How To Be A Pro Surfer

By Abi King | Australia

Feb 19

Pro Surfer Mitch Crews

Surfers have a reputation for being cool, laid back and sexy. I’m talking, of course, about the professional ones with their seamless suntans and freshly squeezed physiques rather than, well, the rest of us. Those whose very act of lashing a surfboard to our ankles transforms it from an uber-cool sporting accessory into an oversized, unpredictable, and rather vicious flotation device.

But enough about reputations, I wanted to explore the reality.

So, at Sydney’s inaugural Australian Open of Surfing at the unfairly beautiful Manly Beach, I took the chance to chat to the surfing pros and set about stripping those myths bare.

How to Be A Pro Surfer

Mitch Crews Pro Surfer

Be Young

Bad news for most of us, I’m afraid, you need to start young. Mitch Crews from Australia, Laura Crane from the UK and Brett Simpson from the US all told me that they weren’t that young when they started. But they were younger than 12.


“You need to surf as much as you can,” says Mitch. “At least once a day, every day. Often more than that.”

Laura Crane stood wrapped in a towel. “Unless the weather stops me,” she says, “I’ll head into the water at least two or three times a day.”

Live Near the Surf

While none of them would confirm this as a requirement, I couldn’t help but notice that they all grew up near the surf as they hit their teens. But apart from actually having access to the stuff, the quality of surf didn’t seem to matter.

“Some of the best surfers in the world come from Florida,” said Mitch, “and the surf’s not so good there.”

Get Noticed

Besides the scantily clad teens, the sand, the beer, the cameras and the music, it’s the men and the women of the marketing machine who keep the show on the road. Sponsorship from companies like Hurley and Billabong boost the take-home pay from competition prizes to keep pro surfers on the road. With over 20 professional competitions a year, from Sydney to Hawaii to Bali to Tahiti and beyond, just turning up becomes an expensive business.

When Mitch won his latest heat and emerged from the waves, a sponsor was waiting with branded hat and sunglasses to reach his man before the interviews began.

But how do you attract the attention of the sponsors?

For Mitch, Hurley approached him after he won his first youth championship. For Laura, her break came during a Billabong Weekend in her hometown of Devon.

“I’m trying to raise my profile. To get out there,” she said. “I just want to live this lifestyle for as long as I can.”

Be A Good Loser

“You’re travelling most of the time – and you’re on your own. I try to travel with friends but then you often end up competing with each other,” said Brett Simpson.

“Even if you’re one of the best out there, you still lose a lot. You have to get used to becoming a good loser.”

Have Talent

Yep, along with age, it’s this one that’s going to be the stickler for the vast majority of us. And while it’s obvious – and true – it’s a testament to the pros that not one of them mentioned it. All went for hard work, passion and practice. See, it turns out that pro surfers are cool and laid back.

And as for the sexy part? I’ll have to leave that up to you.

Beach on Aus Open of Surf

Australian Open Pro Surfer Mitch Crews

“I saw a shark in the water once – a tiger shark – and I just freaked out! I just turned and paddled back as fast as I could.” Pro Surfer Mitch Crews

The Australian Open of Surfing will be back this time next year with free entry, bands, a skate park and the chance to watch some of the best pro surfers do their thing.

Disclosure: I travelled to Sydneyas a guest of Destination NSW. As usual, editorial control remains mine, all mine…

So, would you like to be a pro surfer?

I tried to learn to surf in Nicaragua and El Salvador. I think I’m past the age to learn :-)

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    That’s what I thought too until my success in Bondi! (And I have the feeling you are younger than me…)

dtravelsround February 20, 2012

Oh, they are sexy, too! I wish I had the patience to learn how to surf!

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    Maybe you’ll find you have more patience if you’re near the sexy ones?! ;-)

Camels & Chocolate February 20, 2012

Ahhhh jealous you’re in (just back from?) Australia, one of my very favorite countries in the world! Funny, before I ever surfed I went to Barbados to cover a surf competition (took some lessons while I was there)…those people are INTENSE!

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    And inspiring, I think. Dedicated, passionate about what they do…It was enough to make me brave the waves again ;-)

Oh how I miss the times I lived in Australia! Went surfing every single weekend :( Hope to find some good spots here in Thailand in the next months…

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    Yes, what a dreamy way to keep fit. Surfing in warm weather rather than jogging in the wind and rain. Hope you find somewhere in Thailand!

Erica February 25, 2012

Sexy… yes…

Hot hot hot.

I wish I could surf. My balance is so horrible.

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    At least it doesn’t hurt when you fall off ;-) Not like snowboarding…Ooph!

Hai March 1, 2012

I like water but sorry I can not surf.This looks very pro.

    Abi King March 13, 2012

    Don’t worry – I’ll be posting my own “learning to surf” moments soon enough. Those images, I assure you, will not look very “pro!”

Cole @ Four Jandals March 13, 2012

Been surfing for a few years now since I did grow up near the beach back home in New Zealand. Really missing being able to pop across the road for a wave after work now that I am stuck in the UK.

    Abi King March 17, 2012

    I’ve been surfing in Wales a few times…Any chance you could get there for the weekend? Not quite so warm, but…

Jonny Miller March 28, 2012

Nice post! I did my ‘learn to be a surf instructor’ course at Manly with Matt Granger and the guys there…and my life has been dictated by surfing ever since! Have returned to the UK I’ve found heaps of empty surf spots on the north east coast…once you get a nice thick wetsuit its lovely and warm up there!

    Abi King October 16, 2012

    Yep, a thick wetsuit is essential in the brisk, brisk British waters!

Cait September 16, 2012

I have been surfing since I was 13 years old and I have been sponsored and won competitions. Im currently on the line for World title…. It is possible to become a pro when starting at the age of 13…. My inspiration for surfing was and still is Lisa Anderson. Ever hear of her? She started when she was 13 and became a world champion and won SO MANY competitions! She was sponsored by roxy and I think also billabong. All Im saying is… I have heard of pro surfers that started when they were 16…. Being older when you start doesn’t make your chances of becoming pro less.

    Abi King October 16, 2012

    Congrats Cait – although I now feel ancient! I’m guessing it isn’t possible to become a pro when you stand for the first time at the age of 33?! (Hope springs eternal…)

      Cait October 18, 2012

      lol surf if you enjoy it! :D

    Des January 29, 2013

    im 17 and i would kill to learn how to surf. only problem? i live in canada. iv been trying to plan to go somewhere with really good waves in a few months where i can get training. im already in really good shape because i play a lot of sports. i heard it was harder for girls to learn after 15, but i feel like i have the right mind set, i dont know if i could ever go pro but thats a dream of mine. any advice on where to go? and any tips i could use for surfing in general? i researched a ton of stuff already but theres always more to learn.

      Leif March 24, 2013

      The one thing about surfing is that it requires lots of time in the water, no matter how much I researched it only helped out a small bit in the water. I’d be best to book a trip for more than a month to a warm place (or buy a thick wetsuit) and surf everyday. If you are training for surfing, it would be best to buy a cruiser skateboard (ie. pennyboard) it will help with balance and turning. Once you master the pop up and the drop your skills learned from skateboarding kick in. Surfing is challenging if you approach it with a any preconceived notions, approach it with an open mind. Also the most important things in the water are observation, keeping your calm (even if your stuck inside), and a strong swimming background. Hope this helps

Jeska September 17, 2013

Oh yes, always sexy, lol.

Renuka January 27, 2014

Surfing is something that intimidates me! But thanks for the tips. :)

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