When we started building this year’s Who Da Guy list, we didn’t purposefully include only local heroes, the next wave of promising groms, and relatively unknown surfers with mind-blowing stories. But that tends to happen on the East Coast. When you dig below the veneer of household names and recognizable stars, you find a thriving blue-collar community of hardcore surfers. Yes, their lives are dictated by tides, wind speed, and swell direction. But these are also the kind of everyday folks who work hard at their chosen profession. Who appreciate the simple perks provided by a life lived by the ocean. Who are probably better known for their character than their waveriding abilities.

When they’re good surfers and good humans? That’s when we get excited about striking narrative gold, which we did again this issue. Want to know what it’s like to survive a shark attack, lose a leg, struggle for months to recover, and then build your own prosthetic so you can paddle out again? Curious about how motherhood affects surfing performance? Interested in finding a job where you can work six months on and six months off? Those stories await you in these pages. And once you read them, you might never look at life the same.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but that’s what a grassroots magazine like ESM does best. We don’t just keep our eyes trained on the same 20 hot shots — we make a concerted effort to broaden our editorial view and include surfers that fall along all points on the spectrum. And after spending time in every state on this glorious East Coast, I’m convinced that our diversity rivals that of any other coastline in the world. In many ways, Maine and Florida, or Puerto Rico and Nova Scotia, or Texas and Wisconsin, are polar opposites. But interlocked roots still run deep between such far-flung places. After nearly 10 years at ESM, I’ve seen it, felt it, and lived it.

And the fact that all of you out there keep living it in your own unique way provides just the fuel we need to keep doing what we’re doing. Before this issue was even put to bed, we already started lining up intriguing Who Da Guy and Who Da Girl profiles for next year. For now, we’re gonna re-read these a few times. Savor the singularity of them. And put it on our agenda to try and share a wave with each of the featured surfers sometime in the next year. As the old saying goes, surround yourself with people you can learn from. For the 194th time since this magazine was founded in 1991, we’ve done that. And we hope you enjoy it.

[template id=”352″]