More surfing jobs innit…
Getting there: There are two routes to becoming a professional surfer. One involves being born with a natural ability. Get some good genes and this surfing lark is a doddle (see Dane, JJF, Kelly). The other is working damn hard at it, training your ass off, working with coaches and becoming the best you can be (see everyone else).
Skill set required: Helps if you have an innate sense of balance, unbridled athleticism, keen proprioception and aren’t too tall (pro surfers tend to be 5’8″ and south, it’s not generally a game for lanky fellas. Unless you’re Jordy). Having massive titanium coated balls also helps if you want to be a big wave pro like Cotty. Growing up near the ocean is also a big and very obvious advantage.
Cash: Small time pro’s in the UK may only get product, which is still awesome in the big scheme of things, then there’s the mid-level crew on a couple of grand a year which helps, big league Brit pro’s can earn five figures. Hit the world tour and have a global profile and six figures is possible. Be world title potential then seven figure contracts will be waved under your nose.
Good bits: Surfing for a living, travel, free stuff, groupies.
Bad bits: Sunburn, surf comps in 1ft mush, travel, groupies, not a long-term career (that said if you’re top level til you’re nearly 40 like Slater then I’m sure pensions won’t be an issue). Surfing with all the best hasslers in the world every session.
Ambitions: For a British surfer getting on the world tour is the ultimate goal. What are you waiting for?
Getting there: Shaping your own board is something everyone that’s not a total muppet at DIY should try at least once. If you have the hands of an angel and an eye for curves then it could be a career. Anyone can do it. Parental guidance maybe needed for power tools for the under twelves. Like in Blue Peter: always ask an adult for help with the scissors…
Skill set required: Steady, functional hands, keen eyesight, an aptitude for woodwork to GCSE level, high tolerance to toxins plus degrees in hydrodynamics and resin chemistry would be handy. All that and owning a shaping shed. Your Ma might be a bit distraught if you do it in the lounge. Unless you’ve got a really good hoover.
Cash: There’s a whole spectrum of shapers from guys that just build their own boards, the local hero building boards at cost for his buddies up through the national hero Harty/JP level all the way up to the JS/DHD/Merrick mega global factory level. In the main most shapers are, like most in surfing, doing it for the love.
Good bits: The satisfaction of a job well done. Your handiwork under someone’s feet will give them pleasure for years (depending on your glassing standards). Making stuff with your hands is a blast. As is having a shaping machine do the hard yards.
Bad bits: Everything about shaping is toxic. Foam dust is nasty, fibreglass is evil and resin is explosive. Then there’s the mind-bending physics of boards, fins and how they interact with water in four dimensions. It’s enough to make Stephen Hawkings do wheelies in his wheelchair just trying to comprehend the mathematics of surfing. Shapers need to know what works, if you don’t your boards will be glorified ironing boards.
Ambitions: Shaping for the big league pro’s is the recipe for riches, women and more… or maybe not. As you have to give the buggers loads of free boards every season. Any shapers ambition is to make the perfect board. Which like beauty, can only be judged in the eye of the beholder…
Getting there: No one’s quite sure at what point and why someone would actually want to be a judge. It’s a totally thankless task. You do a good job and no one mentions it, do a bad job and the whole world showers you with shit.
Skill set required: The patience of a saint, eyesight that would put a peregrine falcon to shame, a bladder made of reinforced titanium, a hide thicker than a bison so all the insults and occasional projectiles bounce off… Also a stomach sturdy enough to handle dodgy comp food, liking cold fish and chips and lukewarm instant coffee is essential.
Cash: Being a judge, even on the World Tour is not going to make you rich. It’s one of those ‘do it for the love of the job’ jobs (you getting the gist now ;). In England you might get paid enough to cover your petrol.
Good bits: Watching your nations or the world’s best surfers do what they do on a regular basis. World travel (which is all covered) so lots of nice hotels and free meals. Occasional chance to surf without being dropped in on by the whole top 34.
Bad bits: Judging surfing all day. With the entire world double guessing what you’re up to. Blowing a heat. Eye strain. Mind strain. Violence from pro surfers who disagree. Being booed by the crowd. Never getting a thank you. Being dropped in on by the whole top 34.
Ambitions: Being on the international panel that judges the ASP World Tour and Prime events is the top of the profession. If you like travelling a third of the year and sitting in portacabins staring into the sun while people flip you the bird then this could be the job for you!
See part I here.
Words & Photos: Sharpy