9 Famous South African Surfers: The Best!

It’s always up for debate, "who are the most famous South African surfers"?

We list the current most famous South African surfers, going into detail of their impact on South Africa's surf culture and surfing as a whole.

The list of famous South African surfers is forever growing so here is our 9 best!

Who Are The Most Famous South African surfers?

Famous South African surfers include Jordy Smith, Shaun Tomson, Bianca Buitendag and Michael February to name a few.

This list of the most famous South African surfers is forever growing! Let's get into each famous South African surfers story below in detail.

Want to find more surfers? View our list of the most famous surfers ever!

Bianca Buitendag

Born: November 9, 1993

Origin: Victoria Bay, Western Cape, South Africa

Style: With a goofy stance, Bianca is known for her powerful and stylish approach to surfing, blending precision and flair.

Famous South African Surfers

About: Bianca Buitendag, born in George, Western Cape, is one of many famous South African surfers who discovered her love for the waves at the age of eight under her father's encouragement. Despite facing the challenge of moving to a new region at twelve, she continued to pursue her passion and overcome language barriers when she started school. In 2015, she faced a personal loss with the passing of her father, Collin Buitendag, yet managed to achieve her career-best ranking of World No. 4. Her resilience and dedication to the sport are truly inspiring.

Achievements: Bianca's remarkable career is studded with achievements that showcase her prowess on the waves. Notably, she secured a Silver Medal in the Shortboard category at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, representing South Africa. Throughout her journey in the World Surf League (WSL), she achieved a notable 4th ranking in 2015, demonstrating her consistency and skill on the international stage. Her podium finishes include 2nd place in prestigious events like the Swatch Women's Pro in California (2015) and the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in Australia (2014). Despite personal challenges, such as the loss of her father in 2015, Bianca's determination and talent have solidified her as a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional surfing.

Facebook: @BiancaBuitendag

Famous South African Surfers - Bianca Buitendag Surfer Profile

Chris Bertish

Born: 1974 

Origin: South Africa

Style: Big Wave Surfer

Famous South African Surfers

About: Chris Bertish, born in 1974 in South Africa, is a multifaceted individual renowned as a big wave surfer, stand-up paddleboarder, adventurer, and motivational speaker. In 2004, he gained recognition as the owner of 'Best Cribbar Barrel Vision Ever' after successfully navigating a giant closeout at Cornwall's infamous big wave spot. His triumph continued in 2009 when he emerged victorious at the Mavericks Big Wave Surf contest. However, Bertish's most monumental achievement came in March 2017 when he completed the first solo, unsupported stand-up paddleboard crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. This audacious feat, covering 7,400 kilometres in 93 days, not only set world records but also raised $412,000 for South African charities. Beyond his exploits on the waves, Chris Bertish has become a global ambassador for courage, determination, and philanthropy, using his ventures to inspire and support charitable causes.

Achievements: Chris Bertish's legacy is marked by extraordinary accomplishments making him part of the established list of famous South African surfers. In 2009, he secured victory at the Mavericks Big Wave Surf contest, demonstrating his mastery in challenging conditions. However, his most notable achievement came in 2017 when he became the first person to complete a solo, unassisted, and unaided stand-up paddleboard crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. This feat not only set multiple world records but also raised $412,000 for South African charities, including the Signature of Hope Trust, the Lunchbox Foundation, and Operation Smile. Bertish's dedication to pushing boundaries and his humanitarian efforts have left an indelible mark on the world of extreme water sports.

Instagram: @chrisbertish

Famous South African Surfers - Big Wave Surfer Chris Bertish

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker

Born: May 26, 1973

Origin: Durban, South Africa

Style: Big Wave Surfer

Famous South African Surfers

About: Grant Baker, widely known as "Twiggy," was born on May 26, 1973, in Durban, South Africa. A 3-time World Big Wave Surfing Champion, ocean conservationist, and entrepreneur, Twiggy has left an indelible mark on the world of professional surfing. His passion for the ocean goes beyond competition, as he actively engages in ocean conservation efforts. As an entrepreneur, Twiggy has become a respected figure in the surfing community, contributing to the sport's growth and sustainability.

