Looking at the latest magazine issue with your favorite surfer on it may seem like a dream job you want for yourself as well. However, is it really the life you want?
Pro surfers give the impression that all they do is hanging around beaches trying to catch a green wave to ride. It may look like a dream job. But of course, who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel to exotic locations and surf? However, as a dream and a job, how much does a pro surfer make? Does the paycheck vary between male surfers and female surfers or does the cash come in the same numbers? Continue reading and find out how much male pro surfers and female pro surfers make.
Counting the surfer prize money paycheck
So you’re wondering if the surfing career is for you. If this is the case, get your calculator as a pro surfer takes in between $250,000 to $400,000 annually. These earnings come from sponsorships, their own merchandise, social media income, and of course, surfing prize money.
But wait! Pro surfers don’t just get the cash flowing without the dedication and hard work. They have been devoting their lives to daily training and not just on free travels. The everyday routine starts at 6 in the morning and includes exercise, strict diet, and practice, practice, practice!
Do they get paid for all of these? No, not right away but when they win at competitions, they are compensated through the prize money. Combined with sponsorship income, this can total to a hefty sum.
Making money in the World Surf League
Tournament prizes make up the smallest part of a pro surfer’s income. We might think that winning in a professional surfing competition will give them heaps of money but the actuality of the situation is that being the winner will give them a chance to be a part of a brand.
The aim to win in a pro surfing competition is more of getting a ranking which can later mean that you get to be sponsored to represent a brand. In professional surfing, how the brand sees you matters as much if not more than the titles you gain.
Being on the top of the highest-earning surfers’ list means you have a sponsorship that you can rely on for additional earnings.
Professional surfers earn more money when they represent brands. This is officially done by signing contracts and agreements called sponsorship. Brands usually sponsor individual surfers who have the recognition of being the best of the best. In other words, the more popular you are, the higher your chances of getting sponsored.
The pro surfer in turn will be paid to publicly represent the company. He will mostly be provided with a crew to accompany him in traveling to different surfing locations to get videos and photos. This in turn will be used to create buzz-worthy content that the brand can use for publicity of their products. In 2008, Joel Parkinson, an Australian wave rider who used to compete in the World Surf League was reported to have signed a five-year contract with Billabong for $1.5 million. Another pro surfer who has 11 world surfing championship titles, Kelly Slater, had a sponsorship deal with Quicksilver for $2 million in over five years.
Own Brand Products
Products bearing professional surfers’ names can help them earn additional earnings. Pro surfers like Dame Reynolds get royalties from surfboards bearing his signature. Another pro surfer even made his surfing underwear designs that were marketed by a popular brand. A Reef sandal designed by Mick Fanning reportedly earned him $450,000 in 2008.
Social Media / YouTube Earnings
Pro surfers can also increase their earnings by uploading surfing video tutorials or even just footage of themselves having fun while surfing. These digital projects when viewed by a lot of audiences can rake up figures that can sometimes surpass the prize money in average competitions.
World Surf League Prize Money
In the year 2000, WSL launched the Big Waves Awards to recognize the surfer who rode on the biggest wave of that year. It also marked the beginning of a yearly wave rodeo. They are now celebrating their 20th season and the competition now has nine categories with the first place cash prize money reaching $350,000.
They added another category for Women’s Ride of the Year. This can produce hundreds of big wave applications for the different categories and prize money involved when they win. Check out the categories below and the prize at stake:
- Men’s Ride of the Year Award - $55,000
- Women’s Ride of the Year Award – $ 55,000
- Men’s Paddle Award – $15,000
- Women’s Paddle Award -$15,000
- cbdMD Men’s XXL Biggest Wave Award – $15,000
- cbdMD Women’s XXL Biggest Wave Award – $15,000
- Men’s Best Overall Performance Award – $10,000
- Women’s Best Overall Performance Award – $10,000
- Wipeout of the Year Award – $ 5,000
Monetary compensations are allocated for second and third placers of the different categories and also for the videographers and photographers who were able to document the action through video footage and digital images.
List of the Top 10 Highest Earner in Pro Surfing from 2010 to 2019
Ever wonder who takes home the biggest cut of the bacon from the competition earnings? Check the names of the pro surfers below and see if your bet has made the cut of the highest-paid pro surfers from 2010 to 2019.
- Gabriel Medina - $2, 401,650
- Kelly Slater – $2,240,250
- Jordy Smith - $1,838,650
- Julian Wilson – $1,607,250
- John John Florence – $1,582,250
- Owen Wright – $1,557,000
- Filipe Toledo – $1,551,950
- Mick Fanning – $1,433,750
- Adriano de Souza – $1253,250
- Joel Parkinson – $1,226,000
Do Prizes for Men and Women surfers differ?
Male and female surfers competing professionally can have different earnings. According to the World Surf League rulebook, the men’s Championship Tour can take a total prize of $607,816. This amount gets divided into 36 competitors.
In a female pro surfers’ tour, however, with only half the number of competitors, the prize money is cut in half – $303,908. Female surfers earn after they decide how the money is allocated. Most of the time the women’s prize money is spread in an even way unlike in the male pro-surfer money. It can happen like this, 1st and 13th place for women’s tour can have a difference of $55,000 while in men’s events the difference can be around $88,500.
