How to Become a Pro Surfer

Tom Curren on Black Beauty

Okay, so you want to be a pro surfer. That’s awesome. It looks like a great profession what with all the travel, great waves, and what not. No doubt, pro surfing is all that, but it’s also a job with honest to goodness hard work, effort, and planning involved. If you are one of the chosen few who get recognized for your prodigious talent along the way and are taken in and groomed as a mini-grom, many of the difficult aspects of your career will be planned by others and many of your interests will be looked after. However, if you one of the huge amount of hot and talented surfers who think you have what it takes to make it as a pro surfer but have yet to get noticed, then you need to get to work.

What It Takes

First, take a look at yourself and be realistic. It takes more than just ripping at your local beach break to make it. You must get out there and get some experience and results in competition. If you are considering a run on the pros, you should be consistently performing well on an amateur level. It doesn’t mean you win every event. My years of pro judging saw many surfers in the amateur levels who didn’t win a lot but were always competitive in a pool of incredibly talented Hawaiian surfers. What I found was that some the biggest performers burnt out or failed to make the transition from grom to adult. Strength and power somehow elude many kids as they move on from the junior men’s division.

Once you find yourself doing well in the local amateur events, try to travel outside of your district and pit your surfing against surfers you’ve never met in unfamiliar waves.

Get Qualified

The next step is to search out your closest Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) region. You will find the ASP has Pro and Junior Pro events that cater to the surfers in your area. You’ll find yourself surfing against many of the guys/girls you met in the regional and state amateur events as well as any traveling pros who want a shot at easy money, so you very well may get to compete against world class talent. Junior Pro events are specifically geared towards kids 20 or under.

For both the Junior Series and the World Qualifying Series (WQS), you must pay yearly dues as well as individual contest entry fees, so competing isn’t cheap, and don’t forget that travel and hotels and food all cost money along the way, so be ready for those costs. Your finish in each junior pro event throughout the calendar year will garner you points and the higher your overall point standing determines your seeding for the following year. The higher your points total, the higher up in the contest you begin and the fewer heats you have to surf to make it to the final. Plus, the top 5 surfers from each region will be invited to the World Pro Junior event in Australia which is the most prestigious event in the world for aspiring young surfers. Just look at the finalists over the years and you will see the top-tier pros on the World Championship Tour (WCT).

Make It Your Full-Time Job

The next step for an aspiring professional surfer is the World Qualifying Series (WQS). This is a tour of pro events located all around the world with the purpose of amassing points for qualification for the elite WCT. I think you are beginning to see how this is a job, especially since the WQS keeps a relentless schedule with contests that are often held in sub-par conditions.

The WQS contests range from 1 to 6 star prime rated events as well as Super Series events. Each added star means more points all geared towards improving your seeding. Again, your points start at zero. To make the ASP elite WCT tour you need some 10,000 points based on your 7 best results. The lower star events will seed you into the higher star events, so you can see that for a mid-level surfer, this can be a series of let downs as you pour more and more money into your travel and living expenses. Many of the best surfers in the world have taken two rounds or more on the WQS to make it to the WCT. If you make the WCT, you have achieved the dream, but your work is far from done.