Riding the Wave: Exploring the Viability of Surfing as a Career

Surfing’s irresistible allure and sense of freedom have long enthralled individuals worldwide, captivating enthusiasts from every walk of life. But can surfing be turned into a career path?

In this in-depth exploration, we examine all the realities, opportunities and challenges associated with seeking to make surfing your profession.

The History of Surfing Careers

Before exploring the current state of surfing careers, it’s crucial to grasp how professional surfing has developed over time.

From Passion to Profession: The Rise of Professional Surfing

What began as an enjoyable pastime for beachgoers and adventurers has now evolved into an extremely competitive and lucrative profession, thanks to professional surfing competitions and tours. Surfers now have an opportunity to earn a living doing what they love!

Pioneers and Trailblazers of Surfing Careers

From Duke Kahanamoku (known as “father of modern surfing”) and Kelly Slater to Bethany Hamilton and more – surfing history has seen numerous pioneers who paved the way for its modern evolution. These influential individuals have inspired generations of surfers who wish to pursue careers in surfing as careers themselves.

Surfing Industry: Opportunities Beyond Competition

Beyond competitive surfing, there are endless career paths available in the wider surfing industry. Ranging from coaching and instruction to brand sponsorship and media production, enthusiasts have endless ways to explore career possibilities within this dynamic industry.

Professional Surfing Competitions

Aspiring surfers often aspire to compete on a global stage. But what does it take to become a professional surfer, and what opportunities exist within competitive surfing?

An Overview of Competitive Surfing

Professional surfing competitions encompass an expansive spectrum of events – from local contests to international tours. Surfers compete in shortboard, longboard and big wave divisions with each discipline offering its own challenges and opportunities.

Major Surfing Competitions and Tours

Some of the world’s premier surfing competitions and tours include World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour, Big Wave Tour and Qualifying Series (QS). These events draw top talent from around the world and provide significant prize money and sponsorship opportunities for participants.

Earning Potential and Sponsorship Opportunities.

Professional surfers at the top echelon may earn substantial incomes through prize money, sponsorships and endorsements; however, most competitive surfers face financial challenges. Securing sponsorship deals and developing relationships with brands is essential in maintaining a career in competitive surfing.

surfing as a career

Noncompetitive Career Paths in Surfing

Surfers not interested in competing can leverage their passion for surfing into a profession by taking advantage of multiple career options available within the surfing industry.

Coaching and Instruction: Sharing Knowledge and Expertise

Coaching and instruction are popular career options for experienced surfers looking to share their knowledge and expertise. From working at surf schools and resorts to private coaching businesses, surf instructors play an integral role in helping individuals of all ages and skill levels enhance their surfing abilities.

Surf Industry Careers: From Brand Ambassador to Product Developer

Surf industry employment offers numerous career options beyond water. Ranging from brand ambassador positions and team riding roles, through marketing, sales, and product development roles within surf-related organizations or companies.

Media and Content Creation: Capturing Surfing Culture

With the growth of social media and digital content platforms comes an increased demand for surf-related media creators. From photographers and videographers to writers and bloggers, individuals with an eye for storytelling and visual arts can create careers documenting surfing’s culture and lifestyle.

Attitude and Reality in Surfing Career

Although pursuing a career in surfing may appear appealing, the reality is that it comes with its own set of challenges and unknowns.

Financial Uncertainty: Navigating Ups and Downs

One of the greatest difficulties for budding surfers is financial uncertainty in their chosen industry. Competition prize money may fluctuate according to competition performance or market forces, sponsorship deals depend on individual performances or market changes, and living costs in surfing hotspots may become prohibitively expensive.

Physical Demands and Injury Risks

Surfing is an arduous sport that puts an immense physical strain on its participants, especially during high-performance and big wave surfing. Surfers commonly suffer from injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to more serious issues like muscle strains, joint injuries and concussions.

Balance Passion with Practicality in Unpredictable Industry

Attracted to pursuing a career in surfing is the chance to turn their passion into a profession; however, success in an unpredictable industry like surfing requires finding a balance of passion, practicality and tenacity.

Promising Career Options in Surfing

Even amid all of its challenges and uncertainties, aspiring surfers can take steps to increase their odds of success in this industry.

Build Your Skills and Expertise

No matter your goals as a surfer – whether competitive at the highest levels or exploring career options off of the water – honing your craft, finding opportunities for learning and growth, and testing yourself are essential parts of mastering this craft. Make time and effort investments to sharpen up on these areas to further your experience and push beyond limits while surfing!

Building Relationships within the Industry

Building relationships within the surfing community and industry can open doors to new opportunities. Attend surfing events, connect with fellow surfers and industry professionals, and actively seek mentorship and guidance from those who have accomplished success in their careers.

Diversify Your Income Streams

Given the financial risks inherent to surfing, it’s advisable to diversify your income sources to reduce risk and improve stability. Consider freelance work, consulting contracts or entrepreneurial endeavors which align with your skillset and passions.

Prioritize Health and Well-Being

Surfing is more than a career; it’s a lifestyle choice. To ensure the best long-term success and happiness, prioritize both on and off the water your health and well-being, including physical fitness, mental resilience, and a balanced lifestyle that promotes long-term success and happiness.


Surfing can indeed be a rewarding and viable career option for those who are passionate, dedicated, and ready to face its many challenges and uncertainties.

From competing at the highest levels to coaching/instructing or non-competitive career paths within the surf industry – there are endless opportunities to transform one’s love of surfing into an immensely fulfilling profession by embracing its journey, seizing opportunities, and following their passion – surfing can provide individuals with an escape into another world!


Are You Curious if Surfing Is Possible to Build a Career in Surfing?

Yes, it is possible to build a career out of surfing. While not as commonplace as other professions, the surfing industry provides multiple avenues where individuals can pursue careers such as professional surfing competitions, coaching, surfing instruction media coverage or surf-related businesses.

How do professional surfers make money?

Professional surfers make money through competition prize winnings, competition sponsorships and endorsements, appearance fees, endorsement deals with apparel manufacturers or equipment makers and sponsorship deals that provide steady income sources.

Do I Need to Compete Professionally for Surfing Career?

No professional competition experience is necessary for having a career in surfing. Although competing professionally is one path toward a surfing career, other opportunities exist within the surfing industry such as coaching, surf instruction, media production, event organization and working for surf-related businesses.

What qualifications or skills are necessary for pursuing a career in surfing?

Qualifications and skills necessary for a career in surfing will depend on which path you pursue. Competitive surfing will require exceptional surfing abilities, athleticism, and competitive drive; for coaching/instruction/teaching purposes certifications/experience in teaching surfing may be needed; media/content creation would benefit from possessing photographic/videography/writing skills/storytelling techniques etc.

Does surfing offer a viable career option?

Surfing can be a rewarding career option for some individuals, particularly competitive surfers or those who secure long-term sponsorship deals. But like any profession in the arts or entertainment industries, its success often depends on factors like talent, dedication, networking and adaptability.

David is the visionary founder of Comparesurfboards.com, a dedicated surfer with over a decade of experience riding waves across the globe. With an unwavering passion for the sport and a deep understanding of what makes a great surfboard, David created Comparesurfboards.com to guide fellow surfers through the complex world of surfboards.

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