In surfing culture, a surfer earning a nickname is a triumph on its own. Having one either means they’ve done something so good that it needs to be memorialized. Or they have a specific physical characteristic that the other surfers notice about them.
It could also be because of a humorous story behind it, or perhaps it’s an alter ego that only comes out whenever they ride the waves.
Catchy and creative nicknames can build a surfer’s career and help people remember them even when they retire. They are often associated with being a pro, while having none may leave a surfer feeling left out.
So if you’re looking for alias inspirations, this article contains the most awesome nicknames of the best surfers worldwide!
Top 30 Best Surfer Nicknames
#1: Duke “The Big Kahuna” Kahanamoku
In Hawaiian, Big Kahuna means a prominent person, a boss, a leader, an expert… but did you know that Duke Kahanamoku refused to be called this nickname way back then?
Aside from being called “The Big Kahuna”, Duke is also known as the ‘Father of Modern Surfing’ today. It’s a reminder of his greatness and unbeatable skills when it comes to this water sport.
#2: Miki “Da Cat” Dora
Miki Dora is temperamental, rude, and a rebel. If there was a person who inspired the statement “Don’t ever meet your heroes”, then that might be him.
But while most people frown at his personality, there’s no denying Miki Dora’s passion and skills for surfing. He gained the nickname “Da Cat” because of his feline-like movements when riding the waves. Quick, stable, and agile — all at the same time.
#3: Mick “White Lightning” Fanning
Non-surfers may know of the famous Mick Fanning because of the video where he punched a shark in the nose back in 2015. In the surfing world, however, he’s known as the “White Lightning” for his blonde hair and unbelievable speed in the water.
He’s already retired today, but he’s left his own legacy as the fastest surfer in the world.
#4: Adrian “Ace” Buchan
Adrian Buchan is an Australian pro surfer who wears tons of hats. Or shall we say, he’s an “Ace” of all trades.
He’s a WSL (World Surfing League) brand ambassador, a climate activist, and a representative of the World Pro Surfers. According to him, one of his greatest achievements is when he won over Kelly Slater in the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2013.
#5: Greg “Da Bull” Noll
Greg Noll is a surfing legend known for his body build, his big personality, and for conquering the biggest waves in both North Shore and Waimea Bay. His trademark move is by charging down the face of the wave, similar to how a bull will to an oncoming threat; hence where his nickname “Da Bull” came from.
#6: Mick “Keg on Legs” Lowe
While the other legendary surfers got their nicknames because of their achievements and surfing style, Mick Lowe got his because of his body physique. When he won over Taylor Knox in 2004, his continuous celebration and drinking led him to weight gain. This earned him the nickname “Keg on Legs”.
All’s well that ends well, though, for he used his added pounds to give more power to his surfing prowess.
#7: Jay “Bottle” Thompson
Jay Thompson is an Australian pro surfer who’s got a funny backstory for his nickname. According to him, a local guy pulled down his boardshorts as he was climbing up a ladder, which resulted in him baring his ‘johnson’ for everyone to see.
The audience who, unfortunately, saw it said his penis looks like those little white milk bottle candies they used to eat as kids. More than 15 years later after that incident, he’s still stuck with the moniker “Bottle”.
#8: Kelly “Jimmy” Slater
Winner of 11 world surfing championships, Kelly Slater is known as the greatest competitive surfer of all time. That’s why it’s no surprise that there are a lot of nicknames surrounding him like “The GOAT”, “King Kelly”, and “Kells”. But where did the nickname “Jimmy” come from?
In the year 1990, Kelly Slater was asked to take the role of a surfer, Jimmy Slade, in the American TV show Baywatch. He was reluctant to play the part as he felt the show was commercializing surf culture, so he asked to be written off the show after two years.
#9: Bethany “Soul Surfer” Hamilton
When Bethany Hamilton was 13 years old, she was attacked by a shark that bit her left arm off. While most people would be discouraged by this ill-fated event, Bethany stood her ground, got into surfing again, and won a national title after that accident.
