How do surfers make a living?

Surfers earn money in a wide variety of occupations. Committed surfers will normally work in professions that allow them the flexibility to drop everything and go surfing, opting to work in close proximity to the ocean and surfable waves.

Surfing’s addictive nature can be hard to manage with a job, lots of surfers will sacrifice higher paying wages to surf on a regular basis.

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.


Being self-employed and controlling your own work schedule to any degree is going to up your wave count compared to those poor full-timers (me included).

Any of the trade professions are great for booking your own work and provide good to great wages depending on your skillset and experience. Professions like carpet fitting, plumbing, domestic electrical work and more will 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 that a lot of people don’t want to but they’re onto something. With great pay and early finishes being a binman is a great way to surf more and have more fun.

Being a postal worker is only for early birds, if you think you can wake up at 3 am 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 board and jump in the ocean while most people 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 line ups of the early morning and take advantage of weekdays and their lack of surfers.

Jobs like ambulance technicians and police will often work 4 days on 4 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 can be challenging but it allows you to spend time in nature and help others enjoy surfing for the first time.

Surf instructors will normally 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

What better way to get good waves than becoming a beach lifeguard. Your job involves keeping a close eye on the ocean which is a dream come true for most surfers.

Lifeguards are often great surfers and swimmers and with most lifeguards working in shifts, you’ll definitely be getting some free time to surf. An added bonus of being a lifeguard is you begin to understand your beach and how it works in all kinds of conditions.

Go pro

I’m afraid this option is only open to all you up and coming groms out there. Become a pro surfer and you’ll make your living 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 simply 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 clearly 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 the role they do 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 fairly content bunch.

About The Author