As our surfing world reels (in a good way) about the 10-year deal that Mick Fanning recently signed with Rip Curl, we took a look at a few of their champs and the significance they have had on the sport of surfing.

Tyler Wright (world titles 2016 and 2017)

Coming from a boisterous surfing family, with brothers Mikey and Owen competing at a top level, Tyler had no choice but to be successful as a professional surfer. What stood out in her campaigns was the quiet self-belief she demonstrated throughout, evident in her surfing and in media interviews. Even when the mainstream climbed on and pried her with so many inane questions – the ones that can be challenging to answer – she held her head high and spoke calmly and evenly about things like hard work, rewards and destiny. It was a matter-of-fact equation that hard work equals rewards. She never shot her mouth off, but she never for once showed any signs of weakness until the final heat results of both titles were firmly in the bank. Only then did her voice quaver a little, and did she let out a couple of wild cries and shed a few little tears. A great world champion, Tyler was also steadfast in her complete trust in Glenn ‘Micro’ Hall, her coach and friend, who kept her well grounded all the way through to the two world titles.  

Gabriel Medina (World titles 2014, 2018)

Ever since his victory in France at the Quiksilver King Of The Groms as a 15-year-old, Medina was destined for a world title. He won the QKOG title against Caio Ibelli with a perfect 20-point heat score for some freakish airs and combos, and his backup score was a 9,7. It was just a matter of time.

When he won the first event of 2014, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, the Brazilian Storm wasn't yet a thing to be recognized. People had started talking about it, there were a few commentators mentioning it in passing, but it was kind of frowned upon, almost as if the more you mentioned it, the more life it would breathe. It was way too late however, and the impetus was unstoppable. By the end of the year Brazil had their first Championship Tour world champion, the Brazilian Storm had clearly infiltrated every level of professional surfing, and there was more to come.

Medina became a superstar back home, and the rest of the Brazilian contingent realized what could be done. The following year Adriano de Souza capitalized on the support and momentum of the Brazilian surge to claim his first world title and the second for Brazil. Following this, last year saw Medina was the popular second time around World Champion, after an entertaining final run.

Tom Curren (world titles 1985, 1986, 1990)

For many years Curren was the marquee surfer for Rip Curl, if not for the sport of surfing as a whole. Curren was the greatest surfer in the world for many years, and his legend grew with very little input from the man himself. Totally ineffective in dealing with media, Curren preferred to let his surfing do the talking, and wandered far off the track on many occasion. He had then Rip Curl marketing guru Derek Hynd in his team however, and Hynd had much to do with Curren’s legend status. Hynd invented the Rip Curl Search program with Curren in mind, and Hynd orchestrated some of the greatest marketing campaigns the surfing world had ever seen, centered by Curren.

Tom Curren had the talent however, and it was clear that he had a long and illustrious career ahead of him while winning his first two world titles. After a two-year hiatus from professional surfing, his 1990 world title was won from the trials, an incredible feat. Back then there was no two-tiered system, and to get into a main event you had to claw your way through that event’s trials. Often held in poor conditions, always oversubscribed with hopefuls, incredibly grueling. Curren basically surfed two events at every stop, to win his title. Curren was always more revered, more enigmatic than any of his peers, and he did nothing to soften the enigma by quitting at the top, and going on The Search. These days Curren enjoys a sponsorship with Rip Curl, makes music, and surfs, still dancing to his own drumbeat.    

Mick Fanning (World titles 2007, 2009 and 2013)

Looking back at Mick’s career, it has been an absolutely incredible time for the surfer, with massive results, huge victories and a number of traumatic events put on display for the public to see. Often criticized, sometimes taken out-of-context, Fanning was always wary of media and only opened up to the people he knew and trusted. On the surface he was the fastest, smoothest surfer in the world, and the man who made one of the greatest come-backs to the sport after a radical injury threatened to end his career altogether. There was a brief period when his alter ego Eugene was stealing much of the limelight, when he became known as a bit of a larrikin, but when Fanning decided to get serious, apply his mind to the job at hand, and prove to himself and to the rest of the world that he was world champion material, and it was game over. A snarling and determined competitor, he became a feared world title contender and never ever looked back again. His run-in with a Great White shark during a live broadcast, where he fought the animal off with his fists, made him the famous surfer in the world, and he also invented the bottle-opener sandal. It’s no wonder he’s got another ten years to do what he does with Rip Curl and get paid to do it.