In the cold, calculated grip of the 2019 attention economy, stories can sometimes feel fleeting, disposable, cheap. Each just another open tab among many, the Almighty Algorithm funneling content into our brains as if trying to produce some kind of mental foie gras (anyone else just get hungry?). It’s hard to remember our favorite stories of the year, mainly because we can barely remember the Instagram caption we just read 5 seconds ago.
Perhaps that’s why the exercise of going through the last 10 years of SURFER Magazine and listing my favorite stories was so damn enjoyable. We seldom take the time to look back, but when you do, it’s satisfying to remember where we’ve been, to revisit the stories that were truly impactful and to see how their meaning has changed with the passing of time.
The stories listed below are snapshots of shifts in our culture, of unique places at pivotal times, of the defining events in the lives of surf icons. Each said something about surfing that mattered then and, if you can curb your 2019 techno-nihilism, still matters today. These stories helped us make sense of Andy Irons’ legacy, laugh at ourselves for falling into surf-hipster clichés, contextualize the sweeping changes to competitive surfing and feel genuinely awestruck at the kinds of off-grid adventure some surfers are still able to find in this ever-shrinking world. Each of these stories changed the way I looked at surfing over the past decade, which is a testament to the incredibly talented and dedicated writers behind these pieces.
For my list, I tried to pull not just the best stories, but those that would also best represent the decade as a whole. The stories aren’t ranked (although I will say “Being Mark Occhilupo” is my all-time favorite SURFER piece), but are instead listed chronologically. If you’re a longtime SURFER reader, many of these features will be familiar to you, but I hope that you’ll read them again and find new meaning in the text, just as I did. If you haven’t read them at all, well, I envy you, my friend. Make yourself comfortable, kick those feet up and enjoy the best surfy reading the 2010s had to offer.
This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.