You can hear the murmurs growing louder. Winter is coming, they warn. From the surf brand fortresses of Orange County to the vitriolic message boards of the American surf media, the panic is palpable.

It’s been an eternity (four years!) since an American (i.e., Kelly Slater) won the world title, and no one can remember ever having so few of our boys representing the Stars and Stripes on surfing’s biggest stage. The earth must be spinning off its axis.

Slater’s roaring competitive inferno has finally cooled and the rest of the world has pounced with a vengeance. We were foolish to be so complacent. We’d be smart to start stocking up on Twinkies and ammunition and seal the underground bunker until the

All Photos by: Seth De Roulet

Brazilian Cataclysm blows over. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to survive American surfing’s nuclear winter and eventually scurry out from our tunnels like small mammals after the asteroid strike and rebuild after the lizards go extinct. The universe is collapsing.

Or is it? If you ask us, American surfing is doing just fine, thank you. First off, we can proudly claim the current world champion. Her name is Carissa Moore, she holds a US passport and she has better style than most. In fact, she’s hoisted three world title trophies in the past five years. That’s dynasty status. And in 2015 there was a fiery, freckled regularfoot from Huntington named Courtney Conlogue giving her a good run all the way to Honolua.

But surfing is bigger than world titles, and the number of Americans competing on the CT is but one myopic estimate of our country’s surfing health. When we take a step back from all the dust kicked up by the alarmists grabbing their guns and running for the hills, we begin to appreciate a much different scene.

Kelly Slater didn’t win a world title in 2015, but what he did do will have a far greater impact than 11 more shiny trophies ever could. Slater’s man-made wave is the biggest of game-changers. He made fantasy a reality, and planted it in the heart of America’s agricultural engine, California’s Central Valley. It’s only a matter of time before surfing’s next world champion — and now, potentially, Olympian — emerges from the Arizona desert or the snowcapped Rocky Mountains or the Great Plains of Kansas or the streets of Chicago’s South Side. If a wave that perfect can be manufactured east of I-5, anything is possible.

SURFING IS BIGGER THAN WORLD TITLES, AND THE NUMBER OF AMERICANS COMPETING ON THE CT IS BUT ONE MYOPIC ESTIMATE OF OUR COUNTRY’S SURFING HEALTH.

On the big screen, John John and Blake Kueny’s two-years-in-the-making visual orgasm, View From a Blue Moon, has taken surf cinema to heights Taylor Steele never could have imagined when he was cutting together Momentum. And Dane Reynolds continues to hold court as World’s Best Freesurfer, with each new indie web edit inspiring legions of groms to take alternative routes in surfing. Sampler was both the web short of 2015 and the ultimate freesurfer manifesto for riding what you want, where you want and how you want, regardless of the expectations of everyone else.

Meanwhile, the big-wave realm hasn’t been more thoroughly dominated by the red, white and blue since the days of Da Bull. We can claim both the defending Big Wave World Champion (Makua Rothman) and the current world No. 1 (Greg Long). And when you look at the two longest-running, most prestigious big-wave events, 19 of the 24 Mavericks invitees and 21 of the 28 Eddie invitees hold a US passport. What’s more, two of the three current CT surfers who received invites to surf the Eddie are Americans: Slater and John John (Jeremy Flores held it down for France).

At this point we should probably address the elephant wearing a grass skirt in the room: Yes, Hawaii, you’re part of the USA. The POTUS was born on your home turf, and in spite of what Fox News would have you believe, that makes him a natural-born American citizen. Hawaiian surfers compete at Nationals, commute to the mainland, and pay their taxes to the IRS (ask Sunny Garcia). So by all means, keep waving that Hawaiian flag with pride, but you’re part of this dysfunctional family whether you like it or not. And we’ll take a further look at this topic in the days to come.

YOUR GLOBAL SURF FORECASTS COME FROM DATA GATHERED BY AMERICAN BUOYS AND SATELLITES AND CRUNCHED BY AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY. FROM PERFORMANCE TO CULTURE TO DISCOVERY,AMERICAN SURFING KNOW-HOW CONTINUES TO REIGN SUPREME.

The lesson here is you can’t do anything in surfing without encountering shining examples of American surfers at the forefront of our sport’s cultural and performance evolution. The soul of the surf industrial complex calls Southern California home, even if that is an oxymoron. Your GoPro was designed in California (made in China, sure, but what isn’t these days?). And your trusty Mayhem was actually made in America. Your global surf forecasts come from data gathered by American buoys and satellites and crunched by American technology. From performance to culture to discovery, American surfing know-how continues to reign supreme.

But perhaps America’s greatest contribution to surfing is our role as global melting pot. It’s no coincidence that so many great international surfers end up moving stateside. If you’re an Aussie who really likes big barrels, like Anthony Walsh, you move to Hawaii and marry a local girl. If you’re a young Brazilian surfer with big dreams, like Filipe Toledo (or Yago Dora, or Mateus Herdy, et al), you get out of Dodge and move to San Clemente. And best of all, your world-class Brazilian-American shaper, Marcio Zouvi, is already here making your boards.

From former world champs Shaun Tomson (ZAF) and SURFING’s very own Peter “PT” Townend (AUS), to modern Aussie transplants like Josh Kerr and Yadin Nicol who now finally understand what Mexican food is supposed to taste like, Lady Liberty has always welcomed surfing’s huddled masses yearning to bust their fins free. They come here from foreign shores because this country — and its vibrant surfing milieu — gives them the best opportunity to succeed. And there’s nothing more American than that.

SLATER’S MAN-MADE WAVE IS THE BIGGEST OF GAME-CHANGERS. HE MADE FANTASY A REALITY, AND PLANTED IT IN THE HEART OF AMERICA’S AGRICULTURAL ENGINE, CALIFORNIA’S CENTRAL VALLEY.

WHEN WE TAKE A STEP BACK FROM ALL THE DUST KICKED UP BY THE ALARMISTS GRABBING THEIR GUNS AND RUNNING FOR THE HILLS, WE BEGIN TO APPRECIATE A MUCH DIFFERENT SCENE.

In this way America is surfing. We are the culture makers, the trailblazers, the benchmark for the rest of the world. And as the standard bearer, American surfing faces some tough questions in 2016: Where do we go in the post-Slater era? Should Hawaiian surfers finally represent the US in competition? Just who are Conner Coffin and Kanoa Igarashi, our country’s newest additions to the CT, and are they up to the challenge?  While we don’t have black and white answers to everything, we’ve arrived at one overarching conclusion: There’s still work to be done, but America is the one for the job.

So pay no mind to the “make America great again” doom-and-gloom noise from those who would hijack US surfing and sell us exactly what we don’t need: fear, xenophobia and self-doubt. And next time you paddle out, from sea to shining sea — or a wave pool somewhere in between — remember how many surfers around the world would love to be where you are. Chin up, America. You’re already great.

AMERICA IS SURFING. WE ARE THE CULTURE MAKERS, THE TRAILBLAZERS, THE BENCHMARK FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD.