Q: How do you become a sponsored surfer?
A: I've been asked this a couple of times. It's something I used to wonder too. There's a bunch of people who are sponsored for various sports and abilities all around the world. The thing is, no one really explains how it happens. At least that's how it was for me. But now that I have been sponsored, I get why no one really gave me the run down; it's hard to explain because it's different for everyone.
Basically, my best advice can be whittled down to three bullet points:
- Make connections in the surf industry.
- Be yourself.
- Work hard.
First, look in to and attend as many local surf events as possible. See what contests you can participate in, in your area. Maybe there's a local surf shop you can connect with? Sponsors like team riders to be people who are a positive representation of their product. Brush your teeth, make friends, put yourself out there. Social media can be another great way to make connections and also demonstrate to a brand that you know how to draw an audience.
Next, I would really hone in on who you are as a person and let your surf style reflect that. Just like you let your clothing reflect your personality, let the way you ride a wave demonstrate who you are. You don't want to blend in, so don't surf like everybody else. Surf like you. Some of the most well known and successful surfers in the world are popular because they are really comfortable with who they are and allow their true personalities to show in and out of the water (Craig Anderson, Kelly Slater, Dane Reynolds). It doesn't hurt that these guys are also some of the most talented surfers, which leads me to my last point...
Practice as much as possible. Get to know the ocean and how it inspires you. Go for it, surf hard, surf everything, commit. If you don't live near the beach (or even if you do), try alternative boardsports like skateboarding and snowboarding to learn about balance, technique and style. Stick with it: the sport and the seeking of sponsors. Maybe this is the hardest part, but if it's something that matters to you, you have to be the one who believes in your dreams more than anyone else.
I think we all want to be characters in the story of surfing. If the sponsor thing doesn't work out, it doesn't mean you won't be. Sponsorship is a great way to make a living as a surfer, but it's not the only way (there's writing, water photography, videography etc.). In the end, I think my best advice is to depend on yourself to become the personality in surfing you want to be and to create the story you want to leave behind.
p.s. some similar thoughts here