Surfing is not a new sport yet the career of professional surfer only started when the ASP World Tour began in the early 1980s. Presently there are more or less 2,000 professional surfers, both male, and female, competing worldwide. Even though there are many of them, only a few make a living out of surfing professionally. The income derived from this sport can vary depending on the surfers’ level of qualification.
Competing on an elite level of competitive surfing or keeping up to the top of the qualifying series of surfer’s professional ranking can vary in terms of earnings of these pro surfers. But getting to the top rank can mean brand sponsorship with at least a million-dollar deal and a world tour that can add around $250,000 to $400,00 annually.
Current Richest Pro Surfers in the world
If you think surfing is only a pastime then you better keep on reading. Did you know that for some, surfing is actually a lucrative career? It has become bread and butter to some, gaining them hefty surf money. And when I say hefty, I mean a million dollars tied to the names of these top-tier surfers. Take a look at the list of some of the richest pro surfers in the world.
You probably recognize Kelly Slater. I mean who wouldn’t? This surf dude is the highest-paid surfer in the world and has been in a lot of competitive surfer contests. So if you are wondering how much money is tied to Kelly Slater, his net worth is actually at $22 million. His professional career has already been buzzed about for 2 decades. It is no wonder he is among the richest surfers in the world.
Laird Hamilton has been known to be among the best surfers for big wave surfing in the world. He also owns a clothing line, has been appearing in movies and TV series, and is an action sportswear model. Hamilton’s net worth boasts $10 million proving surfers do not only catch waves but also bring publicity to brands that get them even more earnings.
John John Florence
This Hawaiian-born pro has the world’s biggest multi-year contracts under his name. That means he does not only enjoy getting soaked when during a surf session, he also brings home real money and has topped several lists of highest paid pro-surfers in the world. His lucrative endorsement that sponsors individual surfers brings around $5 million annually. This makes him among top surfers under brands including mega-company Vans, Futures, and Pyzel. This young millionaire is actually only 21-years old but he proved that surfers make money, indeed.
Only a couple of surfers can be like Dane Reynolds. He stands out among many surfers because even if he didn’t have formal training nor a coach, he still is part of the pro tour games and earns major cash prizes and endorsement deals. In fact, he is worth $3.9 million per year and has gotten himself a deal with Channel Islands, Quiksilver, and Vans in this competitive scene.
Parkinson is known due to his 6-year contract with Billabong and how many competitions bagged him titles and prize winnings. He signed a deal with Billabong which allows them to make decisions for this surfer that sums to $7.5 million. Aside from the contract price, Parkinson also received in 2012 a million dollars for a year of being outstanding.
This Red Bull surfer from South Africa has continued to be among the mediatic surfers known worldwide. Smith started surfing when he was only 3 years old, which can probably explain his devotion to the sport. On the other hand, he has been living and riding waves in California for quite a while now. His income pockets a healthy $3 million coming from competition earnings and inked deals although in 2018 he experienced a decline compared to what he pocketed in 2017.
This Australian surfing pro has been regarded to be among the big names in the industry today. Talk about getting just enough cash to cover hefty expenses during the surf session. That isn’t a problem for Fanning as he makes $2.9 million per year.
We would not be surprised if he brings in more cash in the coming years as he catches the next wave in the surf scene. This is because of his determination to increase his skills and win solid prize money, not to mention signing deals for more major endorsements.
Currently, he inked deals with Rip Curl, Reef, and Red Bull. You might have been wondering if it was really Mick the White Lightning you’ve seen in a Mercedes ad. Well, set those doubts aside as he also bagged endorsement deals for this company.
Aside from cash prizes, pools of money for championship tours, and event awards, these can total to more than $5 million. This can accumulate during a single season making most surfers seek to get. Although the monetary compensation may seem good enough, pro surfers earnings are still not enough to get them to be among the 100 top paid sportsmen list.
How much do pro-surfers make before hitting the jackpot?
Before these surfers went up to the top tier and filled their bank accounts with loads of cash, remember that they were once regular surfers, too. These surfers tend to practice with dedication and focus on training. In fact, majority of surfers use their own money to train and entrance fees to enroll in lessons to improve their skills.
So before these surfers make money like they are receiving now, they had to pay hefty expenses to buy surfboard models, pay and fund trips, and all other related expenses when they were just starting out. We couldn’t exactly tell how much an average pro surfer earns before hitting the jackpot. But what we do know is that rigorous training and dedication make a professional surfer rank and win a championship tour. If they win a championship tour, then making money and getting sponsors wouldn’t be a problem at all.
After all, payouts decline precipitously like a ladder in terms of cash prize for an average pro surfer. So it is safe to say that a competition is not the only surfer earning machine. Surfers make a financial free fall from endorsements including simply endorse surfboard models that in turn can get them longterm sponsorship deals.
Thinking of joining the surfing league and pay those entrance fees to a good surf school? Start with discipline, practice, dedication and loads of patience. In no time, you would probably yourself in the same list you are reading right now. Who knows, you might even top the highest paid surfer data.