How can I make a living from surfing? How much do pros make?


Q

I've been looking for hours upon hours wondering what kind of jobs/careers are there in the surfing world besides professional surfing. I was looking for something that would support a family pretty well.

I see a lot of surfers who aren't on the WCT but are sponsored and I was wondering how they were making it.

I have also wondered how much a surfer who is sponsored and on the WCT makes a year.

Mahalo.

asked by jmascari

A
Surfline's resident economist Nick Carroll replies:

Hi J

People have been inventing careers in surfing long before the pro scene took off, many of 'em vastly more lucrative than that of competitive pro surfer. These days, many thousands of people are employed worldwide within the surfing business realm, designing, making and selling surfboards, clothing, wetsuits, accessories,
media, events and other surf related products and activities, teaching surf schools, running and/or selling space in surf resorts, and helping to manage and run all the individual businesses involved in these processes. Surfing employs people in China, Czechoslovakia, Japan, South Africa, Ecuador, Tahiti, the U.K. ... just about anywhere you turn.

Many of these people are surfers who've decided to combine their personal stoke with a way of making a living. A select few have built major fortunes in the process, although they're in a tiny minority.

WK suggests you think creatively about a future. Clearly you love to surf; what kind of other life or career skills have you developed? Perhaps there's a way of matching a few things up and making 'em work together. A lot of good surfboard builders have carpentry or building qualifications in their past, for instance.

As far as top ranked WCT pro surfer incomes are concerned, while there are a few pulling down amounts close to or in excess of a million dollars per annum, the majority of top 20-30 pros are earning somewhere between $250-400,000. Scarcely any pro surfer outside the WCT is earning anything like this kind of money -- at least, not through sponsorship. Once again, these surfers represent a tiny minority in the overall surfing scheme of things; unless you're very highly talented and driven, it's not realistic to aim for a career in the pro competitive arena.

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