Achievements: Grant "Twiggy" Baker's illustrious career is adorned with numerous accomplishments that solidify his status as a big wave surfing legend. He secured the World Big Wave Surfing Champion title in 2014, 2017, and 2020, showcasing his consistency and dominance in the most challenging conditions. Twiggy's victories span globally, including triumphs at renowned events like the Mavericks Invitational, Puerto Escondido Challenge, and Nazare Challenge. His remarkable achievements extend to prestigious awards such as the XXL Ride of the Year and recognition as the WSL Big Wave World Tour Champion. As one of the most famous South African surfers, Twiggy's dedication to pushing the boundaries of big wave surfing has earned him a well-deserved place among the sport's elite.

Instagram: @granttwigbaker

Famous South African Surfers - Grant Baker Surfing Big Waves

Heather Clark

Born: June 11, 1972 

Origin: Port Shepstone, South Africa

Style: Goofy

Famous South African Surfers

About: Heather Clark, born on June 11, 1972, in Port Shepstone, South Africa, is a seasoned surfer with a remarkable career. In 2003, she achieved a significant milestone, securing the 3rd rank among female surfers worldwide. Her journey took a challenging turn in 2009 when she faced a serious injury due to a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Despite this setback, Heather displayed exceptional resilience, making a triumphant return to competitive surfing. Her dedication and passion for the sport have not only earned her respect within the surfing community but also inspired others making her a big part of the famous South African surfers.

Achievements: Heather Clark's illustrious career includes a notable 3rd rank among female surfers globally at the end of 2003. Overcoming a serious injury in 2009, she showcased her tenacity by winning consecutive gold medals at the International Surfing Association World Masters Surfing Championship in 2009 and 2010. Her triumphant spirit persisted, earning her a silver medal in 2011 at the same championship. Heather's journey reflects not only her skill in the waves but also her ability to overcome adversity.

Instagram: @heatherclarksurfadventures

John Whitmore 

Born: March 30, 1929 - 24 December, 2001

Origin: South Africa

Style: John Whitmore, a pioneering figure in the sport of surfing, brought his unique approach to the waves. His early connection with the ocean as an abalone and crayfish diver influenced his surfing style, characterised by a deep understanding of the sea's dynamics and a profound respect for its power.

Famous South African Surfers

About: John Whitmore, born on March 30, 1929, played a pivotal role in introducing and popularising the sport of surfing in South Africa. His early career as an abalone and crayfish diver provided him with an intimate connection to the ocean, laying the foundation for his passion for surfing. Enthused by tales of surfing in Hawaii during the late fifties, Whitmore embarked on a journey to build his own surfboards. This endeavour not only fueled his personal enthusiasm but also led to the introduction of surfing to South Africa, with key locations being Muizenberg and Sea Point. Affectionately known as "die oom" (the uncle) to Capetonians, Whitmore became a central figure in the local surfing community. His sea-front home bathroom window became the source of daily surf reports, a tradition immortalised in The Endless Summer II surf film.

Achievements: John Whitmore's legacy extends beyond personal accomplishments, as he is credited with pioneering the sport of surfing in South Africa. His efforts not only introduced the joy of surfing to the South African coastline but also contributed to the growth and popularity of the sport in the region. Whitmore's dedication and passion for surfing left an enduring impact on the local surfing culture making him one of the most famous South African surfers.

Instagram: @followtheoom

Famous South African Surfers - John Whitmore Surfing South African Waters

Jordy Smith

Born: February 11, 1988

Origin: Durban, South Africa

Style: Jordy Smith, a dynamic South African professional surfer, showcases a regular foot stance.

