This week ESPN announced the addition of Real Surf to the X Games lineup. Following the successes of X Games' video contests Real Street (skateboarding) and Real Snow, Real Surf has signed up eight of the most talented surfers from around the world and convinced them to assemble a top-shelf video edit, to be submitted for judging and subjected to public opinion.
The winning clip earns an X Games gold medal and a $50,000 first-place prize. The "Fan Favorite," as decided by online voting, wins an additional $10,000.
Headlining the billing will be 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. He'll face off against the likes of South African powerhouse Jordy Smith, Australian fly-foot Julian Wilson and a host of others. Here's a quick look at how the field breaks down, along with some of our favorite videos. Actual Real Surf video entries hit XGames.com on April 2.
At 40 years old, Kelly Slater -- the 11-time ASP World Champion and unequivocally the most dominant competitive surfer in the history of the sport -- miraculously only seems to be getting better with age. He won his first world title in 1992, and 2012 saw him miss out on a 12th title by the smallest of margins.
Responsible for almost single-handedly bringing modern surfing to the masses, Slater has appeared in everything from 'Bay Watch' to an animated Hollywood production about surfing penguins. Slater is surfing's legitimate international sports star, considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. Given what he's capable of in a 30-minute heat, what he'll come up with for Real Surf promises to be monumental.
Fresh off another outstanding year on the world tour, Julian Wilson's taken his surfing to a completely new level. The talent's never been a question: Five years ago, he was already one of the most progressive surfers on the planet, but lately he's added that all-important power element to his rail work.
Speed, strength and flow are all quintessential components of a successful surfer and Wilson possesses them in spades. Motivated and in the right headspace, Wilson is not only fully aware of what he can do, but also of the possibilities that the future holds.
Jordy Smith spent the last year working on his film project 'Bending Colours,' which became a hit at stoked theaters around the world. Traveling the world, sharing sessions with some of the most talented surfers around, and working with some of the most talented cinematographers around, Smith calls it an "amazing learning experience."
Smith's surfing, whether on film or in a world tour contest, continues to blow minds. Standing a sizable 6-foot-2, his turns are deep and powerful. But nimble and athletic, he can fly above the lip with the best of the them. His go-to trick of choice when in a pinch is the "Superman," which is telling.
Most surf fans were already well aware of Gabriel Medina before he landed his now-famous back flip on the North Shore this winter, but a million-something views on YouTube later, he has everybody talking.
They're talking about when he'll win a world title, which would be the first for Brazil. They're talking about how many titles he could win. They're talking about how he's already changing the sport. They're talking about how he's only been competing for five years.
What Medina has already accomplished in such a brief space of time is nothing short of incredible, but the scary thing is, everyone agrees he's just getting started.
In theory Josh Kerr's career could have been over a few years ago. In 2009 he surfed his rookie season on tour, finishing a disheartening 34th in the world. Vocal about his disdain for the constraints of competitive surfing he walked away, vowing never to don a singlet again. Then he spent a couple of years languishing with an injury. But what a difference a growing family makes.
With a wife and two young ones in tow, for the last two years Kerr's finished eighth in the world. Along the way he has solidified his reputation as a talent in any and all conditions. Capable of handling the meanest, shallowest reefs at places like Teahupoo in Tahiti, he also has a full arsenal of aerial maneuvers that he seems to be able to break out at will.
The island of Maui is notorious for producing some of the most well-rounded surfers the world over. Taking a page from elder statesman Ian Walsh's book, Matt Meola charges like a bat out of hell, but also has an extremely potent small-wave act.
Over the past couple of seasons he's paddled into some of the biggest set waves at Jaws. He's also an invitee to the Red Bull Jaws contest. And while that would be enough to make most careers, Meola stays busy when the surf's not life-threatening.
In 2011 he won Taylor Steele's 'Innersection' video contest, beating out dozens of other surfers with his barrier-breaking edit. The latest trick he's been attempting is a 720-degree spin; if he can land and ride out of it, he'll be the first surfer to ever land a double rotation.
The first thing most people say when they see Christopher "Chippa" Wilson surf is, "What did he just do?" An unbridled talent in the water if ever there was one, Wilson's taken it upon himself to cover his body in tattoos, shun the contest scene, and surf on this own terms.
Taking hints from the skate and snowboard scenes, his airs are typically inverted and rotated. He's mastered every grab in the book, and punts with a youthful, punk-rock style. If there's a segment of the surf population that still resists conformity, they couldn't find a better representative than Wilson.
The sensitive artist of the group, Dion Agius has a cinematographer's eye for shot composition and a fashion consultant's sense of style, but he's also a balls-to-the-walls free surfer.
Growing up on Tasmania, he first made a name for himself in the water riding a bodyboard. Eventually graduating from prone to stand-up surfing, Agius quickly ascended to the ranks of the world's most visible traveling surfers.
Explosive and innovative, these days he finds himself at the forefront of the progressive movement. He's worked with 'Bending Colours' director Kai Neville on numerous projects, and when it comes to putting together a well-received edit, he knows exactly what to do.
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