How Do Surfers Make Money? From Wave To Paycheck

how do surfers make a living

Surfers earn money in a wide variety of ways. Committed surfers will generally work in professions that allow them the flexibility to drop everything and go surfing. Plus, it helps if the job is near the ocean and surfable waves.

Surfing’s addictive nature can be brutal to manage with a job. I’m the first to admit I’ve sacrificed higher-paying wages to help me to surf regularly.

So what kind of jobs are great for emergency surf trips and constant days off to search for waves, how do surfers make a living, and how can you get the right surf/work balance?

how do surfers make a living

How Do Surfers Get Paid?

Here’s our sure-fire list of ways you can surf and still make money. From shift work to going self-employed, there’s a load of ways you can optimise your work-surf balance for the better.


Being self-employed and controlling your work schedule to any degree will increase your wave count compared to those poor full-timers (me now included).

Any of the trade professions are great for booking your own work and provide good to excellent wages depending on your skillset and experience.

Professions like carpet fitting, plumbing and domestic electrical work all allow you the occasional early finish to go hunting waves.

Work early, surf late

Binmen are up at the crack of dawn doing the work we don’t want to do, but they’re onto something. With great pay and early finishes, being a binman is a great way to surf and have more fun.

Postal work is only for early birds, but if you think you can wake up at 3 a.m., this could be just the job for you.

There’s a reason your post gets delivered with a smile: finishing at lunchtime is a dream. Grab some lunch, wax your surfboard and jump in the ocean for the afternoon to make the most of the quiet waves while we’re all at work.

Shift work

Shift work can be a surfer’s dream. Working late or early leaves you with free time on either side. You can often miss the crowded lineups of the early morning and take advantage of weekdays and their lack of surfers.

Jobs like ambulance technicians and police will often work four days on and four days off, leaving you with half your time to score the coast for waves.

Be a surf instructor

A lot of surfers choose to be surf instructors to make a living. The job has challenges, but it allows you to spend time in nature and help others enjoy surfing for the first time.

Surf instructors will generally find time in between lessons to surf. While being a surf instructor can be a very seasonal role, it is a preferred option for a lot of surfers who want to be close to the ocean at all times.

Beach lifeguarding

You should try becoming a beach lifeguard if you don’t want to miss a single swell. Your job involves keeping a close eye on the ocean, a dream come true for most surfers.

Lifeguards are often great surfers and swimmers, and with most lifeguards working in shifts, you’ll be getting some free time to surf.

An added bonus of being a lifeguard is understanding your beach and how the waves break in all sorts of different swell and wind conditions.

Just be warned that pumping waves and perfect conditions aren’t a good reason for a day off in this line of work, so you’ll have to watch as many waves as you surf.

*Pro tip – Can’t get paid to watch the surf? Try checking outdoor pools close to the ocean. They regularly need pool lifeguards and offer the same shift work to let you earn and surf.

Go pro

This option is only open to all you up-and-coming groms out there. Become a pro surfer, and you’ll make money by doing exactly what you love!

Who wouldn’t want to get paid to go surfing? Pro surfers make a living from doing exactly that. A combination of competition prizes and sponsorship deals allows some surfers to surf for a living.

This, of course, comes with its own set of job requirements, including signings, content creation and product promotion, but the sacrifice is worth it.

Competition to become a pro surfer is high, and not all pros make a full-time wage from surfing and need to complement it with other work on the side.

Avid surfers will work most jobs that allow them to surf

Surfers tend to work to surf, so their role can often be an afterthought.

As long as it covers costs for petrol, the occasional new surfboard and a wetsuit (if needed), they’re a reasonably content bunch.