Career Development

What Does a Professional Surfer Do?

Find out what a Professional Surfer does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Professional Surfer.

Embarking on a career as a Professional Surfer involves embracing the ocean’s waves as one’s competitive arena, where skill, dedication, and a deep understanding of marine environments converge. This role transcends mere participation in surfing competitions; it encompasses representing brands, contributing to the development of surf-related products, and often engaging with media and fans. Through their journey, professional surfers not only strive to achieve personal excellence and competitive success but also play a significant role in promoting the sport’s culture and values. Their endeavors in and out of the water inspire a broader audience, from aspiring surfers to those with a passion for the ocean, fostering a community united by a shared love for surfing.

Professional Surfer Job Duties

  • Participate in competitive surfing events around the world, showcasing skills in riding waves and executing maneuvers.
  • Engage in daily physical training and conditioning to maintain peak athletic performance and ensure readiness for competitions.
  • Collaborate with sponsors and brands for promotional activities, including photo shoots, product endorsements, and public appearances.
  • Analyze and select surfboards and other equipment tailored to specific wave conditions, personal style, and competition requirements.
  • Study weather patterns, tides, and wave conditions to choose optimal times and locations for training and competition.
  • Offer surfing lessons and coaching to beginners and intermediate surfers, sharing expertise and promoting the sport.
  • Participate in community and environmental initiatives related to ocean conservation, including beach clean-ups and awareness campaigns.
  • Develop and maintain a strong online presence through social media and personal websites to share experiences, attract sponsors, and engage with fans.

Professional Surfer Salary & Outlook

A professional surfer’s salary is influenced by competition winnings, sponsorships, and brand endorsements. Success in high-profile surf contests boosts earnings significantly. Additionally, a surfer’s marketability, social media presence, and personal brand can attract lucrative deals, while unique styles or innovation in the sport can also enhance income opportunities.

  • Median Annual Salary: $55,199 ($26.54/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $124,000 ($59.62/hour)

The employment of professional surfers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

This surge is driven by increased global interest in surfing, significant investments in artificial wave parks, and the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games, which amplifies its visibility and attracts sponsorships, thereby expanding professional opportunities and financial incentives for surfers worldwide.

Professional Surfer Job Requirements

Education: Professional surfers often have diverse educational backgrounds. While formal education isn’t strictly necessary, those with high school diplomas or bachelor’s degrees may find advantages. Relevant coursework could include physical education, sports science, and business management for those aiming to understand the athletic, promotional, and commercial aspects of professional surfing. Majors in marketing or sports management are beneficial for navigating sponsorships and professional networking within the surfing industry.

Experience: Professional surfers typically emerge from a background rich in competitive surfing and personal practice. Their journey often includes participation in amateur contests, gradually advancing to professional circuits. Essential to their development is on-the-job training, which encompasses mastering diverse wave conditions, enhancing physical fitness, and refining techniques under the guidance of seasoned coaches. Many engage in specialized training programs focusing on balance, agility, and mental resilience. Experience in international competitions is highly valued, fostering adaptability to various surfing environments and cultures. Continuous learning and adaptation are key, with mentorship playing a crucial role in navigating the professional surfing landscape.

Certifications & Licenses: Professional surfers typically do not require any specific certifications or licenses to compete or participate in surfing events globally.

Professional Surfer Skills

Wave Selection: Analyzing a wave’s shape, size, and speed is crucial for identifying the best ones to ride. This analysis directly impacts a surfer’s ability to perform complex maneuvers and maintain control, enhancing their scoring potential in competitions and ensuring safety in challenging conditions.

Board Control: A deep, intuitive connection between the surfer and their board is necessary for precise adjustments in response to the wave’s dynamics. This connection enables surfers to execute complex maneuvers, maintain balance in challenging conditions, and showcase their unique style and technical prowess.

Paddling Techniques: Quick positioning and energy conservation are achieved through efficient movement in the water. These techniques are essential for catching waves, maintaining stamina, navigating crowded lineups, and avoiding hazards.

Duck Diving: Surfers can pass under oncoming waves without being pushed back towards shore by mastering this technique. It requires precise timing and control to push the board’s nose underwater and use their body to follow through, emerging ready to catch the next set.

Aerial Maneuvers: Agility and creativity are showcased through controlled leaps off the wave’s lip. These maneuvers demand an intimate knowledge of wave patterns, split-second decision-making, and exceptional balance for successful landings.

Competition Strategy: A nuanced approach to wave selection and timing maximizes scoring potential and conserves energy. Reading competitors’ tactics and adjusting one’s strategy in real-time is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.

Professional Surfer Work Environment

Professional surfers find their workspace in the vast, unpredictable expanse of the ocean. Their office is the beach, where the sand serves as the floor and the horizon marks the end of their cubicle. The tools of their trade are simple yet profoundly personal: a surfboard, wax, and perhaps a wetsuit depending on the water’s temperature.

Their work hours are dictated not by a clock but by the tides and the weather, requiring a flexibility that is both a privilege and a demand of their profession. Dress code is minimal, focusing on functionality and comfort against the elements. The culture among surfers is one of camaraderie, bound by a shared respect for the sea and the pursuit of the perfect wave.

Health and safety are paramount, with the ocean’s power demanding constant respect and vigilance. The pace of work can vary dramatically, from the serene wait between sets to the adrenaline-fueled rush of riding a towering wave. Travel is often necessary, chasing competitions and conditions across the globe, which fosters a high level of interaction with diverse cultures and communities.

Despite the solitary moments waiting for a wave, the environment is highly social, with discussions about techniques, spots, and experiences. The emotional environment is a blend of exhilaration, frustration, and profound connection with nature. Technology plays a role in forecasting conditions but takes a backseat to the raw experience of surfing. The balance between work and life is blurred, as passion and profession intertwine.

Advancement Prospects

Professional surfers can advance their careers by competing in and winning prestigious surfing competitions, which elevates their status, attracts sponsorships, and opens opportunities for brand endorsements. Excelling in these areas can lead to lucrative deals with surfwear companies, equipment manufacturers, and lifestyle brands, significantly boosting income and visibility.

Transitioning into a career as a surf coach or opening a surf school offers a stable income while staying connected to the sport. This path leverages their expertise and reputation to train aspiring surfers.

Some professional surfers leverage their fame and knowledge of the sport to become commentators for surfing events or contributors to surf magazines and websites. This not only diversifies their career but also establishes them as authoritative figures in the surfing community.

Developing a strong online presence through social media and personal branding can also open doors to travel opportunities, where surfers are paid to explore and surf new locations, sharing their experiences with followers. This path requires a knack for storytelling and engaging content creation.


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