While on one hand surfing is one of the few sports that can be enjoyed well into old age, professional surfing is not unlike other professional sports. We recently did some analysis and found that the bell curve of male pro surfers’ ages drops off somewhere around the early-to-mid thirties – Kelly Slater being a major outlier. All that to say pro surfers, like basketball players, football players, et al., live the early parts of their lives laser-focused on achievement and competition. It’s their raison d’être until one day, with plenty of life left to live, they have to step away. Find something new.
Tammy Lee Smith may not be the winningest female surfer, but her story is virtually universal – save the Kelly Slaters and the Brett Favre’s that defy the odds by playing Peter Pan. From Mick Fanning to Taj Burrow, Layne Beachley to Rochelle Ballard, at every point in a professional career a surfer must decide when it’s appropriate to retire. In Tammy Lee’s case, the decision was even tougher having never achieved her dream of qualifying for the women’s Championship Tour and dealing with a death in the family.
But Tammy Lee’s story isn’t about heartbreak, but rebirth. It’s about connecting with what really matters and, most especially, surfing again for the love.