Famous South African Surfers

About: Jordan Michael "Jordy" Smith, born on February 11, 1988, in Durban, South Africa, is a prominent figure in professional surfing. From winning the WSL World Junior Championship in 2006 to conquering the World Qualifying Series in 2007, Jordy quickly rose to prominence. Known for his exceptional skills and unique manoeuvres, he secured victories at prestigious events, including the Billabong J-Bay competitions in 2010 and 2011 and the Hurley Pro at Trestles in 2014 and 2016. Growing up in Durban, he started surfing at the age of 3 and attended Glenwood High School. Jordy's sponsorship by O'Neill since 2007 highlights his enduring influence in the surfing world.

Achievements: Jordy Smith's illustrious career is marked by numerous victories on the WSL Championship Tour, including event wins at Bells Beach, Trestles, Rio de Janeiro, and Jeffreys Bay. Notably, he secured gold in the X-Games 2013 Real Surf competition. Jordy's innovative surfing style, highlighted by signature manoeuvres, has consistently positioned him as one of the most famous South African surfers. He has also qualified to represent South Africa at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Instagram: @jordysmith88

Famous South African Surfers - Jordy Smith

Michael February

Born: May 17, 1993

Origin: Cape Town, South Africa

Style: Michael February, a dynamic South African professional surfer, boasts a regular stance. His surfing is characterised by a limber and free-range style.

Famous South African Surfers

About: Michael February is a trailblazing professional surfer known for overcoming challenges in the surfing community. Growing up in Woodstock, a suburb that transformed from an unsafe neighbourhood to a vibrant community with hipster cafes and art galleries, Michael's love for surfing flourished when his family moved to Kommetjie. Despite the adversities faced by his father, Isaac February, during the Apartheid era, Michael's passion for surfing thrived. He began turning heads with his distinctive surfing style, marked by a limber and free-range approach, ultimately leading to a successful amateur career. In 2015, he achieved a milestone by winning a surf contest at a break where his father faced discrimination. 

Achievements: Michael February's surfing journey is marked by steady progression and notable victories. In 2015, he reached the Final in Martinique, signalling the beginning of his success on the Qualifying Series. He continued to build momentum in 2016 with a third-place finish at the Azores Airline Pro. Notably, his breakthrough year was in 2017, securing third and fifth positions at the Ballito Pro and US Open of Surfing, respectively. Despite narrowly missing the qualifying cut in 2017, he gained a spot as an injury replacement, solidifying his status as a full-time Championship Tour surfer in 2018. 

Instagram: @mikeyfebruary

Famous South African Surfers - Michael February

Rosie Hodge

Born: April 27, 1987

Origin: Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa

Style: Regular 

Famous South African Surfers

About: Rosy Hodge, born on April 27, 1987, in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa, had the privilege of learning to surf on the renowned right-hand waves of her hometown. This early exposure ignited her passion for surfing, setting her on a path that led to four years of competitive surfing on the World Tour. Rosy's connection with the ocean eventually extended beyond riding waves to sharing her insights and expertise as a commentator for the World Surf League (WSL). Her transition from the ocean to behind the camera was a seamless one, and she embraced her role as a full-time commentator. When not on tour, Rosy divides her time between her residence in San Clemente, California, and exploring new horizons on "The Search" with the Rip Curl women.

Achievements: Rosy Hodge's competitive journey on the Women's Qualifying Series reflects her dedication to the sport giving her a mention as one of the most famous South African surfers. In 2010, she achieved notable results, securing 9th place in two events. Her consistency and performance on the world stage contributed to her ranking of 20th that year. Beyond her competitive career, Rosy's influence has extended to the commentary booth, where she shares her deep understanding and love for surfing with audiences worldwide.

Instagram: @rosyhodge

Famous South African Surfers - Rosy Hodge Surfing South Africa

Shaun Tomson

Born: August 21, 1955 

Origin: Durban, South Africa

Style: Shaun played a pivotal role in the "Free Ride" generation, riding waves with unparalleled style, aggression, and raw courage, influencing the trajectory of professional surfing.

