So you want to be a pro surfer?
You want to surf for the rest of your life, traveling the world and getting paid to do so? You want a life of baggies, bikinis, blue skies, and warm water while visiting places like Indo, Fiji, Tahiti, and Hawaii? Before you get distracted by our own versions of what it means to be a pro surfer, and in turn buy into the dream sold to you by the industry, let’s examine the possibilities available to the young groms of today. We’ll look at what exactly it means to be a professional surfer, and then let you decide from there. Life is all about choices. And as that saying goes: Sometimes you make choices, and sometimes choices make you. Decide wisely.
1. The Competitive Surfer
The first and most obvious example of a professional surfer is the competitive surfer. Surfers like Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning, among many others, usually come to mind. These are the surfers who get paid to follow the competitive circuit around the world, surfing various events for large amounts of cash prizes and rating points. These surfers are highly skilled in a specific form of surfing and ride waves according to a strictly regulated judging criteria. They are well trained and extremely disciplined athletes of Olympic standards who are given short 20- to 30-minute heats to showcase their top-class repertoire of modern surfing maneuvers. They are the equivalent of surfing’s sport stars. Some are millionaires, drive flashy cars, hang out with super models, and get invited to all the coolest parties.
Although this is the most obvious example of professional surfing, it is also, in many ways, the most unrealistic and least achievable. There are only 36 spots available on the World Tour. For any grom with a serious intention of being a lifelong surfing professional, this is certainly not the easiest of options. This option is for freakishly talented and uber-disciplined individuals.
2. The Free Surfer
The free surfer is the guy or girl who gets paid to simply surf their brains out. They receive a salary based on the amount of video clips they can amass, the number of Facebook likes they receive, and how much money the can generate for their sponsors. Guys like Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson usually come to mind. Their first priority is branding themselves and endorsing their sponsors. These guys don’t get invited to parties; they are the party.
As with competition surfing, though, this particular industry is also extremely competitive and limited. And unless you are very good looking and prepared to surf naked and do a 360 rodeo flip at Teahupo’o while on fire, then the chances of being a professionally paid free surfer is extremely slim.
3. The Professional Surfer
The third category in a professional surfer is actually the first person on my list to be a true professional in the traditional sense of the word. This type of surfer is a trained and qualified professional, such as a doctor, teacher, or businessman who still manages to order their lives in such a way that allows their surfing to thrive. People like Dr. Phil Chapman or even Shaun Holmes are surfers, who despite being shit hot, have seen the value and sense of acquiring an education to further themselves and their surfing careers while simultaneously serving their families and communities. Despite their hectic work schedules, they still manage to catch a few decent swells. They hold degrees, diplomas, jobs with responsibility and earning capacity. These are the true surfing professionals.
There you have it, groms. These are the three most basic types of professional surfers. If you are good enough to get paid, then you don’t need to worry; sponsors and companies will find you. You just need to focus on what is important on your end: surfing and staying focused. Conversely, unless you are freakishly talented or ridiculously good looking with loose morals, then being paid to surf probably isn’t the best trail for you to pursue. That isn’t to say it’s not attainable. However, getting an education and job that enables you to surf every day is a wise choice.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from all of this is the question: Why even be a “professional” surfer at all? Why not simply be an amateur? I’m not referring to the surfing part, of course. I am referring to everything else. Just focus on surfing and regard everything else as secondary. Get a job as a dog walker, house sitter, or literary artist. Create your own hours and own schedule. Surf whenever you want. Sure, the financial rewards may not be as significant, but the rest of the perks will certainly make it worth your while.