Think professional surfing could be in your future, or are you trying to determine what it could mean as a parent?
You’re in the right spot; we will give you an honest snapshot of what it takes to become a professional surfer, including the good, the bad and the ugly.
Let’s dive straight in with one of pro surfing’s most sobering facts.
You’ve Got To Start Early
All the surfers on the championship tour started surfing very young.
It may be harsh, but if you’re not surfing regularly by age 10, your chances of a professional career are minimal.
This isn’t so true if you want to become a big wave surfer.
Relying as much on bravery as it does on athletic skill, most advanced surfers can have a stab at successfully riding big waves.
But getting stuck in early is key if we’re talking about the high-performance acrobatics we see on the WSL.
Surf As Much As Possible
Part of becoming a pro relies on you spending as much time on a surfboard as humanely possible.
Yes, you need to mix in other forms of training, but there will never be a better way of improving your surfing than just surfing.
We’re talking onshore slop, massive storm surf, anything you can successfully paddle out in and even some stuff you can’t.
You never know what will happen during a comp, and developing your skills and all wave types will put you ahead of the game.
Surfing daily should be the goal, conditions provided, of course.
Work With A Surf Photographer
You could be the best surfer in the world, but you’re just a local legend if you’re not getting clips or pics.
Your chances of getting Taylor Steele are fairly low, so family members and friends will have to do for now.
Chances are, if you’re surfing is doing the talking, you’ll get approached leaving the water at some point.
These guys and girls are your best friends.
Many make surf photography their passion, and if you’re a good subject, you can quickly get a dedicated photog on the beach covering your every wave.
Find A Sponsor
Now you’ve got some good media circulating; your next task is to find a way into the surf industry.
This will come as sponsorship from one of the hundreds of different surf brands.
For groms, it normally starts with free clothing before moving on to boards, wetsuits, fins etc.
If you get enough exposure, you can work your way up to being paid to surf.
This is perfect for helping to enter comps and fund your training.
Travel To Surf
Your professional surfing career will take you worldwide, so surfing abroad is a must.
If you want to become a pro, you need to surf well in all types of waves, which means travelling.
We’re taking big waves, reeling point breaks, slabs and everything in between.
If your home waves are warm water, head to some cold water surfing destinations and get used to riding waves with a wetsuit.
Enter Surf Competitions
Next up is putting yourself into a competitive scenario to see how you stack up against other surfers your age.
Free surfing differs greatly from the pressure you feel when you have to rip in a time window with other surfers and priority rules.
You need to get yourself accustomed to all of the rules of surfing competitions and the different tactics you can use to win heats.
This’ll also give you a great idea of where your skill level sits compared to your competitors, and who knows, you might net some prize money.
Surf With Other Professional Surfers
Surfing with other sponsored surfers is a great way of challenging yourself and pushing it to the next level.
Pros are naturally competitive, and you’ll do your best surfing with other rippers.
The same’s true for big wave surfing, where you need the comradery to take on massive waves.
Look After Your Physical & Mental Health
Surfing every day, and travelling the world, takes a toll on your body and your mind.
You’ll need some real mental fortitude if you want to go pro, from missed flights, last-minute accommodation, and dealing with losses.
Consider time away from the ocean, even if it’s just for a few days; this can help reset your mind and rally your willpower.
Next, we move on to the physical rigours of surfing every day.
From repetitive strains to torn ligaments, surfing is no joke regarding injuries.
Head over to our guide on surfing and injuries for a sobering look at what can go wrong on a surfboard.
Consider A Coach
A surf coach can help digest your surfing in and out of competition and recommend steps for improvement.
This can vary from advice on form and technique to heat tactics and time management.
Better yet, they’re a friendly, reliable face in your corner which can give you the confidence you need to progress through comps.
If you can’t get your hands on a coach locally, you can use an online coach like OMBE Surf.
Start Building Your Brand
In previous years surfing skills formed the primary deciding factor in whether a surfer was a good fit for a sponsor.
But in today’s world of social media and endless content, providing a marketable brand has never been so important.
By brand, I mean personal brand; how do your audience and the general surfing world perceive you? Hell, do they even know you?
Building great social profiles will be an awesome start here, with the possibility of some extra money on the side if things go well.
Try to start networking with anyone in the surf industry, be friendly and approachable and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people.
Understand It’s A Hard Road To Become A Professional Surfer
Now we’ve covered what you need to do; we need to talk about the harsh reality of trying to make a living out of surfing.
Thousands of surfers think they can make it to the world stage.
But in reality, there are less than 50 men and women that actually surf on the CT.
And some of them aren’t even rocking stickers on the nose of their surfboards.
The industry as a whole isn’t spending a lot of money, and it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
Don’t let me dissuade you, but understand that this is not an easy road in life despite appearing like a dream come true for the majority.
Now we’ve covered the nitty gritty, let’s jump into the Internet’s most pressing questions about going pro.
How much do aspiring pro surfers get paid?
As an aspiring pro, you might only get free gear, but if you’re lucky, you could get north of $1000 per month from the right sponsor.
How much can a pro surfer make?
This varies so much with global stars like Slater and Medina worth well into the millions, but some surfers on tour and completely self-funded, with William Cardoso and Ian Gentil being perfect examples.
Can you still go pro at 30 years old?
Realistically, no. By 30, you’re already on the way down in terms of physical fitness, and while Kelly Slater may still be surfing into his 50s, he started at a very young age.