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The Year of the Shark
From Hawaii, to Reunion Island, to Australia, 2013 will be remembered as an unusually dangerous one to be a surfer. According to sharkattackfile.info, there were 103 ‘shark-attack related incidents’ worldwide in 2013, with 16 being fatal. While the total number of shark-human interactions in 2013 was on par with the yearly average of around 100, the sharp increase in fatalities (16 in 2013 compared to 7 in 2012) kept many people on the beach.

Rise of the Robot Wave
After years of behind-the-scenes development and leaked teaser photos, surfing wave pools really made their mark in 2013. Progress towards a commercially viable artificial wave increased by leaps and bounds in the summer of 2013, which culminated in September with the Surf Park Summit. American Wave Machines, Wavegarden, and the Kelly Slater Wave Company have led the artificial wave movement.

Coastal Communities Bounce Back
Surfers were on the front lines of disaster relief and recovery efforts throughout 2013, working to rebuild the ravaged coastal communities on the East Coast of the United States, Japan, and the Philippines. Disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, and Typhoon Haiyan brought out the best in the local surfing communities, who teamed up with organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and Waves for Water to coordinate effective cleanup and relief efforts along the most battered stretches of coastline.

Carlos Burle Saves Maya Gabeira, Then Surfs Biggest Wave Ever
Brazilian Carlos Burle and his tow partner Maya Gabeira were among a small crew of big-wave surfers who were on hand to witness what would go down as one of the biggest days on record at Nazaré in Portugal. After Carlos towed Maya into a massive wave, she hit a few bumps and went down hard, enduring a brutal hold down, suffering a broken ankle, and nearly drowning. After helping to rescue and resuscitate Maya on the beach, Carlos went back out and managed to tow into what has been called the biggest wave ever ridden. Just don’t tell that to Laird.

Surfrider Steps Up to the Plate
Unfortunately for surfers, 2013 saw its fair share of natural disasters and legal battles that threatened our coastlines across the world. Luckily for us, the Surfrider Foundation has been steadfast in their defense of places like Trestles, Martin’s Beach, and Laniakea Beach. They have also played a role in helping to stabilize and rebuild coastal communities in Japan, the Philippines, and along the East Coast after they were hit hard by natural disasters. Kudos to you, Surfrider.

Roxy Drops the Ball
Professional women’s surfing has a hard enough time gaining viewers and earning legitimacy. Unfortunately for the talented, hard-working female surfers who slog it out on the ASP Women’s Tour, Roxy managed to set the sport back when they featured a scantily clad Steph Gilmore rolling around in bed, checking her phone, taking a shower – pretty much anything but actually surfing – in an online advertisement. The problem with the ad was that it was supposed to be promoting an upcoming surf contest, the Roxy Pro Biarritz. The online backlash and subsequent fallout was swift and fierce, eventually forcing Roxy to release a half-hearted apology to fans, but the damage to the brand had already been done.

ASP and ZoSea Make a Deal
When the Association of Surfing Professionals announced that it was partnering up with ZoSea Media Holdings, speculation began to fly as to what changes might be expected from the new owners of the World Tour. Paul Speaker, co-founder of ZoSea, stated: “The ASP will be more fan-centric – the structure of tours, the production of broadcasts and everything in between will be geared towards enhancing the fans’ experience.” One of the major changes outlined by ZoSea was dropping the cost of event sponsorship from $3 million to $1 million, easy the financial burden on the major surf brands while sweetening the prize money pot for competing surfers.

Legends Pass
2013 saw the passing of some of surfing’s greatest heroes, including Kiwi shaper Allan Byrne, Hawaiian surfing legend Montgomery ‘Buttons’ Kaluhiokalani, and Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell. Byrne was known for his channel-bottom boards, which helped direct the flow of water and extend the base of the fins for additional speed and control. Byrne passed away from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in Bali.

After a difficult battle with lung cancer, Buttons Kaluhiokalani died at the age of 54. Throughout the 1970s, Buttons was part of a game-changing group of Hawaiian chargers that included Gerry Lopez, Larry Bertlemann, and Mark Liddell. Buttons eccentric, freewheeling style and sense of humor endeared him to people both in and out of the water.

Meistrell, along with his twin brother, co-founded surfwear company Body Glove International in 1953. The brothers set out to create the first practical wetsuit for surfing and diving, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the ultra-warm, super-stretchy suits that surfers wear today. While preparing for a paddleboard race off Catalina Island, Meistrell suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 84.

Epic Ending at the Pipe Masters
For all of the criticism that the ASP got for the shoddy webcasts and less-than-stellar contests they put on in 2013, the Billabong Pipeline Masters was a huge step in the right direction. In absolutely pumping conditions, the world’s best surfers put on a spectacular performance with nothing less than the world title at stake. On the final day of competition, Mick Fanning was able to eke out a 9.7 barrel to clinch the title, narrowly beating fellow Australian Yadin Nicol, whose 9.3 barrel was equally impressive. Those who watched the event online or from the beach were also treated to an epic final which saw Kelly Slater take down Pipeline expert John John Florence.

Kelly Slater Announces Comeback in 2014
Many throughout the surf media world had been speculating all season long whether or not Slater would be back on the Tour next year. Had Fanning not gotten the 9.7 he needed to clinch the world title in Hawaii, we might be talking about Slater’s 12th ASP World Title and upcoming retirement plans. Instead (and for many pro surfing fans, thankfully), we are going to be talking about his chances at a world title run in 2014.

This article was originally published on Seshn.com

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