Today, Bethany is a recognized author and speaker who shares her courageous story in TV documentaries. She’s also the inspiration for the 2011 movie ‘Soul Surfer’.
#10: Peter “The Condor” Mel
Every time Peter Mel chases big waves, he spreads his arms far and wide for balance, then bends his legs as he rides down the face of the wave. This stance earned him the nickname “The Condor”.
#11: Keoni “Cheeseburger/Burger” Nozaki
Keoni Ozaki, or as most surfers know him, “Cheeseburger/Burger”, is a Japanese guy who’s born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. But while he loves to eat burgers and drink beer, he didn’t earn his nickname because of this.
The mom of his childhood friend and also pro surfer, Mason Ho, is the one who gave him his famous alias. He didn’t like it at first, but he just got along with it because the name’s already stuck with everyone.
#12: Cheyne “The Horror” Horan
Throughout his career, Cheyne Horan has earned different nicknames. During his teenage years when he was still a member of the Coca-Cola skate team, he was referred to as the “Kid Dynamo”. The nickname “The Bondi Brat”, on the other hand, was given to him by his colleagues during his World Tour because of his distinctive outlook on life.
Finally, he was called “The Horror” by the media during his tournaments with his greatest rival, Mark Richards.
#13: Dean “Dingo” Morrison
Dean Morrison is widely known as “Dingo” because he’s a native to Australia — an indigenous person, and the first one to qualify for the World Tour. He’s also known as one of the ‘Coolie Kids’, along with Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. Unfortunately, his surfing career was put to an end because of a divorce, his dog’s death, and a head injury during surfing that almost ended his life.
#14: Wade “The Beard with Eyes” Carmichael
Wade Carmichael is one of the youngest surfers when he won the Vans Triple Crown back in 2015. He was a 20-year old guy with a large chest, heavily bearded face, and long hair. He also sported a huge grin on his face, with kind, smiling eyes. This earned him the nickname “The Beard with Eyes”.
#15: Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew
According to Wayne Bartholomew, the reason why he’s got the alias “Rabbit” wasn’t because of having two protruding front teeth. It wasn’t also because he was agile as a soccer player during his school years. The not-so-grand story behind this nickname was his erratic hopping while he attempted to play two pinball machines at the same time.
#16: Laura Louise “Lakey Legend” Peterson
Lakey Peterson — also known as the #1 in the World Surf League Women’s Championship Tour — has already been shredding the waves in Manly Beach Australia since she was five. The locals were amazed at how she would catch the waves with her boogie board at such an early age, so they nicknamed her “Lakey Legend”.
#17: James “Chubby” Mitchell
James Mitchell is a legendary surfer who proved that weight is just a number on a scale when it comes to surfing. With a little less than 300 pounds, James was famous among his peers as “Chubby” — a plump but skilled surfer who also enjoyed playing music with his ukulele.
He’s also known by his peers as a mischievous person. Among his fun antics was flashing his bottom to a passing car and getting stuck in the car’s window in the process.
#18: Andrew “Droid” Doheny
Andrew D to Andrewd. Andrewd to Android, and finally, Android to “Droid”. Pro-surfer Andrew Doheny is known by the moniker “Droid” because of his accuracy and stability when he’s riding his surfboards.
But while his nickname suggests that he is without feelings, that’s contrary to the truth. During the peak of his surfing career, he took a couple of wrong turns and made the wrong decisions, leading to a mental breakdown and a long-time hiatus.
#19: Gary “Kong” Elkerton
Gary Elkerton is not only known as a party animal, but also as a legendary surfer known for riding big waves. He’s a Pipeline Master and a three-time World Masters Champion.
He’s known by many as “Kong”, but Elkerton didn’t earn his nickname because of his surfing skills. Rather it was because of his large body frame. The name “King Kong” was given to him when he enrolled as a grade six student in Mooloolaba.
