Surfing is a sport built on passion,and John Clemenza acknowledges the role of individuals who have shaped surfing into what it is now. Because of the thrill and danger that is always present in surfing, toughness, courage, and creativity are three of the traits that pro surfers should possess. Today, John Clemenza would like to pay tribute to some of the surfing heroes that continue to influence him.
1. Duke Kahanamoku
No other surfer has influenced John Clemenza as much as Duke Kahanamoku. A Native Hawaiian, Duke grew up on Waikiki Beach, where he developed his skills in swimming and surfing. After winning three swimming gold medals and two silver medals in three Olympic games, he moved to California and introduced surfing to the mainstream. A highly-publicized incident in which he saved the lives of eight fishermen further increased the sport’s popularity. At the time of his death in 1968, Kahanamoku was already an icon and a national hero with a popularity that extended to as far as Australia.
2. Bethany Hamilton
Surfing is an inherently dangerous sport; aside from the risk of being thrown into the water and drowning, surfers also must fend off shark attacks. John Clemenza considers the female surfer Bethany Hamilton as a perfect example of survival. In 2003, the 13-year-old Hamilton was attacked in the water by a 14-foot-long tiger shark, which tore off most of her left arm. Despite losing 60% of her blood and almost dying of her injuries, Hamilton was determined to go back to surfing. Within one month, she was back on her board. Because she lost her left arm, she had to develop her kicking and paddling skills. She is now a competitive surfer and a published author, proving that nothing is impossible.
3. Kelly Slater
John Clemenza considers Kelly Slater one of his personal heroes. A native of Florida, Slater has won the ASP World Tour 11 times, a world record, and won the title for five straight years from 1994 to 1998. This has made him one of the most successful professional surfers in history. He is also known as an actor, having appeared on Baywatch and many surf films. Aside from his TV and film appearances, he is also an accomplished musician who has performed with the likes of Pearl Jam and Ben Harper. Slater uses his surfing fame to raise awareness for suicide prevention and ocean conservation.
4. Alana Blanchard
Alana Blanchard is one of the most accomplished women surfers of this generation. At just 27 years old, she has already won championships in six different meets, including the 2005 T&C Women’s Pipeline Championships. Aside from surfing, Blanchard is a professional model. She is also a fashion designer, creating a line of surfing-specific wetsuits under the Rip Curl brand, a favorite of John Clemenza. Blanchard is also a high-profile advocate of the vegan lifestyle. While she has already retired from competitive surfing, she remains being one of the sport’s most recognizable ambassadors and John Clemenza won’t be surprised if she takes to her shortboard again.