Surf jobsReflecting on a decade spent trying to work out the best way to get the best waves possible:

Ideally, somebody could just pay me to be me. Personally, I think I’d provide pretty good value for money but as yet I haven’t been approached. So, like the ninety-nine percent of fellow surfers who aren’t either sponsored free-surfers able to dictate their own agenda, or the wave riding offspring of the filthy rich, I have had to accept that as well as surfing, I need to be working.

I hadn’t really planned it as such, but looking back it appears that I’ve used most of my twenties as one extended experiment. One that revolved almost exclusively around getting as many good waves as I possibly could. I had no intention of it working out this way when a few months before my twenty first birthday I walked out of my final University exam and into a world where I didn’t have to be back somewhere come September, but that seems to be how it’s played out.

Getting the best waves possible, or “Barrels before breakfast” as my friend Kelly coined it. I’ll expand on that a little bit, because if that had been my sole aim then I wouldn’t have moved after the end of the first six months and I’d have found a way to stay put in Indonesia. I guess, digging a little deeper, my intention over the past eight or so years has been to find and maintain a way to surf good waves regularly while still leading a life that fulfills me. Probably pretty standard. Deep down I always knew that my aspirational dirtbag lifestyle of living in a tent on the beach or out of the back of a car wouldn’t seem so crash hot in ten or twenty years time. Girls don’t dig it after a week, and it’s rubbish when the weather’s bad. The aim is not to end up being the middle aged guy propping up the bar telling everybody stories about how bitchin’ life used to be. How could I sustain a diet of waves that make me smile in balance with all the other things that make me smile, until I’m too old to care?

So far I’ve taken three different angles of attack. Don’t ask me which one works the best; I haven’t drawn my conclusions yet.

Seasonaires

Weekly surf lessons for local street kids as part of my job coaching in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

This is how so many of us get started. When I was sixteen years old I got a job in my local surf shop sweeping out sand and making cups of tea. I used to read out the surf report to the local radio station and shuffle the wetsuits on the rails, then ended up spending my summer holidays outside on the beach hiring out foam surfboards. It was great fun, but my friends over the stream at the surf school started later, finished earlier, earned more and sometimes even got to surf on the job. Through my late teens and early twenties I surf coached alongside my friends and housemates in the school holidays, which seemed really glamorous, but we were solely concerned with saving for surf trips so  we worked long hours repeating ourselves parrot-fashion over and over, and peeing in our wetsuits over and over. It was worth it, though, as during the lag time between regular school holidays and university starting again we could make trips to Europe and then further afield to places like Indonesia. When we no longer had to return for university, our trips to Indonesia extended across the winter months. So many people we knew did this seasonal work routine, working a summer on the beach then a winter in the mountains moving from one scene to the next with the only difference being a change in temperature and the type of board underfoot. Same faces, same long hours and same party scene. I wasn’t into snow as much as I was into waves, so I worked hard for the summer season then tried to see how long I could make it last. Inevitably, it wasn’t as long as I’d have liked it to have been and I’d be home before winter had faded, pulling pints in bars and carrying plates in restaurants before the surf school opened up again and I could start the saving process over again. So this is the bi-polar option of either half a year of hard work followed by perhaps the next half a year of nothing but blissful release to surf your brains out, or six months of working hard and playing hard in one environment before shifting location for another six months of the same. I didn’t see any longevity in this approach, so one year, at the end of the summer season, I bought myself a one-way ticket.

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  • bozo returns

    ha ha – I wonder how many people have got it dialed and can take it easy and wait for the surf?

  • bozo returns

    ha ha – I wonder how many people have got it dialed and can take it easy and wait for the surf?

  • unfocused

    Cool introspection. It is a dilemma. Here’s my thoughts. Maybe, there’s the best of three worlds? For instance, perhaps choose a place with a great Metropolis. A big city, on the coast, that happens to have a lot of waves. Maybe not the best in town, but a short drive away. Cities such as Sydney, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and even San Francisco. Which is where i live. SF, has world class surf about 6 months out of the year. It has even better waves, all within 50 miles of it, which have extended seasons beyond 6 months. Santa Cruz is a short drive, and can get waves all year round.
    I bring up Metropolis, because there is economy in Metropolis. Yes, there is a lot of service industry work, of course, but there is a lot of other oppurtunity. Big cities tend to have a lot of colleges, trade schools, and work programs. This is where the “fall back” presents itself. I became a professional when I received my Bachelor Degree, but i was like most people who wanted to make his parents happy. I admit this. Yes, i did do it for myself, but, deep down, I always knew that it would be a “fall back”. So, having the degree, i would say is better, than not having it. Having the finances to enjoy surf trips is an amazing benefit. But, will require hard work.
    I think it is important to remember, that no matter how much we want great waves all the time…it is un-realistic. Unless of course, as you pointed out, the 1% that can travel anywhere, anytime when the waves are good. Even Indo and North Shore go flat for 6 months a year. This is a reality. What is the right answer? Does one even exist?
    I will say this about the dirty old man, livin in his van….it eventually will get creepy. And sooner or later, you will be considered homeless. If that’s a life people seek, i say even that will get old. And while im not passing on any wisdom, I’ve just found thart the big cities present economical realities that can open doors, and if you have a sense of adventure and desires for no dull moments, the big city is a place to escape and return to, that you can always call Home. Good luck in your journey quest my friend. You’ll figure it out. And always, always Stay Stoked-