#20: Ken “Skindog” Collins
Ken Collins is a pro surfer from Santa Cruz known for surfing barrels at the biggest wave venues in the world. He won the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year, including the Monster Tube category.
In an interview, he was asked where he got his nickname. He narrated that he was really skinny during his younger years so his friends call him “Skinny”. It eventually evolved into “Skinny Dog”, and then “SkinDog” over the years.
#21: Craig “Owl” Chapman
Back in the olden days when contact lenses weren’t popular yet, Craig Chapman who’s always had poor vision, braved the waves wearing thick eyeglasses and surf sunglasses. The eyewear, combined with his arms-wide, drop-knee stance earned him the nickname “Owl”.
#22: Glen “Mr. X” Winton
Glen Winton is an Australian surfer known for knocking off two of the fins on his surfboard to create a board with four fins. This gave birth to faster, more drifty quad-finned boards we have today.
Glen is a down-to-earth guy who didn’t revel much about being in the spotlight. Because of the air of mystery that surrounded him, not to mention the paddle gloves that he constantly wore when surfing during the ’90s, he was dubbed by the media as “Mr. X”.
#23: Sebastian “Seabass” Zietz
Well, there’s really no need to explain this one. “Seabass” is short for Sebastian. This Hawaiian surfer qualified in the World Championship Tour, which eventually won him the Triple Crown of Surfing in 2012.
#24: Kevin “The Head” Brennan
Kevin Brennan’s story is a tragic example of a flame that burned out too fast. Known as “The Head” because of his unusually large head, Kevin was once among the best surfers of Bondi beach. At 15, he’s already won championship leagues where he competed against Midget Farrelly and Nat Young.
Unfortunately, his greatness was short-lived. By the late 1960s, Kevin got into heroin addiction that led him into a destructive life, and eventually, an overdose.
#25: Bernard “Midget” Farrelly
Towering at 5’8”, it’s odd that Bernard is more widely known as “Midget” Farrelly. Midget is one of the best surfers to grace the world of surfing. By the age of 18, he won the Makaha International, and two years after that, he became the first-ever Australian to win the Surfing World Champion.
#26: Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani
Aside from his many achievements and his ridiculous switch-foot surfing skills, the nickname “Buttons” gave Montgomery Kaluhiokalani more appeal and recognition. He got this moniker from his grandmother, who thought his curls resemble little buttons on his head.
#27: Layne “Gidget” Beachley
Layne Beachley, or also known as “Gidget” by her friends and peers, is the most successful woman in the history of surfing. She’s won the World Championship seven times in a row from 1998 to 2003, and then in 2006.
#28: Mark “Occy” Occhilupo
The nickname “Occy” fits Mark Occhilupo in many ways. Not only is it a shortcut of his last name, but in Italian, this word means ‘eyes of the wolf’. Aside from Occy, Mark’s also known as the “The Raging Bull”. Combine the meaning of these two aliases and you get an aggressive, powerful surfer with an eye for picking out and surfing the biggest waves.
#29: Rob “Mr. Smoothy” Machado
With the moniker “Mr. Smoothy”, one might think that Rob Machado is a ladies man, or maybe a surfer who knows how to get his way with people. But in reality, Rob’s quite the opposite. He’s a humble and laidback kind of guy who prefers to keep himself away from the spotlight. The reason why he’s called “Mr. Smoothy” is because of his effortless and easy-going surfing style.
#30: Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez
Nobody else deserves to be called “Mr. Pipeline” other than the Pipeline Master and best tube rider in the world himself— Gerry Lopez. Like other surfers on this list, Gerry also wishes to pass on the Aloha tradition and culture left by Duke Kahanamoku to other surfers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you get a surfer nickname?
The traditional way of having a surfer nickname is by earning from friends or other surfers. There are no written rules regarding this, though. You can give yourself your own alias if you wish to.
G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.