It’s probably a safe bet that these days, there isn’t a surfer alive who hasn’t been influenced by Taylor Steele’s Momentum in some way. The stars of Steele’s iconic 1992 film became some of the most influential figures in the history of the sport, from competition to freesurfing to big waves and beyond. And with HBO’s release of the Emmy-winning Momentum Generation last year, the stars have experienced renewed interest in the public eye nearly 30 years after the release of the original film. But none of them ever fully left surfing (how could they?). That doesn’t mean their lives haven’t changed. Here’s what they’re doing now.
Residence: North County, San Diego
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Rob basically started the freesurfer movement when he left the world tour. And he’s still super fun to watch (even dipping into the world of mid-lengths recently).
Most Recent Career Development: Despite ending his relationship with long-time sponsor, Hurley, Rob continues to raise the bar as a shaper, working to increase the performance of alternative craft with Firewire.
Quote from The Inertia archives: Sal Masekela on Rob’s influence – “I think anyone who’s a freesurfer, a professional freesurfer, of a certain age now, especially in their 20s, have to look at someone like Rob Machado as the person who started all that.”
Residence: Kelly keeps residences all over the world. He’s rumored to be riding out the pandemic in Australia.
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Um, he won his first world title in 1992, the year Momentum came out. He’s won 10 since.
Most Recent Career Development: Wave pools. Oh, and still finishing in the Top 10 despite pushing 50 (what?)
Quote from The Inertia archives: On the WSL recently pivoting strategy amidst the pandemic – “A lot of interesting things are happening, and while the critics will be vocal and many, surfing has literally never been in a comfortable and safe place as a sport. The tour used to borrow money from surfers and owned nothing of its product. Without appeasing sponsors and entertaining and inviting outside (investment) surfing will remain somewhat obscure.”
Residence: Haleiwa, Hawaii. Born in Toledo, Ohio, Williams has called the North Shore home since he was six.
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Ross Williams is one of the most well-respected analysts on WSL broadcasts, although he doesn’t work the entire tour these days due to recent career changes.
Most Recent Career Development: Williams coaches arguably the best surfers on the planet, John John Florence, and has been with him since his second world title in 2017.
Quote from The Inertia archives: On the need for coaching at the CT level – “Most surfers are naturally artists and expressionist first, competitors second. Some are gifted with that raw energy and knack for winning but most of us could use a little guidance or at least a sounding board to better our surfing. Someone like Kelly Slater, who’s such a brilliant competitor and has the personality, might not jive with outside info. But it’s becoming very common to have a coach these days. Surfers are seeing the benefit.”
Residence: Haleiwa, Hawaii
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Benji might be the least competitive of the Momentum bunch but with just as much talent. He owns the restaurant Breakers, an iconic spot in Haleiwa.
Most Recent Career Development: Benji is as well rounded as they come. He’s a solid snowboarder and good friends with the Burton family (RIP Jake). Benji is also a fairly high-end golfer. Oh, and he was the inspiration behind the Blink 182 song, “Mutt,” written about his time living with Blink’s Tom Delonge.
Quote from The Inertia archives: On golf – “Golf is the same as surfing — it’s just you and you can’t blame anyone else. It’s you against the elements.”
Residence: Big Island, born and bred.
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Uh, this guy’s widely considered to be one of the best big wave riders in the world, a hero to the younger generation of XXL chargers.
Most Recent Career Development: We’re guessing here but we’d have to think his most important career development would be raising two beautiful children, one of which, Jackson, is an up-and-coming prodigy.
Quote from The Inertia archives: On whether he’d like to see Jackson surf Jaws, a wave Shane’s generally considered a maestro at – “No. People ask me that all the time and no, I wouldn’t. And I talk to him about it all the time. I mean, you can’t control your kids and they do whatever they want to do and maybe he’ll want to surf big waves and maybe he won’t. But that’s definitely not anything I want for him and think he should be doing or trying to check out when it’s small, nothing like that. My thing with kids is to let them show you what they’re interested in and support that. He likes surfing and skateboarding but no, Jaws, I don’t want my kid out there.”
Residence: North County, San Diego
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Taylor Knox is a hero in the world of power surfing. Rail-to-rail, and even at 48, there might not be a more adequate representative for that school of wave riding – which never seems to go out of style.
Most Recent Career Development: Taylor has become a guru of meditation, working to master the power of the most important organ in our body: the mind. And he’s a father.
Quote from The Inertia archives: On the Momentum Generation – “Our group was coming up and everyone had a little niche, Shane was an amazing barrel rider, Kelly was good at everything, Rob was lightning fast. I was like, ‘You know what. I’m gonna be the guy that’s known for being strong and powerful.'”
Residence: San Clemente, California
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: The youngest of the Momentum Generation, Kalani Robb was touted as the future of performance surfing along with Taj Burrow. He never finished higher then sixth on tour and went on to a career in modeling and acting with appearances in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Blue Crush.
Most Recent Career Development: Kalani is still freesurfing, making appearances at wave pools and absolutely killing the softtop game with Catch Surf. Not to mention being a great dad.
Quote from The Inertia archives: Kelly Slater on Robb’s barrel ability – “Kalani Robb is still a better tube rider than everyone you (or I) know.”
Residence: Orange County, California
Claim to Fame Since Momentum: Enjoying a dream career as an everyman rider of waves, Pat of course was born in Chicago, became a world-class surfer after a move to Dana Point when he was still young and rose to stardom in the remake of Endless Summer. Post Momentum he took an executive gig at Hurley.
Most Recent Career Development: Pat is one of the most well-respected surfers alive and is now the World Surf League commissioner, essentially the head of competition.
Quote from The Inertia archives: Kelly Slater on the level of respect for Pat from tour athletes – “Pat O’Connell is right there with (WSL CEO) Erik Logan (to help him make decisions on competition) and has deep roots into all layers of surfing and is constantly voicing the good and bad (to make the tour better).”
Watch Taylor Steele’s archive, The Collection, on WorldSurfLeague.com now as they release a new film weekly.