet highly successful and relevant period for water sports.
In the last few years, surfing was finally granted Olympic status and will make its grand debut in Tokyo 2020. The longtime dream of Duke Kahanamoku will become a reality.
But there's another water sport about to make a first appearance in the Olympics. Kiteboarding is en route to Paris 2024, alongside windsurfing, which is already in the Games since 1984.
But the decade that now comes to a close will also be remembered for the time women conquered the right to equal prize money. At least in surfing and some pro windsurfing and bodyboarding events.
In this edition of SurferToday's "Athletes of the Year," we announce the launch of a new, separate category - Environmentalist of the Year.
From now on, we will be highlighting the personalities who work to make our oceans, our beaches, and our planet a cleaner place to live.
Four years after locking in her third World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) title, Carissa Moore added another one to her trophy room, becoming the most successful competitive surfer of the Hawaiian archipelago of all time.
And when everyone thought the Hawaiian was pursuing new records, Moore decided to take a break from competitive professional surfing to focus on her personal life and the Moore Aloha Charitable Foundation.
It's rare to find athletes who, on top of their game, choose life over career. Fortunately, we will see Carissa Moore riding waves for the USA Surfing team in Tokyo 2020. Interestingly, she took four years of Japanese in high school, so it will be great to see her interacting with local fans in June at Tsurigasaki Beach.
Nick Jacobsen is one, if not the most exciting kiteboarder of the decade 2010-2019. The Danish athlete has been pushing the sport of kiteboarding forward like one, thanks to his creative mind and highly talented skills.
While the competitive world tour struggles to deliver that wow factor, Jacobsen continuously keeps fans entertained with his big air and inland stunts. The daredevil has put his life at risk several times, and this year was no exception.
Nick Jacobsen jumped off Necker Island's Great House, went "urban kiteboarding," performed eye-catching kiteboard-to-skateboard transfers, and leaped off an 84-meter Caribbean mountain. If it was not for him, kitesurfing would've become dull and predictable. Hopefully, Jacobsen will continue to defy the rules of orthodoxy and help push the sport forward.
Sarah-Quita Offringa is the most well-rounded female windsurfer of all time. The athlete from Oranjestad, Aruba, has already won 17 PWA World Tour titles - 12 freestyle, four slalom, and one wave trophies.
And she is only 28 years old. This year, Offringa became the first woman in decades to steal the PWA Women's Wave World Tour title from the hands of the legendary Moreno twins after securing back-to-back victories on the wave world tour for the first time in her career.
Hopefully, we will see her planning a strategy for the upcoming Olympic cycles. Offringa could easily conquer the first medal ever for Aruba.
Two years ago, Sari Ohhara was just another average professional surfer. Last year, she witnessed history in the making. Her fellow countrywoman, Ayaka Suzuki, became the first Japanese to clinch a world bodyboarding title.
Ohhara was the shadow of her winning rival and friend. But, in 2019, something clicked in her head. She had spent nine years experiencing the frustration of losing heats to many direct opponents, and it was time to make dreams come true.
Sari Ohhara participated in coaching clinics and improved her riding with her trainer. The sum of many small changes transformed the young Japanese into a world-class bodyboarder. When she finally raised the coveted APB World Tour trophy, Ohhara cried compulsively for minutes. She epitomizes that old Muhammad Ali quote: "Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
Environmentalist of the Year
Six years after founding and developing The Ocean Cleanup, and after several setbacks and technical problems, Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat was finally able to get his first full-scale plastic collector prototype working at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Slat fought the critics and overcame the initial failures with a considerable amount of resilience, persistence, and belief. The Ocean Cleanup's System 001 proved to be useful and will be upgraded.
But Slat's trump card arrived later in the year. In October, he announced The Interceptor, a 100-percent solar-powered boat-like structure that extracts plastic autonomously and is capable of operating in the majority of the world's most polluting rivers. The system works nearly flawlessly and has already been deployed in several rivers of the world.
Congratulations to SurferToday's "Athletes of the Year 2019"!