Famous South African Surfers

About: Shaun Tomson is a multifaceted personality, excelling not only as a surfer but also as an environmentalist, actor, author, and businessman. He learned to surf in the beach breaks around Durban under the guidance of his father Ernie, alongside older cousin Michael Tomson and brother Paul Tomson. Shaun's academic pursuits led him to the University of Natal, where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Business Finance. His journey in surfing took him to Hawaii, where he matured and trained, witnessing significant moments like Greg Noll's "Biggest Wave Ever Ridden" at Mākaha in 1969. Shaun Tomson's impact on surfing is profound, winning 19 major professional surf events, earning recognition among the 25 most influential surfers of the century, and being listed as one of the 10 greatest surfers of all time.

Achievements: Part of many famous South African surfers, Shaun Tomson's surfing legacy includes being the 1977 IPS World Champion a title he earned during the "Free Ride" generation. He was an integral part of the group that transformed the face of surfing, introducing a new level of style, aggression, and professionalism. Tomson's performances at Off the Wall and Backdoor Pipeline, marked by his unique tube-riding style, continue to resonate in the surfing world. His influence extended to film, where he appeared in productions like Free Ride, Fantasea, Many Classic Moments, and In God's Hands. Tomson co-produced the award-winning film Bustin' Down the Door, and authored best-selling books like Surfer's Code and Bustin' Down the Door – Revolution of '75.

Instagram: @shauntomson

Famous South African Surfers - Shaun Tomson

Other Famous South African Surfers

More Female South African Surfers

Famous South Africa Surf Spots

Jeffrey's Bay: Internationally acclaimed for its long, right-hand point break known as Supertubes loved by many famous South African surfers.

Durban Beachfront: Offers various breaks and is known for its consistent waves.

Muizenberg: A popular spot near Cape Town, known for its gentle waves, making it suitable for beginners.

Dungeons: Located near Hout Bay, it's known for its big wave surfing and hosts big wave competitions.

Seal Point: Found in Cape St. Francis, known for its consistent waves and beautiful surroundings.

Cape St. Francis: Besides Seal Point, Cape St. Francis has several other surf breaks and is a favourite among famous South African surfers

Victoria Bay: A secluded bay with a right-hand point break, offering consistent waves.

Long Beach (Kommetjie): Known for its long sandy stretches and good waves, located near Cape Town and enjoyed by famous South African surfers.

Summing It Up: What To Do Now

Now you have a vast list of the most famous South African surfers, be sure to check out famous surfers from countries around the world such as Hawaii and Italy!

If your interested in learning more about surfing discover our many guides that will inform you on your surfing journey. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook & Instagram to stay informed on our amazing surf shots and stories shared from surf creators around the world!

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the best surfer girl in South Africa?

The title of the best surfer girl in South Africa is subjective and can change over time. As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, it's challenging to provide a definitive answer. Competitions and rankings can influence opinions.

Who are the famous surfers on the Gold Coast?

The Gold Coast in Australia is home to several famous surfers, including Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, and Stephanie Gilmore, among others.

 Who is the female surfer in South Africa?

South Africa has produced several talented female surfers. Among them, Bianca Buitendag is notable for her achievements in professional surfing.

Is South Africa known for surfing?

Yes, South Africa is known for its excellent surfing conditions and has produced talented surfers. Spots like Jeffrey's Bay are internationally renowned, contributing to South Africa's reputation as a surfing destination.

Where does Shaun Tomson live?

Shaun Tomson lives in Montecito, California.

Who is the most famous girl surfer?

Determining the most famous female surfer is subjective, as opinions may vary. However, Stephanie Gilmore, Layne Beachley, and Carissa Moore are often recognised as some of the most accomplished and well-known female surfers.

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