  • unfocused

    Cool introspection. It is a dilemma. Here’s my thoughts. Maybe, there’s the best of three worlds? For instance, perhaps choose a place with a great Metropolis. A big city, on the coast, that happens to have a lot of waves. Maybe not the best in town, but a short drive away. Cities such as Sydney, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and even San Francisco. Which is where i live. SF, has world class surf about 6 months out of the year. It has even better waves, all within 50 miles of it, which have extended seasons beyond 6 months. Santa Cruz is a short drive, and can get waves all year round.
    I bring up Metropolis, because there is economy in Metropolis. Yes, there is a lot of service industry work, of course, but there is a lot of other oppurtunity. Big cities tend to have a lot of colleges, trade schools, and work programs. This is where the “fall back” presents itself. I became a professional when I received my Bachelor Degree, but i was like most people who wanted to make his parents happy. I admit this. Yes, i did do it for myself, but, deep down, I always knew that it would be a “fall back”. So, having the degree, i would say is better, than not having it. Having the finances to enjoy surf trips is an amazing benefit. But, will require hard work.
    I think it is important to remember, that no matter how much we want great waves all the time…it is un-realistic. Unless of course, as you pointed out, the 1% that can travel anywhere, anytime when the waves are good. Even Indo and North Shore go flat for 6 months a year. This is a reality. What is the right answer? Does one even exist?
    I will say this about the dirty old man, livin in his van….it eventually will get creepy. And sooner or later, you will be considered homeless. If that’s a life people seek, i say even that will get old. And while im not passing on any wisdom, I’ve just found thart the big cities present economical realities that can open doors, and if you have a sense of adventure and desires for no dull moments, the big city is a place to escape and return to, that you can always call Home. Good luck in your journey quest my friend. You’ll figure it out. And always, always Stay Stoked-

    • Mat Arney

      Hello, sorry I only just realised that I didn’t reply to you directly but instead left my comment as a separate post above.

  • unfocused

    That’s awesome Sammy. we think alike. i hadn’t even read your post, and big city was your perspective. It is a dilemma. Who knows if there is a right answer. Anyhow, Stay Stoked, brother. Cheers to the City

  • Mat Arney

    Thanks for taking the time to comment guys! I spoke to a few friends about the big city thing; definitely an option in Australia, the States or South Africa and a good one for the reasons that you mention, however the good city/good surf combo is a little harder to synch elsewhere, like in Europe and particularly the UK. Another factor to add in is whether you’re a city head or if you’re more into having fields and trees behind the beach. Hence the dilemma! To a great degree it depends if all you really want to do is surf, or if you also want to embrace and enjoy other elements of what non-surfers might call a “normal” lifestyle. These days with the internet it’s a lot easier to work remotely or access music and other cultural garnishes from a far away surf spot, but these digital-connections don’t always cut the mustard (excuse the British slang) over many months or years of trying to strike a balance. As I mention in the article, it’s tough to line it all up and make it work, and how you do that depends very much on what it is that you’re after and what sort of a surfing lifestyle you’re trying to construct. If you’ve already got it nailed then congratulations, and to everybody else, best of luck!

  • Mat Arney

    Thanks for taking the time to comment guys! I spoke to a few friends about the big city thing; definitely an option in Australia, the States or South Africa and a good one for the reasons that you mention, however the good city/good surf combo is a little harder to synch elsewhere, like in Europe and particularly the UK. Another factor to add in is whether you’re a city head or if you’re more into having fields and trees behind the beach. Hence the dilemma! To a great degree it depends if all you really want to do is surf, or if you also want to embrace and enjoy other elements of what non-surfers might call a “normal” lifestyle. These days with the internet it’s a lot easier to work remotely or access music and other cultural garnishes from a far away surf spot, but these digital-connections don’t always cut the mustard (excuse the British slang) over many months or years of trying to strike a balance. As I mention in the article, it’s tough to line it all up and make it work, and how you do that depends very much on what it is that you’re after and what sort of a surfing lifestyle you’re trying to construct. If you’ve already got it nailed then congratulations, and to everybody else, best of luck!

  • Mat Arney

    Thanks for taking the time to comment guys! I spoke to a few friends about the big city thing; definitely an option in Australia, the States or South Africa and a good one for the reasons that you mention, however the good city/good surf combo is a little harder to synch elsewhere, like in Europe and particularly the UK. Another factor to add in is whether you’re a city head or if you’re more into having fields and trees behind the beach. Hence the dilemma! To a great degree it depends if all you really want to do is surf, or if you also want to embrace and enjoy other elements of what non-surfers might call a “normal” lifestyle. These days with the internet it’s a lot easier to work remotely or access music and other cultural garnishes from a far away surf spot, but these digital-connections don’t always cut the mustard (excuse the British slang) over many months or years of trying to strike a balance. As I mention in the article, it’s tough to line it all up and make it work, and how you do that depends very much on what it is that you’re after and what sort of a surfing lifestyle you’re trying to construct. If you’ve already got it nailed then congratulations, and to everybody else, best of luck!